Assign Unique Ringtones to Contacts on iPhone to Know Who’s Calling

Aug 21, 2012 - 4 Comments

How to assign unique ringtones to iPhone Contacts so you know who is calling by sound

You can make your iPhone life a lot easier by assigning custom ringtones to contacts. This makes it easy to determine who is calling before you even see the caller ID, letting you either rush to answer the phone or continue snoozing and ignore the call.

With how easy it is to make ringtones for the iPhone out of songs or entirely on your own with Garageband, this also provides a great way to differentiate inbound calls from the general device ringtone, and among common ringtones you hear elsewhere too.


Here’s how to assign a custom ringtone to contacts via the Contacts app:

  • Open Contacts app on the iPhone
  • Tap the person you want to set the custom ringtone for
  • Tap “Edit” in the corner, then scroll down to “ringtone” and tap it
  • Select from the list of bundled ringtones, or one you made yourself then tap “Save”
  • Repeat for other contacts as desired

Assigning a completely unique tone to each contact is generally too time consuming, but a happy medium is setting unique tones to people on your favorites lists.

Now anytime you get an incoming phone call from the users with custom ringtones set, you’ll know by the sound alone. It’s also a great strategy to field incoming calls from people you don’t want to hear from, and it works for everyone so long as they are not blocking their caller ID.

From the same Contacts editing field you can also set a custom text tone for each contact, and you can even make your own versions of those too.

The custom ringtone per contact functionality is incredibly useful, and has been around a long time for iPhone (and iPad for that matter, which applies to FaceTime calls). While this feature persists in iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, it was also around way back when, and for posterity sake, here are screenshots of what this same functionality looked like way back in iOS 5:

Set a custom ringtone per contact on iPhone

As you can see the appearance is different but the functionality is the same. In other words, even if your iPhone or iPad is quite old and running relatively ancient system software, you can still apply custom ringtones to contacts.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPhone, Tips & Tricks

4 Comments

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  1. Tawanna says:

    I have tried several times to change the ringtone for one person in my contacts and it won’t change!!!! What is the problem!?!?!?

  2. M says:

    It would be nice if you could bulk change the ringtone for all the contacts all at once (so that you know it’s someone legit whom you might know vs. an annoying robo call or the likes) and then individually change the ringtones for those who really matter to you and for whom you might want to or need to rush to pick up the phone.

  3. Gabriel says:

    Helpful additional tip to this mix: create a silent ringtone (empty m4r file) and set that to people you want to always be silent when calling you!

  4. mfehr says:

    I use this approach for incoming SMS as well. When I login to my e-banking, my bank sends me a text message. As I expect this message anyway, I don’t need a text tone. As a surplus, People around me will not be disturbed.

    This required that I added the special SMS numbers from the banks to my address book and setting the text tone to none.

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