It was one of Apple’s worst decisions of 2007: even if you owned a song and wanted to use it as an iPhone ringtone, you couldn’t. Instead, the only custom ringtones you could play were ones sold at a ridiculous price through iTunes, or ones that required hacks and third-party applications to create. Today, Apple has fixed its prior bad call, releasing version 4.1.1 of the iLife ‘08 application GarageBand, an update that now lets you create your own custom iPhone ringtones. Now that Apple has released both GarageBand ‘08 and iTunes 7.5, which stopped trying to block ringtones created by third-party applications, iPhone ringtone creation has never been so easy. Our ten step guide walks you through the process.


1. After opening GarageBand ‘08, choose Create New Music Project.


2. You’ll be presented with a dialog box to save your ringtone. Type the name as you’d like it to appear in iTunes and on the iPhone; it’ll save you a step later.


3. Drag and drop a song you own from iTunes into the main GarageBand window. Assuming that it’s an unprotected track, such as any MP3 or an unprotected AAC file, it will take a moment to import. If it’s a protected track, such as an iTunes Store purchase, GarageBand won’t import it, letting you know with the dialog box below. (If you want, you can also delete the Grand Piano track that appears in GarageBand by hitting propeller and the delete key at the same time.)


4. If you try at this point to export the iTunes track as a ringtone, and it’s longer than 40 seconds, GarageBand will fail. You’ll get a dialog box telling you to adjust the song’s length. You do this by hitting the cycle button.


That’s the one in blue above.


5. At this point, iTunes will add a little yellow bar on top of your song. You can click in the center to slide it to your preferred 40 seconds of the song, or shorten it by clicking on one end of the bar and dragging it inward. Press the play button shown above to preview your ringtone.


6. We’ve shortened this ringtone to a better length that’s appropriate for looping on the iPhone. By default, the clip will play over and over until you answer the phone, so GarageBand does the same thing to give you a sense of how the loop will sound. Careful snipping can guarantee a better loop.


7. Then, go to the top of the screen to the Share menu, and pick Send Ringtone to iTunes. After a quick export, iTunes will have the ringtone ready for you to label.


It will initially be exported with some incorrect tag details. You could leave them the same, or click on each field in the iTunes main window and fix them.


8. Then it’s time to plug in your iPhone and sync the new ringtone. Once you’ve selected the iPhone in your Sources list, and the Ringtone tab, you can select all of your ringtones, or just the custom one you’ve created. Then hit Sync.


9. Voila! The custom ringtone is found under the Settings > Sounds menu of the iPhone under Ringtone. Select it.

10. Call your iPhone. You’ll hear the ringtone for every caller—unless you set individual ringtones for callers using the Contacts list, Ringtone option. You’ll find your custom ringtone there, as well; you can create different ringtones for different callers.

We’re glad that Apple did the right thing by supporting user-created custom ringtone creation for the iPhone: the earlier attempt to force consumers to pay over and over again to listen to their songs hurt iPhone users, and ultimately, Apple’s reputation as a progressive hardware maker and retailer of music. Making ringtone creation this easy with GarageBand ‘08 helps the iPhone come even closer to the product everyone hoped it would be.