How to Control Audio Playback on Your iPhone

By Joe Hutsko, Barbara Boyd

As with so many things iPhone, there are multiple ways and places to access the same information or controls. The playback controls are no exception. In addition to the playback controls in Music on the Now Playing screen, there are three other ways to control playback: from the Control Center, using the headset remote, and with Voice Control or Siri.

Using the playback controls in the Control Center or on the Lock screen

Your iPhone is capable of multitasking, so you can listen to music and write an email at the same time. Instead of opening Music and going back and forth to another app, try one of the following:

  • Swipe up from the bottom of any Home or app screen to open the Control Center. Adjust the volume and use the Rewind, Pause/Play, and Fast Forward buttons.

  • Wake your iPhone by pressing the Home button or Sleep/Wake button and adjust the playback controls.

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Using the headset remote to control playback

You likely listen to music or other media with the headset or EarPods that came with your iPhone. Both have a microphone and a center button that you press to answer incoming calls and up and down buttons to control the volume of the incoming call. These three buttons control playback when you’re listening to audio. Here’s how to use them:

  • Volume: Press the up or down buttons to increase or decrease the volume.

  • Pause: Press the center button; press again to resume playing.

  • Next song: Press the center button twice quickly.

  • Fast-forward: Press the center button twice quickly and hold.

  • Previous song: Press the center button three times quickly during the first few seconds of a song to go back one song or return to the beginning of the playing song if more than a few seconds have passed.

  • Rewind: Press the center button three times quickly and hold.

If someone calls while you’re listening to something, your iPhone rings both in the headset and from iPhone’s speaker, unless you have the Silent/Ring button switched to Silent, in which case it just rings in the headset. You have these command options:

  • Answer the call: Press the center button.

  • Decline the call: Press and hold the center button for a couple seconds; two low beeps indicate you successfully declined the call.

  • Hang up: Press the center button. After you hang up, the music or audio you were listening to resumes playing where you were before the call came in.

You can listen to music through a Bluetooth headset or speaker that you’ve paired with your iPhone. If the headset has volume buttons, you can adjust the volume with them. To listen to music with the iPhone speaker or another device, open the Control Center and tap the AirPlay button under Music; tap the device you want to use.

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Listening to music with AirPlay

You can connect your iPhone to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as speakers and headsets. With AirPlay-enabled devices, the connection is automatic. You can choose to broadcast music from your iPhone to speakers in different rooms of your house. You can also use AirPlay to stream audio to an AppleTV or to speakers that are connected to an AirPort Express Wi-Fi router. Follow these steps to set up AirPlay:

  1. Open the Music app.

  2. Open the song, album, or podcast you want to hear to see the playback screen.

  3. Tap the AirPlay button.

  4. Choose the speakers you want from the list.

    If the speakers don’t appear on the list of AirPlay devices, check that both your iPhone and speakers are on the same wireless network.

  5. Tap the Play button.

    The music plays on the speakers you’ve chosen.

  6. To switch back to play on your iPhone, tap the AirPlay button again and then choose iPhone.

If your speakers or stereo aren’t specifically AirPlay-enabled but do support Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, you can connect them to your iPhone through the Control Center or Wi-Fi or Bluetooth in the Settings app.

Using Siri to control playback

We think Siri is great, especially when used along with the headset for an almost hands-free command center. Remember to speak slowly and clearly. If you find that Siri misunderstands you, try moving to an area with less ambient noise. If you still have problems, turn your iPhone off, wait a few seconds, and then turn it back on. To control playback with Siri, follow these steps:

  1. Press and hold the Home button until you hear a beep or Siri asks how she can help you.

    If you’re wearing the headset, press and hold the center button until you hear the beep, and then speak the commands.

  2. Say one of the following commands:

    • “Play” or “Play Music” or “Play Station”

    • “Pause” or “Pause Music”

    • “Next Song” or “Previous Song”

    • “Play album/artist/playlist,” and then say the name of the album, artist, or playlist you want to hear

    • “Shuffle” to shuffle the playlist or album that’s playing

    • “Genius” or “Play more like this” or “Play more songs like this” to create a Genius playlist

    • Ask “What’s playing?,” “What song is this?,” “Who sings this song?,” or “Who is this song by?” to hear information about the song you’re listening to

      Siri recognizes music playing in the background, too, and you can ask the same types of questions to identify the song that’s playing.

    • “Cancel” or “Stop” to pause the song that’s playing

Siri works when you have either a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection. When these are unavailable, you can turn Siri off in the Settings app and use Voice Control to command the Music app.

You can use the Clock app’s Timer feature to set music to play for a certain amount of time and you can choose a song as your alarm in Clock’s Alarm feature.