Use mp3 as iPhone Ringtone

Charles Roth, 18 Feb 2017       (Techblog top)

I. Introduction
After limping along with an ancient Android phone for many years (and being laughed at by my Apple-savvy teenager daughter), I finally bit the bullet and bought an iPhone.  (OK, an iPhone 5, 'cause I'm cheap.)

Overall, it is a very much improved, smoother, and more artistic experience.  However, it's still very much Apple's walled garden, and sometimes it takes the metaphorical equivalent of a monster drill to get through said wall.

II. The goal
Really, all I want to do is take an arbitrary mp3 file, and use it as a ringtone.  (Or any other kind of notification tone, etc.)  I'm using Windows (sigh), but there should be an equivalent for the very few Windows-specific steps listed below.

For example, I wanted a nice, loud, triumphant ringtone.  So I found a recording of the opening "Promenade" from Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" on Youtube, and downloaded it via  From there, I loaded it into Audacity, trimmed it down to the ~30 seconds I wanted, and used Effect -> Amplify to bring up the volume.  I saved it as a .wav file, and then used Linux "lame" to convert it to an mp3.

III. Ay, Ay, yi iTunes
Now begins the complicated part.  :-)

  1. All of these steps assume that I have iTunes installed on my laptop, and that I'm logged into it with the same "Apple Id" that my iPhone uses.
  2. In iTunes, with the Library left tab showing, select "Songs".
  3. File -> Add File to Library. Open the desired MP3.
  4. Right-click on the new file, select "Get Info", then "Options".
  5. Enter the appropriate start and stop times, and check both boxes.  "OK".
  6. Select (highlight) the song, choose File -> Convert -> Create AAC version.
  7. Right-click on the newly created song (the AAC version), and "Show in Windows Explorer".
  8. Rename the file from whatever.m4a to whatever.m4r.  (Yes, I think that's weird, too.)
  9. Back in iTunes, delete that (newly created AAC) song.  (If it asks, keep file.)
  10. In the Windows Explorer window, double-click the file.  (It will probably play; it may disappear.  Ignore both.)
  11. Back in iTunes, in the top-left dropdown that is probably showing "Music", select "Tones".  (If you don't see Tones, there should be an "edit menu" option that lets you create it.)
  12. You should now see the new ringtone in the Tones library.
  13. Connect your iPhone to your laptop with the USB cable.
  14. Go back to the "Music" selection from the dropdown.  You should now see a little iPhone icon just to its right.
  15. Under "On My Device" on the left, click Tones.
  16. On the far right, click "Edit playlist".
  17. Now drag the new ringtone on the left, to the iPhone panel on the right.  "Done".
  18. Click on the iPhone icon on the left, and finally "Sync" and "Done".
  19. Finally, on your iPhone, go to Settings, Sounds, and select Ringtone (or Text Tone or whatever).
  20. You should now be able to select your new tone!

IV. Questions and Comments
I welcome any questions or suggestions; contact me at croth @ this domain (look at the address bar).