Yes, iOS 4.2 text tones currently individual, not custom


iOS 4.2 adds the ability to set individual text message tones to your contacts (finally!), but not custom tones, not even ringtones purchased from the iTunes Store. Apple seems to be keeping text tones completely separate from ringtones (and since they're shorter and functionally different -- they don't need to keep playing for a long period of time until you answer -- that may make some sense). Yup, that means you're still limited to the built in choices.

People want custom text tones, however, so here's hoping Apple adds a way to do that in one of the next few betas. (And not just through purchasing, because you just know the record labels would love to charge $0.99 for a 2 second text tone.)

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter,, Google+.

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There are 46 comments. Add yours.

Julio says:

First! Awww THIS SUCKS!!!!!

Hugh says:

wow that is absolutely going to be useless, thanks Apple

allex says:

JB=no more "tri-tone".

scott says:

Once again, Apple ALMOST does something. This is really getting sad. Hope they allow the ability to add your own, and NOT at a buck a pop. The bright side is there are sites that you can get them from, but it is a hassel, and we SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO THIS ANY WAY. FOURTH phone, same lock downs. Maybe it's time for Jobs to retire again.

Victimsofgravity says:

Looks like I'm passing on my iPhone 4 upgrade... Custome email sounds and text is a necessity... My old razor could do it.... Another thing android can do...
Oh and when are we going to get voice recognition built into the keyboard like android has?

Moe says:

Who actually cares....this is useless!! Just let us know when the 4.1 jailbreak is released. That will allow me to do all the custom mods I please ;-) ......

Rtistic says:

Ok see ya!!! Buh bye!!! Hope to never see you again!

marketsqhero says:

Custom email & text sounds a neccessity?!
To be honest I wish all you kids would sod off to Android and leave the iPhone to the people who want a more mature product...

Webvex says:

Sounds like Apple got it right to me. All we need is a little variety in message tones, so you can tell who's getting a message when there are several iPhones present. We don't need to hear your blaring tasteless songs every time you get a text.

Intoxicateme says:

Pete u r so right
iPhone still playing catch up with android devices
They the iPhone is so late
WTF and watch people say how grand this is
Falls the f$:& out
Geez can't wait til I'm a year into my contract with AT&T so I can't leave this ugly 3GS and this awful network

BobbyMcWho says:

How is using custom tones for email and text less mature? You would think that as a business user you would want to know which email account has received an email so you don't stop doing work to check an email that's actually just a forward from a friend. And custom tones aren't always songs you know, BlackBerry has a wide variety of non-song tones for email, text, etc.

Adam says:

One of my co-workers was showing me his Android phone the other day and that was one of the features he pointed out. His text sound was anything he wanted it to be.
I know people jailbreak just for that functionality. What is the difficulty or the risk?

unchew says:

i have faith they will change it to custom as well or at least add more built in ones with i would be ok with

marketsqhero says:

Luckily enough I work in a job where spending 5 seconds to check which email account I've just had a vibrate for (yes, I'm professional enough to turn all sounds OFF in the office) isn't really a big deal in my life...

dloveprod says:

Custom sms tones are coming in 5.0

Amipro says:

I believe that since this feature is also very resource intensive therefore apple will not offer this advance function on iPhone 2G.

allex says:

very little difficulty and risk, especially on a powerful iphone 4. easiest way is through winterboard(which leaves a very minimal resource footprint on an iphone 4), all you do here is download the "tone pack" and apply like a regular tone.
if you REALLY hate winterboard, you can SSH into your phone and change them manually; this process, despite a little more complexity is not very hard at all(especially with all the youtube step by step guides out there). the stock iphone text tones are terrible,imo and there's definately a pleathora of more "mature" ones out there.

zero credibility says:

the solution i found was this. :
• get IM+ (they have a light version for you to try out).
• forward any important mail you have to another email account. AIM or Gmail are pretty quick to get updated.
•Sign into IM+ with this new account and click get email alerts.
•you now get a summary of your important emails when they arrive.

Intrepyd says:

I would guess there are more SMS messages than phone calls placed daily from iPhones. It's really unfathomable that custom tones are still not allowed. I have a hard time believing that Cupertino could only come up with those awful default tones, game over.

InfinityX says:

Really, there's only ONE reason I could ever understand to explain why they don't allow custom text tones. They want to make it some kind of iconic thing when an iPhone user gets a text. Every single (non-jailbroken) iPhone user will have one of 6 tones that play when they get a text. Product recognition.
That's the ONLY thing I could think of. Otherwise it's a draconic restriction on a phone that is too far into it's life cycle to really be allowed to get away with it.
Let us set custom text tones!

Wyatt says:

Nice feature but I'm surprised at who may put something like this on high priority. Give me a file system for apps like DocsToGo, ListPro etc that they can access easily. That's something to get excited about. I don't care what Android can do. I stopped playing with phones since the Razr. I want real functionality.

hopper says:

Ugh, pleeeeeeeeze. As there are more and more iPhones in a room, the identical/similar tone issue for emails and texts becomes more and more important.

