The iPhone has been around for a long time, yet there’s still no easy way to add your custom ringtones to it. The process is convoluted and required (gulp) using iTunes. But if you’re determined, it is possible.
Adding your own personal ringtones to an iPhone is, in a word, terrible. But, if you really want to use that Monty Python soundbite or song from a Family Guy episode, then you really don’t have much of a choice. Either you endure the process, buy ringtones (which might not be the ones you want), or stick with the ones that come with it. Neither the latter two really seem like good choices, so it’s on with the first.
Step One: Cue Up iTunes
If you hear the name iTunes and cringe, you’re not the only one. While it’s okay to play music with, a lot of us try to avoid it as much as possible. Simply, iTunes is bloated and confusing, so it’s no wonder the process of adding ringtones to your iPhone has the same vibe.
The first thing you obviously need to do is have a sound clip you want to convert and use as a tone. Everyone who uses custom ringtones will likely have a couple favorites that speak to them as individuals, so using them to personalize an iPhone is a logical step.
We’re going to assume that you’ve got your ringtone file all prepared and ready to go, and that it’s in MP3 format. If it isn’t, you’ll need to procure one, and–if you want–cut it down to part you want as your ringtone using an audio editor like Audacity.
Step Two: Convert the MP3 to AAC
Once you have your song, you need to convert it from MP3 to AAC.
To do this, you will need to add your ringtone file(s) to iTunes, locate them in your library, and then right-click to convert them. Choose “Create AAC Version” from the list.
Step Three: Rename Your AAC File
Now, you will be left with two instances of the same file. You should go ahead and delete the MP3 version as there’s a chance your new ringtone file won’t be recognized.
Next, drag the newly created AAC file (which will have a .m4a extension) to your Desktop. Rename it with an .m4r extension, which is recognized as a special ringtone file.
Since you were able to move the file out of iTunes to your desktop, you again have two files so we’ll need to delete the old one with the M4A extension so we can successfully add the M4R file with no trouble. Drag the new M4R file back into iTunes and it will be automatically recognized as a ringtone.
Okay, so now you finally have your special ringtone file on iTunes and you can go ahead and finally copy it to your iPhone. Easy, right? (Groan.) If you have more than one ringtone you want to add, you will just need to repeat that process as many times as necessary.
Step Four: Sync Your iPhone
If you’ve checked the automatic sync box in your device’s iTunes options, then your phone should sync the new ringtone or ringtones automatically. If not, then you will likely need to sync it manually.
If you tones still don’t sync, then check to make sure “Sync Tones” is selected for your device. You can also decide whether or not all your tones are synced, or selected tones to sync.
All these steps for one single ringtone. Now imagine doing it for dozen or more.
Sadly, that’s what you have to do in order to trick out your iPhone with custom tones. Of course, you could buy ringtones from the iTunes store, but what if you’re the eclectic sort? Or, you enjoy creating your own? Or, the store doesn’t have it?
For a company that prides itself on its user friendliness and humane, intuitive interfaces, adding custom ringtones is as backward as can be. It’s preposterous that applying custom tones to your iPhone should be anything more than one or two steps, but there you have it.
Keep in mind, all these steps exclude any other work you have to perform when it comes to actually creating a truly custom ringtone. If for example, you have a longer song that you want to pare down to just a 30-second sample, or a soundbite you want to create from a TV show or movie, then that’s a completely different and involved process.
Oh, and one more thing, once you’ve managed to convert all your intended ringtones to M4R format and sync them to your iPhone, you will still need to apply the new ringtone(s) to your device or individually to a contact. That obviously would be a separate step for any phone platform, but after all that, it just seems like more work.