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Android devices play nice with Linux, but the same can’t always be said for iOS devices. Support for them on Linux is still far from perfect, but here’s what you can do to get it working as best as possible.

libimobiledevice

There’s a piece of software available for Linux called libimobiledevice. This library – as the name implies – tells the computer how to communicate with iOS devices, like the iPhone and iPad.

If you’re running the most recent release of your favorite Linux distribution then libimobiledevice is most likely already installed. If you’re unsure whether you do actually have it installed or you know you don’t, you can install it easily with your respective package manager.

Ubuntu users would input the following command into Terminal: sudo apt-get install libimobiledevice

Fedora users should use: sudo yum install libimobiledevice.

If the package is already installed, the command will tell you so and exit. You can search “libimobiledevice” in your respective package manager for other Linux distributions.

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Connect It!

linux_ios_connected
One simple library is all you really need. If you had to install it, restart your computer for safe measure to make sure the library loads correctly when you connect your smartphone or tablet. Once a device is plugged in, you should see a new folder that leads to your iOS device’s internal storage.

Unfortunately there’s not a lot you can do with access to your iPhone or iPad’s disk, though you might want to manually grab your photos from the DCIM folder, or take a manual (and messy) backup of media files if you’re in a pinch. In order to listen to music, you’ll have to find a different way to get music to your iOS device like through the use of cloud streaming services, or using the solution below.

linux_ios_filebrowser

Note: If you are unable to connect to your iOS device, and it (or a new version of iOS) was recently released, there’s a good chance that libimobiledevice has not yet been updated to support it. This should only be a problem when new devices and software is released.

At the time of writing, I’m able to connect my iPhone 5s running iOS 7 just fine.

No iTunes, No Tunes

linux_ios_rhythmbox
You should be able to use Rhythmbox and other media players that claim to support iOS devices, but as our testing proved this is not the case. There will be an entry for your iOS device, and upon clicking you should be able to see the music that is stored on the device. libimobiledevice may allow your iOS device to be connected, but further support is dependent on the progress of libimobiledevice and the media software you’re using.

linux_ios_shotwell2
Personal experience with my iPhone 5s shows that Rhythmbox detects an iPod-like device and tries to initialize it, but it doesn’t get any farther than that (most likely due to a bug in the current version). Other applications like Banshee may work better as Tim showed a while back How To Transfer Music & Other Media To Your iPod Or iOS Device [Linux] How To Transfer Music & Other Media To Your iPod Or iOS Device [Linux] If you're using an iPod or iOS device, Linux might seem like a daft choice of operating system. Apple doesn't officially support it, and whilst that's a real shame, it's not, in some cases, insurmountable.... Read More .

Shotwell has full bug-free support for it, however, allowing you to import all images and videos stored on your iOS device.

Workarounds

linux_ios_alternative_itunes
There are a few things you can do to get around the incompetencies of your favorite Linux software. If you’d still prefer to use iTunes, you could create a dual-boot environment with Linux and Windows so you can occasionally boot into your Windows installation to gain access to iTunes. Or, you could just borrow a friend’s Windows or Mac OS X computer if you trust them enough and know that you can easily reach them.

linux_ios_alternative_google_music
As for music, you may want to look at cloud-based solutions – iTunes Radio (recently launched outside of the US Apple Introduces iTunes Radio To Their Australian Customers Apple Introduces iTunes Radio To Their Australian Customers With the launch of iOS 7 last year came iTunes Radio in the United States. But now iTunes Radio has gone down under to the land of kangaroos and hats with corks. Read More ), Google Play All Access Music, Spotify and similar services like Rdio Spotify vs. Rdio: A Complete Comparison Spotify vs. Rdio: A Complete Comparison I recently cancelled my Spotify Premium membership after a year of uninterrupted monthly payments to the company. This decision came about when I accidentally signed up for 14-days of free Rdio Unlimited. Quite frankly, I... Read More can all still give you all the music you need, and you won’t have to constantly worry about syncing them with your computer.

linux_ios_alternative_dropbox
If you rely on Photostream to get your photos to your computer, try the iOS Dropbox app Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone Ever since I went over to the Dark Side earlier this year to get my cookies and buy an iPhone, one app has been completely invaluable to me - Dropbox. In fact, I would go... Read More instead. It provides the same features and is much more cross-platform friendly.

