Why the Eff Are Ringtones So Effing Impossible to Get?

It's safe to say I'm not the most tech-savvy guy around. A new iPhone coming out means as little to me as a new Keith Urban album.

It's not a "get off my lawn" thing, it's just that tech stuff, to me, is too close to math. And I hate math. And if it's not too math-y, it's filled with detailed instructions that make my eyes glaze over.

I thought I wasn't a complete waif, but shee-it: I tried to do what appears to be the simplest thing ever, and it turned into a bloody multi-hour ordeal.

Ringtones. Everyone has them, right? One for your BFF, one for your significant other, one for the person your significant other needn't know about, etc., etc. Couldn't be easier, apparently.

I learned differently, and our resident tech wizard, Jeff Balke, is here to explain why (in italics.)

It began with a passing thought. For some reason the old Todd Rundgren classic "We Gotta Get You A Woman" popped into my head, and I thought the opening line -- "Leroy boy, is that you?" -- would make a good ringtone.

Good choice, Rich!

My wife steered me to some program she uses to put in ringtones. It let you enter a url for a song -- or at least it seemed to -- but it wouldn't load. Not to mention that it eventually caused me to sign up for a $9.99-per-month service I had to cancel, which involved two utterly fruitful non-answered calls to a customer service line (once it cut off midway through the lengthy process; another time it just rang and rang).

First rule of thumb: NEVER sign up for a service unless you are absolutely certain you know what it is and why. We know someone who once had to have a credit card canceled just to get some Web site allegedly providing the videos of young ladies' first sexual encounters with other women, which he believes was a total ripoff anyway, to stop billing him. Ahem.

Some googling led to another service, which also didn't work.

I then visited this site, which provided the single most incorrect use of the sentence "Luckily, it couldn't be easier to install ringtones on your HTC EVO 4G."

Me and instructions don't get along. If cooking something has more than three steps to it, I'm outta there. (And two of those instructions would be a) put in oven and b) remove from oven.)

So "easy" didn't exactly come to mind as I pondered the procedure suggested:

Once you have some great ringtones on your computer, you're ready to go:

1. Ensure your microSD card is in your HTC EVO 4G, then connect it to your computer using the supplied USB cable 1. If your HTC EVO 4G does not mount automatically, touch the USB icon that appears in the menu bar at the top of the display, drag it down to expose the Android Notification Pane, then tap on USB Connected and select Mount (or Disk Drive) 2. Using a file explorer on your computer, navigate to the root folder (the main directory) of the memory card in your HTC EVO 4G 3. Create a new folder called ringtones (some devices require a lowercase "r" so please name the new folder exactly as specified) 4. Now, simply copy all of the MP3 ringtones you want on your HTC EVO 4G into the new ringtones folder

That's it! You can now unmount your HTC EVO 4G and your ringtones will become available as options when changing your ringtone.

1. To set one of your new MP3s as your ringtone: 2. From the home screen, tap Menu then Settings 3. Tap Sound, then Phone ringtone 4. Scroll to the ringtone you want, select it and then tap OK


"Enjoy"? I didn't get past "your microSD card." I'm sure the rest of it was highly simple and enjoyable, but it's techno-Greek algebra to me.

This is a classic example of an engineer (or at least someone intimately familiar with the device/software) writing the instructions. The very first instruction has a sub head that includes the word "mount," which non-tech people probably don't know. That's a bad sign right from the get go.

Step 2 has "use a file explorer," which assumes the user even knows what that means and many of them will not. It goes on from there explaining how you copy MP3s to the folder, but there is no instruction on how to edit them down to reasonable size, which I'll get to in a moment. In short, this is a cluster-you-know-what of an instructional. I'd already purchased the song in iTunes (to go along with vinyl and CD versions of Runt), so I went there, figuring Apple would make it easy. No way, possibly because I don't have an iPhone.

Just to add some insult, it finally dawned on me "Hey! Maybe Todd Rundgren sells ringtones on his Web site!!" Alas, that Web site is some programmer's nightmare of animation, hidden menus, "fun" stuff and no ringtones that I could find.

Really, Todd Rundgren? That's your Web site? The first page says, "to continue you need flash." I guess Rundgren's Web site is gonna party like it's 1999. This is a first-rate example of why people hate computers and the people that program them. Make it easy or don't bother.

So I gave up the fight. Everyone else can have ringtones, apparently, but not me. At least I was up to the tech task of canceling that $9.99/month service online.

The reality is that, without some expertise, ringtones are not easy to make on your own despite what Web sites tell you. For starters, ringtones are usually brief snippets of songs -- about 5 to 10 seconds worth at most. This limits the amount of storage space you need and, more importantly, allows you to have the spot in the song you want as your ringtone. Sure, the first 3:20 of Rush's live version of "Xanadu" is awesome and all, but I'd prefer to skip that in a ringtone and stick with the mega-cool bassline.

The problem is that editing that music requires software that will help you do that and a general knowledge of how that stuff works. I've used a few different programs that are helpful, but they often are more convoluted than just opening up an audio editing program and...well, you get the picture.

As I often tell my web-development clients, the truth is some things, when it comes to technology, are best left in the hands of people who know what they are doing. Avoid frustration and hand the reins over to them...or buy whatever available ringtones you can through your phone. Sure, your options may be limited to Family Guy quotes and "My Humps" by the Black Eyed Peas, but you'll get used to it.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >