This is BrainLog, a blog by Dan Sanderson. Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained. See the front page and newer entries.

September 11, 2007

iPhone iPod Shuffle and Random, and a Real On-the-Go Playlist Bug

It turns out my stupid iPhone iPod random play order problem is part legitimate bug, part user interface design issue, and I guess part user stupidity as well.

Earlier iPods have "shuffle" as a mode of operation: If it is on, tracks play in random order until you turn shuffle mode off from a preferences screen. Newer iPods also allow you to "shuffle" playlists as an action: While viewing a list, you can select to the "Shuffle" item at the bottom of the list and it would start playing the list in a shuffled order. Both methods are mostly out of the way, so they are difficult to select by accident. If either is active, the Now Playing screen has a shuffle icon at the top. Earlier iPods also have "repeat" as a mode, with a similar icon (though no "play this as repeated" action on a playlist).

The iPhone iPod application also has "shuffle" and "repeat" modes, as well as an explicit "shuffle" action on lists. However, the method to activate them is more subtle, and the icons that indicate you are in shuffle or repeat mode are not always on the screen. In fact, the icons and the buttons to turn on these modes are the same thing. To turn these modes on or off, or to see if the modes are on or off, tap the album art on the Now Playing screen to bring up the "scrubber" (the position indicator/widget). The repeat indicator/button is to the left of the scrubber, and the shuffle indicator/button is to the right.

The iPhone iPod 'Now Playing' screen, with 'scrubber' panel hidden.

The iPhone iPod 'Now Playing' screen 'scrubber' panel, with repeat and shuffle button-indicators turned off.

The iPhone iPod 'Now Playing' screen 'scrubber' panel, with repeat and shuffle button-indicators turned on.

There are several problems with this:

  • For both shuffle and repeat, the indicator and the button are the same thing. The iPhone UI uses "everything is touchable" to save space, and it works in most cases. The convention isn't a complete failure here, except that the icons don't look particularly button-like. I've seen the scrubber dozens of times and never noticed these buttons were there.
  • The shuffle and repeat button/indicators are not visible in the normal mode of operation. You have to bring up the panel explicitly to check or change the status of these modes.
  • The shuffle and repeat button/indicators are not in an intuitive location. The main thing that comes up when you tap on the Now Playing screen is the track position indicator/widget, which describes the track being played. Shuffle and repeat are properties of the play order, and I would not expect to be able to affect the play order in the same UI mode as rewinding or fast-forwarding the track. The previous-track and next-track buttons are on the panel at the bottom of the screen, which is always visible.
  • The only difference between the "on" and "off" states for the shuffle and repeat indicator/buttons is the foreground color. The color is consistent with other conventions in the phone UI: The Edit/Done button in an editable list, for example, is blue (as opposed to, uh, grey-blue) when in edit mode. But combined with the fact that they don't look like buttons, it's difficult to notice that the icon color represents a mode state.

I'm willing to admit that my not knowing they were there could also be simple cluelessness on my part. It did occur to me that the iPhone iPod might have modal shuffle, but I only knew to check the iPod app settings, which is where the mode selector was on older iPods. Without guidance from someone else, I would never have found the buttons on the pop-up panel with the scrubber.

Now that I know that I had shuffle mode on all this time, that also helps me narrow my On-the-Go playlist problem: When shuffle mode is on, under certain circumstances possibly related to my music files, On-the-Go playlists jump to random tracks on the iPhone, not just to shuffled tracks in the playlist. I'm still trying to figure out what those circumstances are. Thankfully, it's an easy to work around, since I never need to shuffle my OtG playlists.


thanks very much for this post! I couldn't fgure out why i was stuck in repeat mode!

Amazing This post saved my life, I recently purchased an iphone two wks ago. For the past week and a half, all my songs have been repeating. I had to always manually switch each song.annoying Thanks a lot.

Awesome post! this repeat lark was driving me nuts,especially in the gym.

Thanks - I was stuck in shuffle mode & didn't know why!


This is exactly what I was looking for and it ended a frustration I've had for the past week. It did take me a few minutes to realize that when you say "tap the album art on the Now Playing screen" you meant the large picture that fills the very center of the iPod screen...I guess I was not only frustrated but also tired. Thanks.

Thanks alot from me too. I posted this thread in several german iphone-blog, but no one had an answer to my problem. Since 10 minutes my iphone ipod insn`t stuck in the repeat mode anymore. YEAH!!!! Thanks!

thanks. big thanks;many thanks. yay

Thanks a ton, you are a life iphone was stuck playing a single song in repeat mode since yesterday....thank you again.

omg, I was going crazy. A friend's wife had turned on shuffle when she was playing with it. Took me three days to figure this out!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

it's not just you, obviously. thanks.