Having access to your contacts is important. In order to access them on Linux, try moving all of your contacts over to your Google account if you have one. It’s easy to sync your Google contacts to your iOS device How Easy Is It To Sync Google Mail, Contacts & Calendar To Your iPad? How Easy Is It To Sync Google Mail, Contacts & Calendar To Your iPad? You can use Apple's iCloud for email and contacts on your iPad, but there's a good chance you already use Gmail and Google Calendar. Read More , and it’s equally easy to get a program on your Linux machine to sync with your Google contacts as well.

Backups

Since you’re not able to use iTunes without going with one of the workarounds, you also won’t be able to use it to create backups of your iPhone or iPad. Instead, the best solution here is to rely on iCloud’s backups for your backups and contact needs.

This will give you the most seamless experience for backing up but you may run into issues if you are getting close to using the 5GB of storage that Apple provides for free. Take some time to consider what all you really need to backup under Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup, because getting more iCloud storage space will cost you.

What About iTunes via WINE?

You may be thinking of trying to run iTunes via WINEthe Windows compatibility layer for Linux Run Windows Applications on Linux (or Mac) with WINE Run Windows Applications on Linux (or Mac) with WINE Read More , to get all of iTunes’ features. However, I would not recommend trying this. Even if you get iTunes to run under WINE, it’s usually a very difficult task to get any programs running under WINE to communicate with a device via USB. It’s simply too much hassle when there’s no guarantee that it’ll actually work and there are native options available.

Got An Old iPod?

gtkpodsync.jpg
Got an old iPod and wondering if you can use that too? While this definitely won’t work for your iPhone or iPad, you can still transfer music to older Apple MP3 players using gtkpod. We featured it several years ago among various tools 6 Ways To Sync Music To Your iPhone Without iTunes 6 Ways To Sync Music To Your iPhone Without iTunes Read More as an alternative to syncing with iTunes.

Being a third-party tool, it’s not guaranteed to work entirely. Gtkpod is also an older piece of software, a leading cause for incompatibility. You can install it by using sudo apt-get install gtkpod in Ubuntu or sudo yum install gtkpod in Fedora.

Not There Yet

Sadly, this is about as good as it’s going to get if you plan on using an iPhone or iPad with a Linux computer. There’s simply not a whole lot you can do without iTunes for OS X or Windows. The only thing that you can somewhat reliably do is copy data like photos and music off of your mobile device, but that’s about it.

You will have the most luck if you use a lot of cross-platform friendly cloud services. The support state of direct communication with a Linux machine will most likely never get much better than this because of Apple’s proprietary attitude surrounding their products.

Do you connect iOS devices to a Linux machine? Any tips you can share with other readers? Let us know in the comments!

  1. MLCrassus
    September 12, 2016 at 11:28 am

    I was able to connect my IPhone 6s to my Linux Mint 17.2 machine this morning.

    At first, I got the lockdown error (-256). I checked for libimobiledevice and it was already installed. After reading through a few other articles, I installed RhythmBox (it wasn't installed). Then I reconnected the IPhone and was able to see all of the media. Then I went directly into the volume and was able to see the files themselves (IBooks, DCIM, etc).

    I don't use ITunes so that's not going to be an issue.

    If you run into the same error (Lockdown error), make sure you have RhythmBox installed.

    Also, in my case, libimobiledevice as a directory doesn't exist, but that doesn't matter as long as you have RhythmBox installed.

  2. Ike
    November 24, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Currently using the EZMp3 app to store local music, and it works well. EZMp3 sets up a server which you connect to via WiFi in your browser (Chromium doesn't work here, Firefox does) and transfer MP3s to the iPhone. Files are playable only in the app, which has a tacky interface and an ad banner, but it doesn't matter when it's in your pocket.

  3. Josh
    March 30, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    Why not run windows7 32bit or windows xp inside virtualbox or vmware player then put itunes into it. you could even use cracked or pirated windows jus for running itunes in a vm.

    • Chris
      April 6, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      Nice, advocating pirated software on a public forum.

      • anon
        April 12, 2016 at 6:58 am

        Don't be a bitch.