Fantom says:

@ Infinity X
Couldn't have said it better myself!

LozBlanko says:

So, let me get this right. I can personalise text message ringtones. There are six tones and I have 100 contacts. Great. That gets my vote as the most useless feature they've added so far.

desjones4ever says:

Im telling you Mr. Jobs could care less. Sometime I think that they haven't changed this on purpose. After a while you have to start to think is Apple serious? Its been these same ones for like 4 years. Sometimes I think that people that interview him are scared to ask him the simple questions. They are in awe. Dude seriously 6 sounds for sms in three years? It might sound retarded but so many people have your phone don't you think you can change it up a little. They want to be in the business sector as deep as RIM and all of the ringtones and sms alert sounds are for kids. That is ridiculous.

Jeff Higgins says: - if everyone does a feature request for Custom SMS Tones, we might get some where.

CJ says:

At Memphisto u probably work in cubicles. When u have your own office like I do than u can consider urself a professional.

Freiteez says:

Now just give me the ability to text without having to go to "messages"

Franky says:

@cj your poor spelling and shorthand disproves the argument you are attempting to win with mephisto. Trolling is hard to do- please give a better effort.

phansom7 says:


John says:

I'm actually happy to hear this development as I hate those stupid, long, annoying custom text-tones. I like the idea of assigning different text-tones to individuals and I like the fact that I don't have to worry about people who carry iPhones (which are quite a bit) adding annoying text-tone noise pollution to the environment in which I live.

Jon says:

^ The fact that some people will abuse customization is not a reason not to allow it. By your rationale no one should be able to have custom ringtones either. The problem, of course, is that the standard ringtones (and SMS tones, for that matter) are mostly awful.
Don't be so quick to assume that everyone will use musical tones as their SMS sounds, either. Many many people would prefer to use custom clicks and beeps to make their phone less disruptive (as opposed to tri-tone, which is actually quite disruptive compared with most other notification tones on other phones).

CSS3 Guy says:

Who cares what the reason is? Customization is always a good thing!!
Tell Apple you want to use custom SMS notification sounds! There is still time before iOS 4.2 is released!!

Jay says:

I just submitted a request for custom text tones. Will emailing Steve work too?

Stephen says:

How bout something as simple as voice alert. My old tmobile dash had it. Example "text from bob" that's it. Simple and no music to annoy someone. Right now I alternate between Mario and power ranger tones for text. I never get confused if it's me or not. I do wish for custom per person though, I could set a little bird for my twitter alerts.

CSS3 Guy says:

@Jay It can't hurt! If we all put enough pressure on Apple, it's possible that the final 4.2 release will have this much needed feature. Just tell everyone you know to keep requesting the feature however they can!
@Stephen I love the idea, but if Apple was going to do that it would probably be somewhere down the road. At this point, we should all just push Apple to make custom SMS tones, then we can push for more advanced customization features in future iOS updates!

Soft says:

Stop complaining. $0.99 for 2 seconds of 50 Cent actually comes out to a 1% savings.

Smash says:

At least there is a choice for the sms tones (albeit only 2 of 6 are tolerable)... NO CHOICES for voicemail, email, calender alerts is ridiculous!

Basim says:

Idk why apple ain't care abt small things like dat!!! I love iPhone and I can't imagine maself using another phone!!

Meow says:

Dearest STIFF Jobs, Don't be so Stiff in not giving us the Customize SMS alert tone!Such a simple need to be that STIFF right? SHUT our mouth by adding the function please!

JOhn says:

"Mephisto says:
September 17, 2010 at 9:42 am
Custom email & text sounds a neccessity?!
To be honest I wish all you kids would sod off to Android and leave the iPhone to the people who want a more mature product…"
No this is the way the Steve Jobs tells you what you should have not what you want . Yes this is a draw back to Iphone as half the time cant even feel the vibrate or the stupid tone thats rings when I receive an email or text . Time to go back to BB where they give the buyer all options on how we want to use a phone .
and BTW from a mature buyer and iphone are only toys with limitations

Cody says:

When I updated my iPhone 4, the new text tones showed up, but when I updated my dad's iPhone 3GS, they aren't there. Is this a mistake?

Mikkel Tiedt says:

Geez come on Apple!
I'll stick to my jailbroken 4.1 with my own custom personal sms-tone. This is actually the only reason why I jailbroke.
@Cody: nope, seems like apple only want to reward iPhone 4 users with their new and looong tones.

Iceberg says:

I love how iTunes has text tones for sale but u CAN'T use them for texts!!!!

Britinco says:

I think i am throwing away the $300 i just spent and going back to android, the lack of functionality compared to the android incredible is just disappointing.

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