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! I was getting so frustrated and annoyed of hearing the same song over and over and OVER again! Thanks so much!

HURRAH! thanks very much for this, I didn't really mind the songs shuffling so much. But when I ripped an audiobook CD I got for christmas it didn't make the story very good. Cheers.

thanks a lot! At least i now know im not the only one lol thanks a million! I too was stuck having to manually forwarding to the next song... It was very annoying and so easy to fix but really ... Who wants to listen to the same song over and over again? We shouldn't even have that feature LOL

Glad I came across this as the shuffle issue has been killing me when listening to playlists...however, for the life of me I cannot find how to get the scrubber to come up on my phone. I've checked in settings and still nothing - is it possible I have a defective phone?

To bring up the scrubber, tap the middle of the screen while in iPod mode. (In other words, tap the album art.) The scrubber will appear at the top of the screen.

That was annoying the crap out of me. I remember seeing that, but then it just wasn't appearing anymore. I love Jimi's, "Here my train a comin", but I quickly found out that even that can be played out. Good looking out!! Sincere thanks.

OMG GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. I got my Iphone for christmas and it has been wrecking my head why it has been doing this. U are a total life saver !!! xoxoxo

Another iphone user has found this very useful. My player was stuck on shuffle. I like listening to my LP's in order and it was driving me nuts. I'm a geek and could not find this config option anywhere. Thanks a bunch! Smitty

Thanks!!!!! I've been trying to figure out how to stop the shuffle problem, and it's been driving me crazy. now i'm back to normal!!!!

Hey man, thank you very much - I was just about starting the "I am getting really angry mode" as I found you post via google!
Thank you very much!

:) Helped a great deal. I have some short lists that I like to repeat and had not yet found the repeat button. Just have to touch it in the right place! LOL

Thanks for your help on this. I was stuck on repeat, and about to throw my iPhone out the window.

Yeah, this is non-obvious. But, knowing is half the battle.

thank you, thank you, thank you. I've been trying to figure out how to scrub my way through a one hour podcast to get back to where I left off after accidentally hitting the back button. Personally, the volume slider seems unnecessary since there are physical buttons on the side, and would be the logical place for the scrubber, along with your suggested repeat and shuffle buttons.

great post, i would have NEVER found this on my own

Excellent! I also was about to go slog through the apple boards when I found this. Thanks! Additional iPhone UI rants can be found here: Thanks Again!


Wow, end of Feb08 and this is still happening. I was stuck on shuffle for ten days. I tried the obvious shuffle button on the play list to no avail.

I have Chinese language lessons on there in a another playlist so it was really annoying to have "lesson 3b" randomly inserted in my play list!

Thanks for saving my insanity....

THANK YOU SO MUCH! I was sooo frustrated!!!!!

nice one dude!

again, thank you for your post.

This was driving me crazy. Thanks so much for the info!! No more shuffle..woo hoo...

when you say "tap the album art on the Now Playing screen" you meant the large picture that fills the very center of the iPod screen....

Thank so much Pete, i finally understood!!!

thankss alot i just wanted my songs to play normally and i kept looking @ website how do i stop shuffle and this was the only one that act. worked thankks soo much!


God bless you! I had had enough, and typed "how do i stop shuffle ipod iphone" into Google, and found this! SO nice to know I'm not the only guy going crazy in shuffle hell! More importantly, THANKS!!!

Thank you... running with my iPhone has been a nightmare.

Gosh, THANKS!!!! ... also from bella Italia!
I litterally got to know that same song repeted over and over and over... by heart, could even tell you what the singer was thinking of when singing... GRAZIE!

THANK YOU! I was about to beat my children for unitantionally turning this feature on.
I like my list in the order I selected!

Thanks. This was very helpful as I was listening to a book tape in the shuffle mode. Which took a minute or so to actually fiure out. Made for an interesting story line! Glad your info came up on an Internet search.

Wow, this post is the gift that keeps on giving. Add me to the list of people whose sanity you've saved over the past seven months. Thanks for the post!

This was exactly what i was looking for. The 1st site that i came across so far.. THANK YOU the repeat was making me pretty mad.

Thanks again!!

