Roughly 20% of the time now, the song or podcast currently playing on my iPhone 3GS will display some completely random album art from another title in my library of 9967 songs, 19 podcast subscriptions. Songs can have podcast covers and vice-versa.

Unlike the answer suggested by Why doesnt my iPod show album art?, when I cross-check the Artwork tags of my Mac's iTunes (anything from 8.x through 10.4), I can verify that the songs with mistaken artwork on-device have the correct artwork on-Mac and that songs without artwork on-Mac display the generic "no artwork" icon on-device.

I've had this problem almost as long as I've had my 3GS. In the past couple months, my wife has also reported this symptom with completely separate hardware/software (both her own Mac and iPhone 3GS, neither of which migrated any settings from my machine).

Correctly-configured artwork should show as intended on-device. How can I restore the expected behavior?

3 Answers 3


I had the exact same problem several times in the last three years (with an iPhone 3G, an iPhone 4 & an iPod touch).

I always solved it this way :

  1. disable music syncing for the device (uncheck everything in the "music" tab)
  2. sync the device at least two times
  3. enable music syncing
  4. sync again

I usually divide steps 3 & 4 in smaller steps. I begin by syncing a few artists to check everything is fine before syncing all the music I want on my device.

I hope this will work for you.

  • 1
    This worked! The trick is the two syncs after disabling syncing. Commented Aug 7, 2011 at 18:15

I've had pretty much the same symptoms with cover art when I first got my iPhone 3GS. Do you have the option "covert songs to 128 kBit/s AAC" (I don't know the exact wording, my iTunes is in german) ticked in the first iPhone tab on iTunes? I had it ticked back then. And as soon as I unticked and resynced everything, those problems with the cover art were gone.

Of course it might be something completely different in your case, I just wanted to let you know what did the trick for me :))

Good luck getting your cover art back to normal, I know how annoying that is...


  • No, I'm not downsampling my music upon sync. Commented Aug 6, 2011 at 17:12

You may have already tried this but just in case - do a complete factory restore on your iPhone. Do not let it use the backup of your data, you want everything fresh from iTunes. Also it may be possible to rebuild the iTunes internal photo database. (I know that you can ask iPhoto to rebuild but I am not sure if one can do the same on iTunes.)

  • I will try this. Right now I expect I need to find a way to force a rebuild. I've yet to identify an existing means to do so. Commented Aug 6, 2011 at 17:15

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