Custom Ringtones on iOS Are a Huge Pain in the Ass

Dieter Bohn has a good piece for The Verge on what a complicated, confusing process it is to put a custom ringtone on an iPhone:

I find this eight-step process to be legitimately insane. It exists because Apple made a decision a long time ago that the iPhone should be made “simpler” in some very specific ways. You could argue that it’s about locking things down. You could definitely argue that Apple is constrained by music industry interests and can’t make the process for putting your own ringtones on a phone too simple or else it’ll get into hot water with record labels.

But whatever the historical or philosophical reasons behind abstracting access to a file system and ringtones might be, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a broken user experience.

I don’t agree with his main thesis, aptly summarized by the headline: “Why the iPhone Sometimes Feels Stuck in the Past”. Bohn points to Android’s method, where users can just move a ringtone file into the folder where the OS looks for them. That is less confusing and more straightforward than what iOS requires now, but to me, “give users access to the file system and expect them to move files into special folders” is the idea that is stuck in the past.

Setting a custom wallpaper in iOS shows the way to do this without exposing the file system. Open any image, hit the Share button, and choose “Use as Wallpaper”. There’s no reason iOS couldn’t do the same thing for setting an audio file as a ringtone or alert. Do it right from iCloud Drive or Dropbox.

(Another gripe: custom ringtones don’t make the trip when you set up a new iPhone from a backup of an old one. A real annoyance every time I set up a new iPhone. People who work at Apple and restore their iPhones more frequently than I do must stick to the system ringtones — otherwise they’d go mad. Update: A ton of readers wrote in to say that their ringtones restore just fine when setting up new iPhones. But a few wrote in to say they’d had the same experience as me — they had to put their ringtones back on their phone manually. I just tried a fresh restore on a spare iPhone here, and this time, all my custom ringtones were restored. I don’t know what’s going on here, but there might be some sort of edge-case bug.)

Friday, 15 April 2016