Thanks for the post. Now I can listen to an 'album' the way it was meant to be heard. song one through song ten. I know...I'm showing my age.

thanks for taking the time to write this up - its been driving me bonkers for weeks now!


Is this the genius bar? Where's the tip jar??

Yea, i feel like a tard now. My songs have been on shuffle for the past 3 weeks and it's been frustrating. I couldn't figure out how to get it off... i was looking under settings! So simple.. So... stupid!

THANK YOU! I was starting to think my iphone was broken. I feel kind of stupid but seeing how many folks made the same mistake, I'm not feeling so dumb after all. Now if only I can make the speaker phone loud enough to actually use!

You are a life saver. I was going crazy. You deserve a medal

thanks a million this is why I love the internet:-)

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I had been really enjoying listening to stuff that I haven't heard for years in shuffle mode. Then my iPhone got itself stuck on repeat. It was ruining my whole listening experience.


Thanks a million

Your a STAR!!!!!!

Thank you.

thanks!!!!! i am now out of repeat land!!!

Thank you, very much appreciated! Ditto to the previous comments.

Thanks man, this blog really helped me out. I was getting mad, but now my problem has been solved

I've been stuck in shuffle mode for a long time now. Couldn't figure it out for the life of me and finally searched Google. Thank you!


WOW!! this post made my life better in a million way....Ive been stuck on repeat for months...

Thank you! I was on a long car trip and I almost wrecked several times trying to hit the next button!


Thank you very much!

Thanks, I am finally out of shuffle mode. can't believe I didn't see it all this time...

thank you very much I could not for the life of me figure out how to turn off repeat. Got it working now.

Another person this post has saved, 10 months later!

First hit on google and there was your answer. Thanks you saved me a lot of graft!

Thank you SOOOOO much for this post... I was about to restore my iphone again !!!

Thank you SO much. I've been trying to listen to an album in order, and have tried all of the usual suspect tricks from prior iPods, only to find from this post that the iPhone is actually different! I really hope this feedback is seen by Apple.

this one bugged me for weeks! How come we can't find anything about it on the apple website support? They don't want to admit they screwed? Thanks, it works

You saved me as well. Thanx a lot for visiting the darker side of UI design. On the other side I'm, as a software developer, a bit happy that this violation of the 'law of least astonishment' happens to the gods as well. I'm quite astonished.

thanks +1,000,000!

Wow! You ended such frustration!!! Thank you sooo much

You are a life saver. I was going crazy.

Thanks for the tip. I was in shuffle land for a long time!

I cannot count how many times I've fiddled with shuffle. It seems one day I only was able to shuffle. Bad UI to bury this function under a non-intuitive press on album artwork.

slight point of clarification: you must tap the top part (say first half inch or so) of the album art to get scrubber otherwise it just flips between album track list and now playing.
Another frustrating & not-very-obvious UI quirk but simple enough to figure out if you have some extra time to just play with it
Thanks again & I hope Apple R&D team is reading these!!!

Seriously thanks so much for this post!! such a simple thing but was driving me crazy!!

Cheers mate!!

As with all the others, thanks a bundle - I was wondering if it was a problem with the 2.0 release or something ... driving my crazy!!

Thanks...I thought I was going nuts. simple solution but not very intuitive.

Dan - Great article. I've had my iphone for a year now and always used shuffle mode until suddenly two weeks it got stuck in repeat mode. I went through all the settings on this thing 20 times. Well, I just found your article and my problem is not only solved but I've also learned something else about my iphone. Thanks!!

thanks for the great tip

Thanks, I was frustrated myself. Yay apple...

Thanks for posting this. Saved my life.

Holy crap, this has been bugging me forever! Thank you!!!

Thank you very much for letting me know how to take my iphone off shuffle. I hope others can find this post later when they find their ipod is stuck on shuffle.

thank you again,

I wanted to get my iPhone back into repeat mode, and your post helped me. Thanks!

dude thanks pink floyd the wall blows ass on shuffle! lol

Seriously, thank you. This was driving me nuts at work. Why is it shuffling?!? Stop shuffling!@?! You saved lives today.

This comment saved my life. I got my iphone about a week ago and I could not figure out for the life of me how to turn off the repeat.
I would have never found it without your post.
thanks a million.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

It was driving me nuts...

Needless to say, you are the man. Thank you for taking the time to post this with careful pictures of exactly what to do. I almost went into the Apple store near my house thinking I had a defective phone.

You've heard it before, but thanks!

Glad I tracked this down. It was dragging me absolutely nuts!

Great info. Helps a lot. You guys are great for mankind...keep up the good job.

