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How to Add Ringtones to Your Android Smartphone

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

If you have recently purchased an android smartphone, you may be wondering how you can add additional ringtones, alarms, and notification sounds to the phone. To clarify the three types of tones that can be added: ringtones are used for incoming phone calls, alarms are used by the alarm clock application, and notification sounds are used by applications such as email and SMS for alerting you of incoming messages.  The three types of tones are available on separate lists so you cannot, for example, assign a tone from the ringtone list to an alarm.  Other applications may choose to use one list or the other for their sounds depending on what is appropriate for that app.

android ringtone

There was probably no documentation that came with your phone that explained how to add these tones to your phone, but it is an easy task to accomplish. Some of the methods described below only apply to ringtones, others apply to all three types.

The simplest application solution for adding a new ringtone is to use Android’s built-in audio player. This will allow you to set any song you have installed on your phone as the current ringtone.  While you have the audio player application open, pressing on a song will result in a popup menu being displayed.  That menu contains an option to assign the selected song as the phone’s ringtone.  This will not only add the song to the ringtone list but will make the song the current ringtone at the same time.  A drawback to this approach is that the built-in audio player will not let you add a song to the alarm or notification sound list.

There are also many ringtone applications which can be found on the Android Market by searching the market for “ringtone”.  Most of these apps can be downloaded for a small fee. Some of the ringtone applications allow searching and selecting from large directories of commercial ringtones, while others only provide a single ringtone or a small related set of them.  Some of these applications are free to install but require purchase of any ringtones that are downloaded or, in some cases, a monthly subscription charge which will appear on your cell phone bill.  Also, these applications vary in whether they will allow installation of just ringtones or all three types of tones. Be careful to read the description of the application as well as the comments to understand exactly what is provided and what the costs are.

Another approach is that offered by the free Ringdroid application.  Ringdroid allows you to select any song that is on your phone and then choose exactly which portion of the song you wish to use as your ringtone.  You can then save that portion of the song to any of the three lists of alarms, ringtones, or notification sounds.  This is probably the most flexible solution for creating and saving tones if you already have the song you are starting with on your phone.

You may already have existing ringtones on your computer or have received some via an MMS message or email.  It’s possible to turn these sound clips into ringtones, alarms, or notification sounds, although it takes a bit more manual work than the approaches discussed above. The first thing you will need to do is create the appropriate directories on your phone’s SD card.  If you’ve used Ringdroid or one of the other ringtone applications then the directories may already exist, but if that’s not the case there are two ways to create them: either using your PC or through a file manager application on the phone itself.

In order to create these directories with your PC, connect the phone to your PC with the USB cable.  You should be prompted on the phone to mount the SD card, which will then make it available as an external drive on the PC.  Once you’ve done that, you can access that external drive as a folder on the PC.  What you will see in this folder is the contents of your phone’s SD card.  Now you want create the following folders on your phone’s SD card, just like you create folders on your PC. These folders may already be present and if so, just click into them in order to verify that all of the folders needed are present. At the top level of the SD card, create a folder named “media” and click into it.

Within the media folder, create a folder named “audio” and click into that.   Finally, within the audio folder you will need to create three folders: “alarms”, “notifications”, and “ringtones”.

What you should wind up with are three folders:, “/media/audio/alarms”, “/media/audio/notifications”, and “/media/audio/ringtones”.

You can also create these directories on the phone itself using one of the file manager applications available for Android phones, such as Astro or Linda.  There are many of these applications available, but any of the highly rated ones should have the capability of creating folders on the SD card and then moving files to them.

Once you have created these three folders you can copy your existing tones, stored as either .mp3 or .ogg files, into them. As mentioned above, there are three different selection lists of tones available: ringtones, alarms, and notification sounds. The folder you choose to put a sound file into corresponds to which selection list the tone will show up on.   If you want the same tone to show up in more than one of these selection lists you will need to copy it to each of the appropriate folders.

If you have these tones on your computer, you can drag and drop them to the appropriate one of these three folders while your phone is connected with the USB cable.   If you have the tones attached to a MMS or email message now, it may be a little more complicated.  For an MMS message, you can usually press on the message to get an option to save the attached audio file to the SD card.  Then, using your PC or one of the file manager applications, you will need to find the saved audio file on the SD card and move it to the appropriate ringtone directory.

If you are using the default text message application, then the file will probably have been saved to the “download” directory on the SD card. Similarly, if your tone is in email, the email program on your phone may offer a way of saving the attachment to your SD card.  If it doesn’t, then simply access the email on your PC and save the audio file to the appropriate directory on the SD card while the phone is attached to the PC with the USB cable.

With the techniques described above, you should be able to set any song or sound clip you’d like as a ringtone, alarm, or notification sound on your Android smartphone.  One thing to be aware of is that if you’ve set a tone to a sound file that is stored on the phone’s SD card, that sound file is not available to be used by the phone while the card is mounted to your computer as external drive.  In that case, you will most likely hear a default tone in its place.  You will need to disconnect the phone from the PC before the tones on the SD card are available for use.