How to make a custom ringtone on Android and iOS

New phones come with their own default set of ringtones and notifications. But you don’t have to settle for the manufacturer’s blah buzzes and bings. Maybe you want to record a ringtone to let you know when your best friend is calling, or select a unique notification for a particular app. Here’s how to craft your own custom audio alerts for any Android or iOS phone.

Create your own audio

Audacity will help you edit audio on your computer.

Smartphones can herald a new call or message with almost any sound. Before you set that audio, however, you’ll need to obtain it: Record a clip directly to your phone, take a snippet from an existing song or video file, or find a prepared ringtone through a specialized app. Then convert it to a common format—MP3 is a good option because it’s so widely used.

To record audio on your phone, try a free app like Voice Recorder on Android, or Voice Record Pro on iOS (which also offers an optional $7 upgrade to get rid of ads).

If you’re pulling a clip from a longer song or video, then you’ll need an audio editor like the free Audacity, available for Windows and macOS. Transfer the file you want to edit or convert to your computer, import it to Audacity as a new track, edit it, and convert it to an MP3. To convert a file without the bother of editing, try the dependable online tool Zamzar.

For a simpler solution, you can download a dedicated ringtone app. These programs come with a library of prepared audio snippets and tones, or with tools that let you easily cut audio out of existing files. For Android, we recommend Ringtone Maker and Zedge, two free apps that rely on advertising for financial support. Although you’ll also find ringtone apps for iOS, these programs can’t set ringtones and notifications themselves. Instead, they create audio that you then adapt to your phone in a separate process—more on that later. Some of the best options for iPhones include the $1 Ringtone Designer and the free Zedge again.

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Now that you have your audio in MP3 form, you can turn it into a ringtone or notification noise on any Android or iOS device. Here’s how.

Set sounds on Android

If you’ve added audio files to the right folders, they’ll show up here.

When you’re ready to set a new ringtone or alert, you first need to put that audio file on your phone (if it’s not already there). Then you need to move it to the relevant folder on your Android device: Ringtones (if you want to set the audio as a ringtone) or Notifications (for other alerts).

You have plenty of ways to transfer the file to your handset—email it to yourself, sync it via an app like Google Drive or Dropbox, or connect your phone to a computer and manually drag the file home. Once it’s on your phone, different apps give you different ways to put it in the relevant folder: In Dropbox for Android, for example, you select the track, tap the menu button (three dots) on the top right, choose Save to Device, and navigate to the correct location.

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Although it’s good to have a custom sound for your general ringtone, you might want unique sounds for your favorite contacts. Android lets you override your default ringtone for specific people. Launch the Contacts app, choose a person, and tap the menu button (three dots) in the top-right corner. Then hit Set ringtone to decide what you want to hear when, say, your grandmother calls.

Set unique audio for specific apps and contacts.

Set sounds on iOS

To customize your iPhone’s sounds, you’ll need help from iTunes.

Now that your track is an AAC file, you need to change its extension so iTunes knows that you intend to use it as a ringtone. Select the track and click File followed by Show in Windows Explorer (on Windows) or Show in Finder (on macOS). Change the extension to .m4r (the “r” stands for “ringtone”).

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Find the file to change its extension.

This is a lengthy process, but we’re just about done. Connect your iPhone to iTunes, head to the left-hand navigation menu and open the Tones pane for your device, and drag the newly created track into the empty space. With that done, you can delete the AAC copy from your iTunes library (you can also erase the MP3 original, unless you’ve used a snippet of a song you want to keep listening to).

In iOS, different apps can alert you with different sounds.

To identify particular friends and family members, iOS lets you set unique ringtones and text message alerts for specific contacts. To make changes to either setting, open the Contacts app, choose an entry, and tap Edit. Select either Ringtone or Text Tone to make changes to those settings.

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