How to choose what your iPhone plays when connecting to your car

There are times when it can seem like your iPhone has a mind of its own, and nowhere is this more routinely apparent for many folks than when jumping in the car and connecting to Bluetooth or CarPlay.

Generally, your iPhone will continue playing whatever you were last listening to, but every so often it will just start a seemingly random playlist, while other times it won’t play anything at all, even when you’d prefer that it did.

Sadly, you won’t find any obvious way to control this in your iPhone’s Settings app. But the good news is that there are some tricks you can use to take control of the situation thanks to Apple’s relatively new Shortcuts automation tool. Whether that’s guaranteeing you have a silent commute or automatically queuing up your favorite playlist for each trip, Shortcuts has you covered.

Three iphone screens showing shortcuts automation options.


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Playing a specific album or playlist when getting in the car

If you have a list of your favorite tunes that you want to enjoy each time you hit the road, you can easily make sure that’s what plays as soon as your iPhone links up with your in-car Bluetooth or CarPlay system. Here’s how.

Step 1: On your iPhone, open the Shortcuts app.

Step 2: Tap the Automation button at the bottom.

Bottom of iphone screen showing shortcuts app with automations button.


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Step 3: Tap the + button in the top-right corner to create a new automation.

Step 4: Tap Create Personal Automation to create a shortcut automation that runs on your iPhone.

Two iphone screens showing procedure for adding a new personal automation.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 5: Tap CarPlay if your vehicle supports CarPlay, or scroll down and tap Bluetooth if you’re using a Bluetooth in-car system.

Step 6: If you’ve selected CarPlay, ensure Connects is selected.

Three iphone screens showing shortcut automation options for carplay and bluetooth connections.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 7: If you’ve selected Bluetooth, you’ll need to choose which Bluetooth device this automation applies to — in this case, your car. Tap the Choose button beside Device to bring up a list of Bluetooth devices that are paired with your iPhone, and tap the name of your vehicle’s in-car Bluetooth system. Then tap Done.

Step 8: Once you’ve confirmed your CarPlay or Bluetooth settings, tap Next.

Step 9: Tap the Add Action button on the next screen.

Top of iphone screen showing shortcuts add action button.


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Step 10: Tap in the Search for apps and actions field and type “Music.”

Top of iphone screen showing search for shortcut music actions.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 11: From the results, tap the blue plus button to the right of Play Music. A Play (Music) action will be added to your shortcut.

Step 12: Tap the Music placeholder to select what you would like to play.

Top of iphone screen showing music shortcut action.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 13: From here, either tap the Artists, Song, Lyrics, and More field to search for a specific item, or browse using the options provided. For example, you can tap Library to browse your personal music collection for a playlist, artist, or album, or Browse to browse the Apple Music catalog.

You can also explore the Radio section to choose a specific Apple Music radio station to play each time instead, which is a great option if you want a bit of variety.

Two iphone screens showing shortcuts app browsing for music.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 14: To select an entire album, artist, or playlist, tap the + button in the top-right corner to add the entire list.

Two iphone screens showing a playlist being added to a shortcut.


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Step 15: Once you’ve selected a song, album, artist, playlist, or radio station, you’ll be returned to the Actions screen.

Step 16: Tap the right-pointing arrow beside the name of your selected music to show the playback options.

Iphone screen showing automation for playing a music playlist with shuffle songs and repeat none.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 17: Tap Shuffle or Repeat to choose whether you want to shuffle or repeat the playlist each time you get in the car.

Step 18: When everything here is customized to your liking, tap Next in the top-right corner.

Step 19: Tap the switch beside Ask Before Running to toggle it off. Otherwise, you’ll have to confirm that you would like to run the shortcut each time you get in the car, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Iphone screen showing shortcut automation to pause music when carplay is connected.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 20: Tap Don’t Ask to confirm that you really do want to run the automation without being asked.

Step 21: In the top-right corner, tap Done to save the new automation.

Two iphone screens showing automation for playing a podcast.


Jesse Hollington /

Playing your favorite podcast when getting in the car

You can use the same method described above to play a podcast of your choice instead of a music album or playlist. Simply search for “Podcasts” instead of “Music,” add the Play Podcast action, and then choose the specific Podcast that you’d like to play when you get in the car.

Preventing automatic playback when getting in the car

If you’d prefer the sound of silence during your travels, or you’d prefer the freedom to make your choices on the fly, you can use the same method to create a shortcut that pauses your playback when your iPhone connects to your vehicle’s infotainment system.

Step 1: On your iPhone, open the Shortcuts app.

Step 2: Tap the Automation button at the bottom.

Bottom of iphone screen showing shortcuts app with automations button.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 3: Tap the Plus button in the top-right corner to create a new automation.

Step 4: Tap Create Personal Automation to create a shortcut automation that runs on your iPhone.

Two iphone screens showing procedure for adding a new personal automation.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 5: Tap CarPlay if your vehicle supports CarPlay, or scroll down and tap Bluetooth if you’re using a Bluetooth in-car system.

Step 6: If you’ve selected CarPlay, ensure Connects is selected.

Step 7: If you’ve selected Bluetooth, you’ll need to choose which Bluetooth device this automation applies to — in this case, your car. Tap the Choose button beside “Device” to bring up a list of Bluetooth devices that are paired with your iPhone, and tap the name of your vehicle’s in-car Bluetooth system. Then tap Done.

Three iphone screens showing shortcut automation options for carplay and bluetooth connections.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 8: Once you’ve confirmed your CarPlay or Bluetooth settings, tap Next.

