How to Set a Custom Android Ringtone

Your ringtone is the most basic and common way of customising your phone to better suit you. I live in an apartment inside a bed and breakfast, so I’d like to set my tone to Madness’s classic track, Bed and Breakfast Man. I’ve already got the MP3, but how do I set it to play whenever someone calls me?

Settings > Sound > Incoming calls: Phone ringtone lets you pick from a selection of default tunes.

Select this option from the Sound menu... open this list.

These are simply OGG music files, stored in your internal storage, in the \system\media\audio\ringtones folder.

See? Same tracks as in the list.

Moving new music files to that folder isn’t possible on all phones, and would quickly waste all your internal storage anyway — but don’t worry, there’s an alternative location on the SD card that you can use: \media\audio\ringtones.

You may need to create the ringtones, audio, and even media folder yourself; you can do this either through Android itself, using a file manager like ASTRO, or by plugging it your phone into your computer, mounting the SD card as a drive, and using your desktop operating system to create new directories.

Next, copy the MP3 to this \ringtones\ folder. Again, you can do this on your phone directly with an app like ASTRO, or you can use your computer’s OS.

Copying via Windows

Unfortunately not all sound formats are supported. Most notably, the AAC (M4A) format that iTunes uses by default won’t work in Froyo; you’ll need to convert this to MP3 format first (just right-click the song in iTunes and select Create MP3 Version).

Once you’ve copied the tune, go back to Settings > Sound > Incoming calls: Phone ringtone and look for it. It might have the name of the song or of the file, depending on how the ID3 tags are set up.


It’ll begin playing as soon as you select it. Congratulations, you’ve set a custom ringtone!

Setting a Custom SMS Tone

Setting a custom notification for your SMS messages, picture messages, emails, and so on, is just as easy as setting a custom ringtone. The difference is, you must move the sound file to the \media\audio\notifications folder. Once you’ve done that, you can set the general notification tone in Settings > Sound > Notifications: Notification ringtone.

However, do bear in mind that playing a three minute MP3 every time you receive a text is going to get pretty annoying! Some phones actually cut the tune off after the first few seconds.

Selecting a Specific Section of the Song

The song will play from the start of the track, and this might not be the ideal point for a ringtone (particularly for a notification). You can select a specific section of the song to use by editing the MP3 on your computer with a piece of music software like GoldWave, and removing everything apart from the clip you want to hear.

You can use such software to adjust the speed and remix it with other tracks as well — but that topic’s more suited to Audiotuts+ 😉

But what if you don’t want to copy tracks to and from your computer, and use desktop software, just to set your favourite part of your favourite song as your ringtone? There’s got to be an app for that…

Enter Ringdroid

Ringdroid is a free, open-source ringtone editor, available on the Market here. It’s my app of choice for dealing with ringtones.

It lets you search through all the music files on your phone — including those you’ve already set as ringtones — so that you can quickly find the one you want.

Searching for Breakfast

From there, you can long-press the tune to bring up a menu that allows you to make it your default ringtone, delete it, or set it as the ringtone to play whenever a specific contact calls you. You can also use the built-in editor to trim away any parts of the song you don’t want to be played:

Ringdroid's editor

The editor’s interface is wonderful. You drag the upper-left and lower-right tabs (or the text boxes in the lower left corner) to set the start and end points of the selection, using the waveform display to get some idea of where you are in the song. Zoom in to get a more detailed view of the waveform, or out to see the whole song. Hit Play to hear how the clip sounds so far.

Once you’re happy with your selection, hit the Save icon, and you’re given the option to save it as a ringtone, music track, alarm, or notification — and all without having to connect your phone to a computer. Perfect for those people who change their ringtones daily to suit their mood. I know you exist.

Other Useful Apps

If you find Ringdroid useful, check out these apps too.

Group Ringtones, as featured in my Essential Apps and Tips roundup, allows you to set a custom ringtone to a specific group of people, as defined in your Contacts. Very useful if you want to have separate ringtones for work colleagues, family members, and friends, without having to set them all individually.

Ringtonium is a great alternative to Ringdroid. We reviewed it here.

Tasker lets you customise your ringtone based on all sorts of factors, even beyond who’s calling you: the time of day, the date, your location, whether you’re wearing headphones… it offers a huge amount of customization. Take a look at our full review of Tasker to see what else it can do.

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