Hey Motorola cell phone users! Tired of having a generic cell phone ringtone? Don't want to pay $0.99 to some fly-by-night mailbox flooder for a non-transferable soundclip? Well, fret no more! You can make custom ringtones on your Mac!
What you need:
- a music file
- Audacity (free sound editing software)
- a modern Motorola cellular telephone (Razr, V-series, W-series, etc.)
- a micro-SD trans-flash card that is compatible with your phone (optional, see below)
- a USB cable to connect your phone to the computer
Warning: using a song to make a ringtone constitutes fair use, and fair use rights are granted to you only if you legally purchased the song. Using a song you "borrowed" from a friend is illegal! So make sure you're using the song in a way that is compatible with the law.
Mmmmkay, the first step is to download Audacity. The Universal binary can be found here:
(visit the homepage if you would prefer to use an Intel-only or PPC-only version)
To install Audacity, just double-click the .dmg as you normally would, which unpacks the archive into a folder. Now, create a folder in your Applications directory called 'Audacity', and drag the contents of the .dmg folder into it. Your new folder should have 6 items in it, including the Audacity app, 3 folders, and 2 text files.
So far, so good. But Audacity doesn't have the capacity to deal with mp3's, so you will need to get an mp3 encoder that Audacity can use. Easiest way to do that is to download LAME:
(pick the one appropriate to your platform)
To install LAME, open up the .dmg folder. The actual bit of LAME that we are interested in is buried deep inside the folder: /package/usr/local/lib/. Once you navigate there, you will find a file called libmp3lame.dylib. Copy it into the Audacity folder you created earlier.
The final folder should look like this:
Okay, now we can open up Audacity. Before we get going, though, we have to set a few preferences. Open up Audacity > Preferences. From the list on the left side of the Preferences pane, choose "File Formats". Near the bottom of the right side, you will see a button marked "Find Library". Click it, and point to the libmp3lame.dylib file, which should be in your Audacity folder. The path should be /Applications/Audacity/libmp3lame.dylib. Click OK when you've got the path set, and then click OK to exit Preferences.
Here's what the Preferences pane looks like:
Alright, we're ready to begin our audio editing. The first step is to open an audio file, which is done by clicking File > Open, and navigating to the file you want. For best results, the file should be an .mp3 or an .m4a (iTunes format). Songs you downloaded via iTunes, which have an m4p extension, will not work. A .wav or a .wma should work, as long as it isn't license-protected. To be safe, stick with .mp3 or .m4a.
Once you get the song opened, it will appear in the Audacity window. It probably looks like a pair of hairy blue caterpillars. These are the left and right tracks of your song, showing the output frequencies. To the left you can see the decibel values, and across the top are the time values. The time values will be in 15 second intervals, if there is room to display them on your screen. If you can't see 15 second marks, because your song is too long, use the zoom tool to zoom in.
Audacity window with an open .m4a file:
What we want to do is select a 30 second segment of the song, because that's how long your cell phone will ring before it goes to voice mail. So, use your mouse to select 30 seconds of the song. Click anywhere in the blue part of the track (make sure you are using the tool that looks like a serifed letter 'I'), and drag until you've got 30 seconds. If you start at the beginning, just go until you reach the 30 second mark, and then stop. Otherwise, watch the counters at the bottom of the window until the Length reads 30s. Keep in mind that your song will sound best if your segment starts and ends in a 'valley', where the output level is closest to 0 decibels. If your song starts on a 'peak' or spike, you will hear a sharp tone at the beginning of the clip. Listen to your selected segment at any time by clicking the green 'Play' button near the upper left corner.
Audacity window with a 30 second clip selected:
Once you're happy with your 30 second clip, click on File > Export Selection. Change the format to mp3, and give it a new name, so you don't write over the original song. Put it someplace where you can find it later. Then click on the Options button. Make sure that the "Bit Rate Mode" is set to "Constant". The quality of your ringtone can be no greater than 64kbps, so make sure that is set right. Click "Okay" and finish saving the file. It shouldn't take more than about 4 seconds.
The save dialog and the options dialog:
Congratulations on making your very own custom ringtone!
Now all you have to do is get it on your phone! If you have purchased the Motorola Phone Tools package, hopefully you can figure the rest out on your own - I've never used it, but it probably works. Otherwise, keep reading. The supercool way to accomplish this would be with the Bluetooth connection. Unfortunately, the folder we need to put the ringtone in is not accessible via Bluetooth. So the easiest way to do this is to connect the phone to your Mac with a USB cable. Make sure that your phone's USB Settings are set to "Memory Card", and that you have a trans-flash card connected to the phone. The memory card should show up like a normal USB drive on your desktop. Open it up and navigate to /mobile/ringtone. Now you can drag and drop your 30 second .mp3 file into this folder. After ejecting the drive and disconnecting the phone, your new ringtone will be at the bottom of the ringtone selection list of your telephone. Pick it and wow your friends.
Disclaimer: this trick won't work with a Nokia, Samsung, Ericsson, etc. Those phones have their own interfaces and standards which I am not familiar with. I have personally used this technique on a Motorola v360 and a Motorola W490. Some phones, especially Verizon phones for corporate customers, may have many of the features required for this trick disabled. The screenshots come from Leopard, but I used an earlier version of Audacity to do this in Tiger and Panther. Don't try this with Windows! Driver files, card formatting - jeez, what a headache. And, I swear I am not making this up, I have had to remove viruses from cellular phones that were connected to Windows!