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Using custom iPhone ringtones in 2016 shouldn’t be this confusing

iPhone Ringtones

It’s been a long while since I’ve used a custom iPhone ringtone. In fact, ever since I had my phone start blaring Chamillionaire’s song Ridin’ in the middle of an important meeting, I’ve opted to play it safe with some of Apple’s default selections. Apparently, the out-of-touch big wigs at the meeting I was attending couldn’t have cared less that the song shocking their eardrums featured Krayzie Bone.

Consequently, I haven’t kept too close of an eye on the state of the iPhone ringtone world for quite some time. That said, an interesting new report from Dieter Bohn over at The Verge relays that trying to create a custom ringtone for your iPhone remains a frustratingly backwards process. Sure, you can buy iPhone ringtones, but sometimes the iTunes Store simply doesn’t have the ringtone you so desperately want.

So what happens then?

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While one would think that creating and implementing a custom ringtone in 2016 would be as easy as, say, creating a custom iOS wallpaper, Bohn discovered that that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, even if you have an MP3 file at the ready, the process needed to make the iPhone recognize the file as a ringtone is ridiculously complicated.

Bohn writes:

iTunes gets a very bad rap, and it deserves it. Nevertheless, I opened it up. Here is the easiest method for converting an MP3 file into a ringtone in iTunes. Note that this assumes the MP3 file is also trimmed to the precise portion of the song that you want.

  1. Drag the file into your iTunes Library
  2. Right-click it and click “convert to AAC”
  3. Drag that AAC song out of iTunes and onto your desktop
  4. Rename the file from “Archer.m4a” (for AAC) to “Archer.m4r” (which is a Very Special File Extension for ringtones)
  5. Back in iTunes, delete the original MP3 file you just added and the AAC file you created, otherwise when you add your new Ringtone file it might not get recognized as a new file
  6. Drag the “Archer.m4r” file into iTunes
  7. Ensure that iTunes is set to sync ringtones to your iPhone
  8. Sync your iPhone over USB

Talk about a headache.

Now to be fair, this isn’t the biggest problem in the world. You might even say it’s a first-world problem amongst first-world problems. What’s more, there are likely a myriad of thorny copyright issues involved that prevent Apple from making the process more seamless.

Or is there?

In stark contrast to the method above, Bohn notes that using a custom ringtone on Android merely involves moving the desired sound file from Dropbox “into the appropriate folder in Android.”

Is this a more user-friendly option?

Well, that’s debatable.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball notes:

Bohn points to Android’s method, where users can just move a ringtone file into the folder where the OS looks for them. That is less confusing and more straightforward than what iOS requires now, but to me, “give users access to the file system and expect them to move files into special folders” is the idea that is stuck in the past.

Either way, we thought we’d bring this fun little back and forth to your attention since it’s been a long while since a good ringtone debate has managed to make any headlines.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.