Step 9: Tap the Add Action button on the next screen.

Step 10: Tap in the Search for apps and actions field and type “Pause.”

Iphone shortcut showing actions to pause playback.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 11: From the results, tap the blue plus button to the right of Play/Pause. A “Play/Pause on iPhone” action will be added to your shortcut.

Step 12: By default, this toggles the current playback state. Tap Play/Pause to change this behavior.

Two iphone screens showing shortcut to pause music playback.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 13: From the menu that appears, tap Pause.

Step 14: Tap Next in the top-right corner.

Step 15: Tap the switch beside Ask Before Running to toggle it off.

Iphone screen showing summary of shortcut to pause music when carplay is connected.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 16: Tap Don’t Ask to confirm.

Step 17: In the top-right corner, tap Done to save the new automation.

In this case, when your iPhone connects to CarPlay or your in-car Bluetooth system, it will immediately run the shortcut telling the iPhone to pause whatever is playing. Note that you might hear a brief second or two of playback before this kicks in, depending on how your vehicle’s system works.

Choosing a specific playlist for your morning commute

There’s a lot of power baked into Apple’s Shortcuts app, so with a bit of extra customization, you can choose to play certain playlists based on the time of day. For example, if you’d like your morning commute to begin with happy, energizing music, but don’t want to hear anything on your evening drive home, you can do this by adding a time condition to your shortcut.

Step 1: On your iPhone, open the Shortcuts app.

Step 2: Tap the Automation button at the bottom.

Bottom of iphone screen showing shortcuts app with automations button.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 3: Tap the + button in the top-right corner to create a new automation.

Step 4: Tap Create Personal Automation to create a shortcut automation that runs on your iPhone.

Two iphone screens showing procedure for adding a new personal automation.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 5: Tap CarPlay if your vehicle supports CarPlay, or scroll down and tap Bluetooth if you’re using a Bluetooth in-car system.

Step 6: If you’ve selected CarPlay, ensure Connects is selected.

Three iphone screens showing shortcut automation options for carplay and bluetooth connections.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 7: If you’ve selected Bluetooth, you’ll need to choose which Bluetooth device this automation applies to — in this case, your car. Tap the Choose button beside “Device” to bring up a list of Bluetooth devices that are paired with your iPhone, and tap the name of your vehicle’s in-car Bluetooth system. Then tap Done.

Step 8: Once you’ve confirmed your CarPlay or Bluetooth settings, tap Next.

Step 9: Tap the Add Action button on the next screen.

Step 10: Tap in the Search for apps and actions field and type “Date.”

Two iphone screens showing a shortcut action to get the current date.


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Step 11: Tap the Date option that appears under Calendar. A new “Current Date” block should be added to your shortcut.

Step 12: Under Next Action Suggestions tap Format Date to add an additional block to format the current date. This is necessary to get the current time.

Iphone screen showing shortcut to format the current date with the time only.


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Step 13: Tap the right-pointing arrow beside Date to expand the block.

Step 14: Tap Short beside Date Format and then tap None. This removes the date portion of the current date, leaving only the time.

Step 15: You then need to convert this date to a numeric value. To accomplish this, tap the search field at the bottom of the Shortcuts app, type “numbers,” and from the results that appear, choose Get Numbers from Input. This should add a block that reads Get numbers from Formatted Date.

Two iphone screens showing shortcut actions to format a date as a numeric value.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 16: Tap in the Search for apps and actions field again and type “If.” From the results that appear, tap If to add an If/Otherwise/EndIf block.

Step 17: In the “IF” block, tap the Condition placeholder.

Step 18: From the menu that appears, tap Is Less Than.

Two iphone screens showing an if statement in apple's shortcuts app to test for the current time.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 19: Tap the Number placeholder, and type the hour of the day before which you want music to play, such as “12” for 12:00 noon.

Step 20: Tap in the Search for apps and actions field again, type “Music.”

Top of iphone screen showing music shortcut action.


Jesse Hollington /

Step 21: From the results, tap the blue plus button to the right of Play Music. A “Play (Music)” action will be added to your shortcut.

Step 22: Tap the Music placeholder to select what you would like to play.

Step 23: From here, either tap the Artists, Song, Lyrics, and More field to search for a specific item, or browse using the options provided.

Step 24: To select an entire album, artist, or playlist, tap the + button in the top-right corner to add the entire list.

Step 25: Once you’ve selected a song, album, artist, playlist, or radio station, you’ll be returned to the Actions screen.

Step 26: Tap the right-pointing arrow beside the name of your selected music to show the playback options.

Step 27: Tap Shuffle or Repeat to choose whether you want to shuffle or repeat the playlist each time you get in the car.

Step 28: Tap on the Play Music block and drag it up and drop it between the “IF” and “OTHERWISE” blocks.

Step 29: When everything here is customized to your liking, tap Next in the top-right corner.

Step 30: Tap the switch beside Ask Before Running to toggle it off.

Step 31: Tap Don’t Ask to confirm that you really do want to run the automation without being asked.

Step 32: In the top-right corner, tap Done to save the new automation.

This will result in your chosen playlist or other music playing only when you connect to your in-car infotainment system in the morning. The shortcut will still run every time you get in the car, but the “IF” block will prevent anything from playing unless the conditions are met.

Note that if you wanted to do something different at other times of the day, such as choosing a different playlist, or vetoing automatic playback, you can also add a Play Music or Play/Pause action to the Otherwise block in the above shortcut, and this will be run whenever you get in your car and the time conditions haven’t been met. We’ll leave this one as an exercise for the reader.

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