Change the iPhone Text Tone to Play Different SMS Sounds

Jan 8, 2012 - 14 Comments

iPhone Text Tone

New to the iPhone with iOS 5 is the ability to set and use custom text tones. Having long been able to switch between Apple provided text tones, since this new feature means any ringtone file can be set as a custom SMS sound, and you can also set custom text alert sounds on a per contact basis so you’ll know who is texting you based on the alert sound alone.

Change the SMS Sound on the iPhone

If you’re tired of the default “Tri-tone” text tone, here is how to change that sound:

  • Tap on “Settings” and then tap on “Sounds”
  • Tap on “Text Tone” and select from the list, custom text tones with appear under “Ringtones” whereas defaults will appear under “Original”
  • Select a text tone to use and close out of Settings

Tapping a text tone will play a preview of the sound, the checkbox alongside the tone indicates it’s the current setting.

Set Custom Text Tones Per Contact

SMS alert sounds can also be customized on a per person basis:

  • Tap on “Phone” and then the “Contacts” tab on the bottom
  • Locate the contact to set a custom SMS tone for and tap on their name
  • Tap on “Edit” and tap on “Text Tone”
  • Just as above, tap on a new text tone to set it as the default for the selected contact

Remember free iPhone ringtones can be made with iTunes, and they can be used for text tones as well. Generally the shorter the text tone the better, unless you want to hear a song play when someone texts you.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPhone, Tips & Tricks


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  1. John says:

    Glad to have it, but why did it take until version 5 of iOS to get this feature that has been standard on mobile phones since the 90’s?

    • s says:

      lol do you really need to ask that question, when picture messaging wasnt available right away with the iphone and has to have a data plan to use? when my $20 phone did all of that for free…. reinventing the wheel and charging double, thats the apple way

  2. smithers says:

    Lovely tip but I must say anything over 1 second long is a nuisance to the ears!

  3. This is a much needed feature for iOS. Very happy that they integrated it.

  4. Kaushik says:

    a note: generally ringtones aren’t allowed to go more than 40s. yes there are hacks to bypass that, but then they’re just that hacks.

  5. Darnell says:

    This feature is also available on iPod touch 4th generation only.

  6. Ali says:

    My iPhone 4 is updated with the iOS 5, but it will not let me play my purchased ring tones from iTunes as text tones. Does anyone know why this is?

  7. vicky says:

    I know I turn everyone I know wanting an iphone away from them. The bill I have should cover anything i want on my phone. I agree with what “S” said in previous post.

  8. Helen says:

    Im getting the iPhone 5 and I want a specific ringtone and thanks to this website I have found it! :) BUT I was also wondering, how can I get my own choice of ringtone onto my settings so that I can choose it?

  9. Scott says:

    I have a few custom ringtones and have attempted to use them as text tones, but when I select them, they do not work. I get no sound. Do I need to change the file extension in iTunes to something other than .m4r (ringtone)?

  10. Djspy says:

    I did a google search wanting to know how to set the Mario Bros 1up sound as the text notification and came across this page (look at the picture they used lol) anyway, I’m still not sure how to do it
    Can someone email me explaining how to do it? djspy006 @ gmail . Com

  11. […] default iOS setting for iPhones is for message alerts to chime with the text tone twice, in a two minute interval. While the repeat text message alert sounds, notifications, and […]

  12. […] you’re going to use the voice recordings as custom ringtones or text tones, you’ll need to have them under 45 seconds long. Obviously for a text tone, even shorter is […]

  13. […] kick, it’s also helpful to differentiate people with auditory cues by setting unique text tones and distinct ring tones for each individual, if not for everyone than at least those on the […]

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