Thanks again.

Hey thanks, this was annoying me, especially because I was listening to audio books in the car... it NEED to be in order!! cheers.

ha! I WANTED my phone to go into shuffle mode. Your post should be in the manual or part of that video tour guide for the iPhone.

Thank you!!

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (Finally found how to stop this stupid REPEAT/SHUFFLE function) Thank you SO MUCH !

I feel silly that I had to search for it in the first place, but you're awesome for posting this tip. Thanks!

Thanks so much. You saved my time on this issue.
Keep up the good work.

Just another of the many thanks - I was about to restore my iphone. I was also looking in the settings to switch of the shuffle!

thanks for this post, Ive been having this issue for almost a year now -- each time ive had to restore my iphone and start over.

Ohhh boy...just what I needed. Thank you for the tip.


Dude, you saved me from going completely mental! THANK YOU!!!!

Wow, thank you, usually Apple gets it right with user interfaces but this time they really blew it. Your post was great, shuffle was driving me crazy.

I 100% agree on your design criticisms, and thank you for saving my mental health, my good friend.

I guess some of the apple geeks got a little too carried away here. I've been irritated hugely by accidentally getting my iphones ipod in repeat mode and having to manually go to the next track.

What a dumb idiotic "feature"

Thanks to the poster for figuring this one out.

You rock! I called Apple and they kept telling me it was impossible to be stuck on repeat that repeat wasn't a feature on the iphone and I had to send it in! But they were wrong and you are awesome!!!!

Like those before me ... you saved me from insanity. Thanks

Thank GOD. I must've tapped on accident while I was messing around with it in the car, and I could not get that thing on the top of the album art to go away!! I tried tapping everywhere I could think of, but didn't think of the album art. What a counter-intuitive feature.

I really thought my iPhone was broken until I read you post and now its fixed. Thanks a million!

Thanks... This was driving me NUTS! I realized it was in repeat mode, but could not find the control for the repeat behavior!

Stupid place for it... It should be in Settings/Ipod, with a link to Settings/Ipod from the main ipod player menu.

Great advice. Don't agree failiure is partly due to user stupidity. Apple could have solved this issue differently. Now, once you know abt it it's a problem never again!

Thankyou SO MUCH! this was driving me insane I couldn't get it off repeat and had no idea they were buttons.

It would have been fine if these subtle buttons were a shortcut method. It just sucks that they are the only method! This was so frustrating!

Thanks for this, it was driving me mad.
I was beginning to doubt my own sanity.

Big thanx to Google as well.




merci bcp

Thank you! My kids played with my iPhone and they must have turned this on.

Would have never figured it out without this post.


Wow, even I had this problem for what, maybe a month. Of course I knew this was a training issue and there was a solution somewhere on google and stumbled on your explanation. Worked like a charm. Thanks a lot.

Thanks so much...couldn't locate any info about this on

Thank you !
You saved my life, as you saved so many lives before ;-)
Wow, I will love my iPhone as never before tonight...

I couldn't admit to my friends that I had no idea how to get my iphone to stop shuffling my albums. This was a real hazard in the car! Thanks for posting the tips, I was a clueless geek.

Thanx a million for writing this!

Dear God, I could not figure out how to turn off shuffle. Thank you!!

THANK YOU!!! I was trying to get my playlist to repeat and couldn't figure it out for the life of me! I think from all the comments you can take out "part user stupidity!" You're not the only stupid one! I was right there with you!

Nobel Prize for helping us out.

thank you. i was stuck in random, and couldn't figure out what was going on. a quick google search, and this link was first... as it should be.

Thank U so much!! I had problems with random mode in my iPhone for several week, no matter what I do to resolve it. Again, tks for the tips!

Thanks so much. restored my faith in the iPhone.

Hey dude

you are really amazing, I got it right now, if I dont leave a response here to appreaciate such a fantastic effort, it is not right on my end..

Keep it up



Thank you!!!

Thank you so much for this post. Must have hit this toggle at the gym and no one could figure it out. Hope they post this link on the apple site, would save a lot of grief. Thanks again

Dude. I love you for this. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! You rock.

Thank you thank you thank you. I;ve been stuck on shuffle for a few days and this fixed everything. Well done.

It's interesting to see this post has been HIGHLY valued for more than two years now. But, that said, I'll add my thanks. My iPhone's iPod feature was stuck in repeat mode and it was driving me crazy. Thanks very much.

Thanks for the help!

