I just got a new Nokia smartphone and have been really getting into customizing it in various ways, but I’m a bit stalled out on customizing ringtones. How do I do that?
[This is a big topic, and I'm pleased to share a terrific answer from the book Nokia Smartphone Hacks by Michael Yuan. This is hack #45, Customize Ring Tones, and is reprinted here with explicit permission from O'Reilly Media. --DT]
Mobile phone ring tones are all the rage these days. According to an ARC study, the mobile phone ring tone business in 2003 was valued at $3.5 billion worldwide. That is 10% of the world music market and is many times bigger than the entire downloadable MP3 business in the PC world.
Use Ring Tones
A ring tone is the tone the phone sounds to alert you to incoming calls. You can associate a ring tone with a profile or with callers.
Set a ring tone for a profile.
On most Nokia devices, you can specify a different ring tone for each profile. On a Series 60 device, you can just open the Profiles application and select the Options → Personalise menu. When you open the “Ringing tone” item, you are presented with a list of all audio files stored in the device (i.e., in the Gallery). You can choose any of these audio files as the default ring tone for this profile (see Figure 8-8).
Your phone should have come with quite a few ring tones preinstalled. To hear a ring tone, scroll to it in the list and pause for a few seconds.
On a Series 40 device, you can select a profile from the Settings → Profiles menu and then select Options → Personalise to change ring tones. If you want to select a ring tone from an audio file in the phone’s default Gallery folder, choose the Open Gallery item in the list of available ring tones (see Figure 8-9).
On Series 40 devices, you can use the Settings → Tone settings menu to customize ring tones and alert settings for a currently active profile. On some devices, you can also navigate directly to an audio file in the Gallery and then set it as the ring tone for the current profile via the Options menu.
Set a ring tone for a caller or caller group.
On Nokia Series 60 phones, it is also possible to assign a different ring tone for each contact or each caller group. On Nokia Series 40 phones, you can specify up to five ring tones to five different caller groups, but you cannot specify ring tones for individual contacts. Those per-contact or per-caller group ring tones allow you to differentiate callers by the sound of the incoming call. Please refer to “Put a Face or Tune to the Caller” [Hack #27] for more on this subject.
Create Free Ring Tones
You can purchase and download ring tones for your phone from many web sites, including your wireless operator’s content portal site. Many leading musicians now sell ring tones for their new songs as both a revenue stream and an effective promotional vehicle. Part of the commercial success of the mobile phone ring tone business lies in the fact that, unlike MP3 music on PCs, ring tones are hard to bootleg and share. But advanced mobile phone hackers can create and use ring tones for free, from music they already own.
Use MIDI songs.
MIDI is the acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It is by far the most popular ring tone format. A MIDI file contains the musical notes of a song instead of the actual audio recording. Therefore, MIDI files can be very small, which makes them ideal for mobile phone ring tones.
MIDI songs are music only. MIDI cannot reproduce the human voice or other sounds that cannot be represented by musical notes.
The musical notes in a MIDI file are divided into several parallel channels. When a MIDI player plays the file, it simulates a different musical instrument for each channel and plays all the channels simultaneously. That produces the effect of a whole band playing the song together. Obviously, the more channels you have in a MIDI file, the better it sounds.
Many free MIDI files for popular songs are available on the Internet. However, most MIDI files you download cannot be used as ring tones because most free MIDI files have more than 256 channels. A Nokia mobile phone can play only 4–24 notes at a time due to hardware limitations. The Nokia Sound Converter program in the Nokia PC Suite [Hack #15] allows you to reduce the number of channels on any MIDI file and create Scalable Polyphony MIDI (SP-MIDI) files that are suitable for a selected Nokia device (see Figure 8-10). Using this tool, you can define channel priorities for the conversion, which specifies which channels to play and which channels to omit.
Compose your own MIDI songs.
If you are talented in music composition, you can use the Composer program included in some Nokia Series 60 phones (e.g., the N-Gage QD) to compose MIDI tones on the fly. The Composer is also very useful if you have access to the musical scores of your favorite songs but not the actual MIDI files. Figure 8-11 shows the Composer in action.
Convert MP3s to ring tones.
Compared with MIDI music, MP3 songs make much more impressive ring tones. MP3 files can incorporate human voices and other sound effects. Most important of all, you probably already have your favorite music collection in MP3 format.
Unfortunately, most Nokia phones cannot use MP3 files directly as ring tones. The hack here is to first convert MP3 music to Audio/Modem Riser (AMR) or WAV audio files, which Nokia devices do support. The AMR and WAV files can hold the same type of sound as MP3 files, but the former are less compressed.
You have to be careful with the size of the AMR and WAV files. A full-length song in .wav format can be more than 50 MB. That is much larger than the memory space of most Nokia phones. I recommend you convert only a 5 to 10 second clip of your favorite MP3 song into an AMR/WAV ring tone.
The Nokia Multimedia Converter is a standalone application outside of the Nokia PC Suite. It converts a variety of PC audio/video formats to mobile phone formats. Also, it supports MP3-to-AMR conversion. You can download the Nokia Multimedia Converter program for free from Forum Nokia (http://www.forum.nokia.com/).
Also, many MP3-to-WAV file converter programs are available on the Internet as shareware or freeware. For instance, the very popular and free MP3 player, Winamp (http://www.winamp.com/), can export MP3s to .wav files.
Record your own ring tones.
Many Nokia phones come with a built-in sound recorder. With it, you can record a short voice clip into an AMR file in the Gallery and then use the AMR file as a ring tone. For example, you can record your spouse saying “It’s me! Pick up the phone,” and assign it as the ring tone for him. Using voice clips as ring tones is a great way to personalize your mobile phone experience.
Use Ring Back Tones
I have said enough about ring tones, which you hear when people call you. The latest twist in the ring tone fad is to use ring back tones, which are also known as caller tones. They are the tones your callers hear when your phone rings, instead of the “ring, ring” they usually hear. This is a great way to entertain your friends and show your taste to your callers. To use this service, your wireless operator must support it. You can purchase ring back tones from your operator’s portal site. However, if you change your operator later, all your ring back tones will be lost.
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