Ringtones are one of the easiest ways of personalising your iPhone: with a little help, anyone can turn a song they own in iTunes into a ringtone for their iPhone. (Feeling creative? Here's how to create your own ringtone for your iPhone.)
Aside from the fun factor, ringtones serve a useful purpose: if you don't own an Apple Watch they are the best way of telling you who's calling, without taking your phone out of your pocket. Simply allocate specific songs to certain people and you'll instantly know when they ring due to the dulcet tones of Metallica or Taylor Swift.
(Just be careful not to insult them in the process. After all, if your girlfriend accidentally rings you while they're sitting in the same room, only to hear Toxic Girl by The Kings of Convenience, it might cause a dip in your love life.)
The process of setting a song as a ringtone doesn't require any great technical skill but it is a bit convoluted. You might think it would be a simple case of finding your contact, tapping on their details, then allocating a song - and eventually it is - but there's work to be done first. To take you through the steps we've created this guide.
Select and edit a song
The first thing we'll need to do is choose a song in iTunes to use as a ringtone. Open up iTunes on your Mac or PC and click on the My Music tab, or choose Music from the dropdown menu at the top left then select Library from the options underneath the main display window (this depends on the version of iTunes you're using). Choose a song that's on your hard drive then right click on it, choose Get Info, then click the Options tab.
Within the main panel you'll see settings for Start and Stop. A ringtone can only be thirty seconds long, so use these settings to isolate the part of the song you want then click OK. You won't be deleting anything on the actual track itself, so don't worry.
Now highlight the song, go up to File at the top of the screen and select Convert > Create AAC version (in older versions of iTunes the process was File > Create New Version > Create AAC version). iTunes will duplicate the track, but if you look closely you'll see that the new version is only 30 seconds (or less) long. That's the one we'll use for our ringtone.
Remember to go back to the original track now and untick the Start and Stop options, otherwise the track will only play that short section.
Change the file type
Highlight the short version of the song, then right-click and select Show in Finder. Now you'll see the two versions of the song.
The duplicate may have a 1 at the end of the name to differentiate it; more importantly, its file size will be smaller, and it will be an .m4a file. We've also found that the duplicated file often loses the artwork associated with the other files in the album. Essentially, you're looking for the odd man out in the album folder.
To use it as a ringtone we'll need to convert the file type from .m4a to .m4r. Click on the name once to highlight it, then once again to edit the name so we can change the last three letters.
Finder will then ask you if you are sure you want to use the new file type. Choose 'Use .m4r' in the pop up box to confirm. Leave the Finder window open for now, as we'll use it again in a moment.
Delete the shorter track
Return to iTunes and delete the short version of the track, remembering to check the length carefully before you do so. When prompted choose Keep File, as we want to remove the track from our music library but not our computer entirely.
Import the track to iTunes as a ringtone
Go back to the Finder window and double-click the shorter file. Rather disconcertingly it will disappear from the box. It may start playing in the background if you haven't got anything else playing.
Don't worry, it isn't really gone.
Return to iTunes, go to the dropdown menu at the top left which offers Music, Movies, TV Shows and so on, and select Tones. (In older versions of iTunes, go to the row of icons in the top left corner and click on the three dots. This brings up more options, one of which is Tones. Click this.) You'll see that the short version of the song is now a ringtone.
Sync the ringtone with your iPhone
Connect your iPhone to iTunes and click on the little phone icon just to the right of the Music/Movies/Tones etc dropdown menu (or just to the right of the three dots, in older versions of iTunes). This will bring up the iTunes panel for your phone, from which you want to select Tones in the left hand column.
Once inside, click Sync Tones > Selected tones, then the track you've created. Finally go to the bottom righthand corner and click Apply.
Set the new ringtone
All you need to do now is go to Settings on your iPhone, then Sounds (or Sounds & Haptics, if you're still running an older version of iOS).
Now select Ringtone, assuming you want the song to play when you receive a call. If you'd prefer, you can associated it instead with Text Tone, New Voicemail or various other notifications.
You'll find the new ringtone at the top of the list. Tap on it to select it as the tone that will be associated with the chosen notification.
Set different ringtones for different people
It's easy (and handy) to allocate different ringtones to different people.
On your iPhone go to the Contacts app, find and select the person, then tap the Edit option in the top right corner. One of the options that will be brought up at this point is Ringtone, which will most likely be set to Default at the moment.
Tap on this and the full menu will appear, allowing you to select whichever ringtone you deem appropriate.
Now whenever that person rings, you'll know it's them.