  4. Whirlynerd
    January 29, 2015 at 3:42 am

    Since we're fully vested in the Apple mobile ecosystem, my wife and I won't be getting rid of our iPhones or iPads anytime soon. But I aboslutely love Linux and am slowly migrating the whole household that way.

    For this particular obstacle, I've come up with the following solution:

    I have all of our music loaded onto an Ubuntu server that is running Plex Media Server. Recent iTunes music is DRM-free, so this hasn't been an issue. A free (w/ads) app is available on the App Store called media:connect (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/media-connect-stream-music/id335036887?mt=8). This app can read your Music library on your iPhone and will also download media from the Plex server. media:connect plays the music downloaded by the app and your Music app library, and will also download and play video in the same manner.

    Cons: I haven't found a way to create playlists within media:connect. Also, the downloaded media isn't available to the Music app.

    Hope this helps!

  5. Wantoo Sevin
    March 20, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Ultimately the wisest advice is to avoid iProducts entirely. They screw over non-Apple users and Apple-users alike, and as far as I can tell no one gets them but for trendiness and maybe some mild familiarity. Android is not SO much better in terms of flexibility but it's better than iDevices.

    • Name
      December 24, 2015 at 6:59 pm

      Don't forget privacy and security. Google mines your data, Apple sells you hardware. And Apple appears to be fighting for encryption. Security on iDevices is not perfect, but it's better than Android and good enough to rile the NSA.

  6. ComplexIsNotBetter
    March 9, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Tuneshell and quit wasting time and energy.

  7. Kevin M
    March 6, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    "Android devices play nice with Linux"

    Heads up author, Android was built on Linux so to say it plays nice with it makes no sense.

    • likefunbutnot
      March 7, 2014 at 4:43 am

      That statement may be more or less true depending on your specific needs and the native capabilities of one particular device or other. While it's entirely true that you can get applications that support file transfer by standard network file services (NFS, SMB, FTP et al), familiar Cloud Storage services that are often seen as essential for mobile devices may or may not have a native Linux client and many top-tier device managers seem to be configuring their Android builds to use Media Transfer Protocol (MTP - "like a camera"-mode) rather than the more desirable Mass Storage Class (MSC - "like a flash drive") for USB data transfers. For devices that lack a storage card, this can wind up to be a pretty frustrating set of limitations. Android users live in a world full of options and so do Linux users, but that doesn't always mean that the relationship between the two will be immediately harmonious.

    • likefunbutnot
      March 7, 2014 at 4:45 am

      I'd just like to say that the idea of a Linux user voluntarily accepting itunes really gives the concept of free will a bad name.

  8. Ed
    March 6, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    I know this is off-topic, but since we are discussing media on Linux, is there a way to upload music to a Google Play Music account in Linux?

    I know Windows has an upload utility for this, but how is it done in Linux?

    Download as well???

    Thanks,
    Ed

  9. Rick
    March 6, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Actually, I hadn't given much thought to removing music, but all you really have to do is probably just remove a song from the playlist - assuming it will remove the pinned copy as well. I Jabbit tested this, but it might work...

  10. Rick
    March 6, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    If managing music on your iPod is your only concern, this was my workaround that would work with Linux too. I had been using Media Monkey on my Windows PC, instead of iTunes, to add and remove music from my iPod Touch. But that still required me to have Apple Mobile Device Support, Bonjour, and maybe one other piece of Apple software installed. So I just removed all the local music from the iPod and uninstalled the Apple software on my computer, then I made a "Pinned For Offline" playlist in Google Play Music. Now, any songs I want on the device I just add to that playlist and then I open that playlist on the iPod, tap the little "pinned" icon, and tell it to continue downloading the playlist. It takes a little time, but it's worth it (to me) to keep anything iTunes related off my computer. I have about 6,000 songs uploaded to Play Music and about 550 pinned to the iPod with this method. One major problem with this idea is that you lose the ability to remove individual songs. It's all or none. But you could also make a second similar list for temporary pinning, or any number of smaller lists if you don't want to pin all your songs in one basket. I've switched to this method on my Android phone and tablet now as well, and it makes it simple to manage the music on all my devices from the Google Play website rather than on the individual devices.

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