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Saturday, June 22, 2024

How to Set a Custom Ringtone Once and for All

Unless you set your phone to silent most of the time (and honestly, who doesn't), you're going to be hearing your ringtone a lot, so it makes sense to choose one you like to listen to. 

Your phone will have come with a bunch of default ringtones, but you can actually use any audio clip you want. What's more, you can set different ringtones for different contacts, so you know who's calling without looking at your handset. 

But here's the thing: This used to be easy, no matter what type of phone you had. And it's still simple if you have an Android device, like a Samsung or Google Pixel phone. But if you have an iPhone, it's surprisingly complicated, with a bunch of steps that make you just want to not bother. Here's how to do it anyway, regardless of the device you own.

iPhone

To use a custom ringtone on an iPhone, it has to be in your Apple Music library. The audio file should have no digital rights management (DRM) protection attached to it, and it should be in either MP3 or MP4 format. We're not going to dive into a full audio editing guide here, but a free program like Audacity can help you create a clip pretty easily on either macOS or Windows—which, yes, means you'll need to use a desktop to make sure your song or sound file can be turned into a ringtone for your iPhone.

You then need to fire up Apple Music on macOS, or download and install Apple Music for Windows, if it's not already on your computer. Use File then Import to add the ringtone file to your music library. Locate the track, right-click on it,  choose Get Info, and then open the Options tab. Next to Start and Stop you need to specify when the ringtone audio begins and ends.

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If you're only going to be using your audio file for ringtones, the maximum length is 40 seconds—if you think you might want to use it for alerts and alarms as well, keep it to 30 seconds or less. If your file is shorter than that, you're set—otherwise, you'll need to specify the start and end points. Click OK, then select the track again and choose File, Convert, and Create AAC Version or Create MP3 Version (it will vary depending on how Apple Music's encoders are set up.)

That's your ringtone created. A brand new file will appear, with the start and stop times you selected. If you've chopped out part of a song, you'll want to go back to the Get Info panel of the original and remove the start and top times, otherwise the next time it pops up in one of your playlists it's going to only play those 30 or 40 seconds. Next, we need to see this file on disk—right-click on it and choose Show in Finder (macOS) or Show in File Explorer (Windows.)

If your file shows an extension of .m4a, simply change it to .m4r (they're both the same AAC/MP4 format, but the tweak tells your iPhone it's a ringtone file). If you've exported the file as an MP3, you need to get it into AAC/MP4 format first—you can do this via a program such as QuickTime on macOS or the previously mentioned Audacity on Windows.

Finally, we're ready to add the file to your iPhone. You'll need to connect the phone up to your computer via USB. You can then drag the ringtone clip over to the device using two Finder windows on macOS, or drag it from File Explorer to Apple Music on Windows (make sure you've selected the iPhone in the navigation pane first.)

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To find your new ringtone, go to Settings on iOS then choose Sounds & Haptics and Ringtone. These ringtone files can also be set for alerts and alarms if they're short enough in length. To set a specific ringtone for a specific contact, tap on someone's name in the Contacts app, then choose Edit and Ringtone to get to the list of sounds.

Android

One of the ways that you can still distinguish between iOS and Android is through ease of customization, and that's certainly the case with ringtones. It's much more straightforward to set a custom sound as a ringtone, alarm, or alert if you're using a handset running Google's operating system.

Again you need a suitable sound clip prepared, and again the free Audacity for macOS or Windows can help you make one if you don't already have an audio editor of choice. There's no definitive list of supported formats or file lengths, but if you stick to a reasonably brief MP3 file you should be fine.

Use your favorite method to get the file on your phone—you could transfer it over USB, for example, or email it to yourself, or use a cloud syncing service. You could just download the audio file directly to your phone. However you do it, you need to get the file saved somewhere on your phone. You can then open Settings on Android, tap Sound and Vibration, and Phone ringtone (or Default notification sound) to locate and choose your audio file.

Whether you're dealing with ringtones or notifications, tap My Sounds then the plus icon (bottom right) to select the relevant audio clip. To set a specific ringtone for a specific person, open the person's details in the Android Contacts app, then tap the three dots (top right) and Set ringtone—it takes you to the same list of sounds as before, so you can pick My Sounds and the plus icon to make a selection.

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