Me too, unbelievable, couldn't find this info anywhere. U rock man!

Thank you very much!! Extremely helpful post!!

Like the others said ... you rock!

this was a big help! my songs kept shuffling even though the ipod wasn't set on shuffle! I never would have dreamed to tap the album art.
Thank you!!

Thanks for this! A real lifesaver!

Damn shuffle ruining my mojo...

Thought the day the music died had hit my Iphone... thx a million the music lives now

LOL - Thanks, aint it great to google. I was stuck in shuffle too. Never woulda noticed to buttons!!

Thank you so much, I actually traded up to the 3g because I thought something was wrong with the phone. Then I spent the money on a new one and it was doing it too. This was so helpful.

You just cured my migraine!!!!!! thanks a million!

You are a God amongst insects; this has been driving me INSANE. Finally I can listen to 2 MANY DJ's using the sequence intended by the artists. Gotta love Google (and OK, I still love my iPhone)

Thank you very much. I kept tapping shuffle but the same song always repeated until I manually selected another track. Now one of the discomforts of my new exercize program has been removed. 20 more pounds ant the pain is gone.

Many thanks! I thought I was going crazy!

Thanks so much for this information. I accidently turned repeat on and I could not figure out how to turn it off. I was getting very frustrated.

If I remember, my first iPod had a Settings feature but the iPhone doesn't (or I can't find it). I would never have thought to tap the album art. If some of the setting indicators are visible without doing that, why the extra step for something as common as repeat and shuffle, I wonder.

THANK YOU!!!!! I thought I was losing my mind!!

Genius - Thanks, been on an eternal shuffle was driving me mad

but. now we have a firmware update, and we have new buttons!!! where did my 'repeat' and 'shuffle' features go!!!

Thank you!!! I thought I would go completely crazy.



Thanks for posting this. I could not for the life of me figure out how to get my phone/ipod out of repeat mode. Must've hit the button accidentally while putting it in my purse the other day. Had been trying to figure out how to turn it off since then. Big thanks!

I felt pretty stupid at not being able to figure out how to turn the repeat function off - all the comments here have made me feel a lot better now!

Fix it please Apple!

(and while you're at it give us the option to turn off the 'Slide to unlock' screen)

Thanks! One more sanity saved.

Thank the Good Lord in Heaven ~ my brains were about shuffled out!

Hey there. thank you so much for this. AND for Dan Sanderson's on how to get the scrubber thingy out as well.

Now i can return to sanity!

Thanks a lot! I was stuck in shuffle mode and now life is swell again.

Maika'i no!

Thanks Steven, though that setting is about the new "shake to shuffle" feature. This old but still relevant thread is about the obscure location of the "shuffle" and "repeat" mode toggle buttons, and how some phones tend to have them turned on when you buy them. This feature hasn't changed since v1.

I want to add my thanks. This is still a major bug-a-boo of the interface and had me baffled for days till I ran across this post. Yes, it is STILL! relevant.

wow, thank you so much! I love how many other people were also going crazy trying to figure this out!

I love my iphone but yesterday on the train home from work I wanted to smash it on the floor. I was playing the Pixies "Trompe Le Monde" and there is only ONE order that should ever be played in (i.e., the order I've heard it in for the past 20 years).

Thanks so much for posting this and helping so many people out! That's beautiful.


Jesus Christ, thank you for this. I use my iPhone to study, and I was down to switching songs myself every time I heard a song beginning the second time. This is SO MUCH BETTER

Thank you! For some reason when I tapped my screen it was going to the info list and not this. I had to tap at the top. Seeing your picture reminded me what to look for.

6 weeks it has been driving me mad, Great post and thanks for taking the time.

Top man - this was driving me around the bend.

Now sorted so my audio book makes complete sense.



Life saver!! and nice with pics and all!

omg will u marry me? i love ive been stuck in repeat mode for over 12 months. uv saved my sanity, thanks

Huge thanks. I've been trying to figure this out forever!

Much appreciated.

Thank you thank you thank you!

Great post was about to throw the phone in the lake

So glad I found this post. I was going out of my mind.

Ditto everyone else. This came up no.1 on Google search and I am glad it did! Amazing that Apple persist with it when it is such a point of antagonism for so many people.

I thought I was going insane. Thank you.

Damn! Google is certainly MY friend! Thanks for the awesome post. Sometimes, ya just wanna play an album straight instead of shuffling everything. :)

I agree with an earlier comment...
NOBEL PRIZE for you!!!!
Thanks heaps! xxxxxx

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