At Apple’s press event yesterday, Steve Jobs, the company’s CEO, announced a number of new gadgets, including a tiny video iPod and a touch-screen iPod with Wi-Fi capabilities. But a newly announced iTunes feature caught my eye: the make-your-own ringtone function. Apple has not only made it easy to buy music online; it has also made it easy for a user to create a short snippet of that song to play on her phone–a ringtone–and buy it from Apple.
The idea of making it simple for people to create their own ringtones is obviously a good one, and to charge for it is smart. After all, ringtones are usually downloaded for more than $2 each, while Apple’s ringtone costs $0.99 to $1.98 for the song and $0.99 to convert it into a ringtone file. But it’s still hard to shake the feeling that by making a ringtone with iTunes, you’re paying again for a song that you’ve already bought. (For a comical take on this idea, here’s an article from the Onion.)
A few months ago, I got frustrated with the measly ringtone selection on my phone, and I was not in the mood to pay for other options, so I decided to make my own. It’s not that hard, actually. First, I picked out a couple of songs from my iTunes collection that I thought would make good ringtones, and then I made sure that they didn’t have any DRM (digital rights management) software on them. The songs that I ripped from CDs were free of DRM, but songs that I bought from iTunes needed to be burned to a CD and then ripped back to iTunes in order to make them clean. Then I imported the music files, one at a time, to Audacity–free audio-editing software–where I cut out snippets. I didn’t try to compress the files, and they came out at a couple of hundred kilobytes, which is quite large for a ringtone and actually might not work for many phones with limited memory (MP3 compression software is available online, and it can shrink the files much smaller). To transfer the files to my phone, I used the Bluetooth connection from my Macbook Pro and Motorola Rokr. Then, under my phone’s settings, I selected the music file I had just transferred as the ringtone.