How to Play Purchased iTunes Music on an Android Smartphone

Play Purchased iTunes Music on an Android SmartphoneiTunes remains the most widely used digital music store in the United States.  Many millions of people have music they've purchased from iTunes, but the iPod and the iPhone aren't the only devices on which they would like to listen to their iTunes-purchased music (sorry, Apple, it's true).

We've already discussed playing your iTunes music on Windows Mobile, but what about Android? Can you play your iTunes purchased music on an Android smartphone?

The simple answer is: yes you can.


Those Who Know History...

First, a brief history lesson: Before 2009, most tracks available in the iTunes music store were locked, or DRMed, meaning they could only play in iTunes and on iPods/iPhones associated with the same iTunes account used to purchase them. But in 2008 Apple began offering some music that was not locked, and by April 2009 the vast majority of tracks were DRM free. This move was great for consumers, because without DRM users were free to play their purchased music on any device they wanted (as long as the device supported AAC).

This is important to understand because getting your iTunes music onto an Android smartphone or tablet -- and how to do it -- depends largely on what type of music files you're working with.  Are they pre-2009 locked-down abominations, or are the footloose and fancy-free 2009 and later unlocked tracks?


Can't I Just Plug in My Android Phone and Transfer Music with iTunes?

No way.  Apple goes to great lengths to ensure iTunes only works with Apple products. It would be great if iTunes could sync music with devices like Android smartphones, but this isn't on Apple's 21st century to-do list. The good news is that there are fantastic, free software alternatives out there.  doubleTwist is an excellent iTunes alternative for Android phones.


How to ID DRMed and Non-DRMed iTunes Music

In your iTunes library, choose a song.  I'll choose Adele's "Chasing Pavements."  Right-click the track and choose Get Info.  This song was purchased after Apple removed DRM, and as you can see is not locked:

The description in the Kind field "Purchased AAC audio file" tells you the song was purchased from iTunes, but is not DRMed -- not locked down.  This audio file (with the extension .M4A) can be transferred to your Android smartphone or any other device that supports AAC playback.

But what if you see this description instead?

"Protected" means the music file (with the extension .M4P) is locked down -- DRMed -- and cannot be transferred to any non-Apple device or software for playback without a little work. But the DRM can be removed through the burn-to-CD-then-import workaround; it's a pain, but that's why DRM was such a nightmare and is (with music at least) largely history.

Any music in your library you did not purchase from iTunes, usually with the extension .MP3, can be easily moved to your Android phone.  For more information on supported Android media formats, click here.


Moving Music to Your Android Smartphone

Once you have identified your iTunes music that's transferable to your Android phone, just connect the phone to your computer via USB.  You'll see a message in the phone's notification area saying that you're connected via USB and it'll ask if you want to mount the storage for use by your computer.  Mount the storage device (SD card, usually) and the phone will appear as a drive on your computer.  Copy music into the Music folder and you'll be good to go, just don't forget eject the mounted storage in Windows or the Mac OS before you disconnect.

The music you've copied over will be available in Android's Music app.


Additional Thoughts

Smartphones don't usually handle music encoded in high bitrates as well as those encoded in lower bitrates.  Newer phones do a much better job, so some music files may give older Android smartphones like T-Mobile's G1 fits. Always make sure you're running the latest version of the Google Android OS available for your smartphone.

Have questions or comments about this help article?  Email me.

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