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How to change the alert sounds on your iPhone

How to change the alert sounds on your iPhone


Relive the glory days of custom ringtones.

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iPhone with homepage icons against an illustrated background
Illustration by Samar Haddad / The Verge

In the past, Apple’s ecosystem has been a little “one size fits all” without a lot of room for personalization — however, now we’re getting a lot more ringtones in iOS 17. Customizing your iPhone’s alert sounds can make your device feel a little more personal and fun. And maybe — I’m just spitballing here — you can even make a funny reference to a ’90s comedy starring Bill Murray in the process. Just an idea. 

In any case, here’s how to change the sounds for your ringtone, mail, texts, and calendar alerts. For reference, this was tested out on an iPhone 11 running iOS 17.

  • Go to Settings > Sounds & Haptics. 
  • Tap the task with the alert tone you want to change.
  • Scroll down to choose from a list of sound clips. The clips will be different depending on the task (ringtone, text tone, new mail, etc.).
  • At the bottom of each list, there’s a Classic sub-menu. Tap on it to find some vintage sounds you probably haven’t heard for a long time, like the unforgettable bell chime.

The only alert sound you can’t access from this menu is an alarm. For that, you need to follow a couple of different steps:

  • Open the Clock app.
  • Tap the alarm you want to change and choose Sound.

You’ll see the list of ringtones from the steps above (including the Classic ringtones) as well as the option to Pick a song through Apple Music. Other alert tones can’t be used for your alarm, which is probably for the best.

Sounds & Haptics menu
From the Sounds & Haptics menu, you can select an alert sound to change.
Edit Alarm menu
To change your alarm sound, you need to open the Clock app.

Add custom ringtones

If you’re game, here’s where things get more fun: custom ringtones. Remember those? They still exist. You can download your own sounds and song clips from the iTunes store to use as ringtones for your alarms and alerts. 

  • Go to the Clock app’s Sound options if you’re changing an alarm. For anything else, go to Settings > Sounds & Haptics and pick the alert you want to change.
  • Look for a shortcut labeled Tone Store at the top of the page. Tap it to bring up the iTunes Store.
  • Choose Tones

There are a lot of options, and be warned: they aren’t free. When I checked it, song clips all seemed to be priced at $1.29, while audio clips were 99 cents. If you’re morally opposed to paying for a ringtone, then you’ll need to turn back now and stick with the Apple-supplied options. If you correctly recognize that $1.29 is a small price to pay to reconnect with your high school self by making “Genie in a Bottle” your ringtone, you’re in the right place.

iTunes store showing results from “I got you, babe” search.
You can download additional (paid) ringtones from the iTunes Store.
iTunes page for I Got You Babe.
Tap on the name of the tune to get more info.

There are plenty of fun options on the Apple-curated “featured” page, which is the first one you’ll see. This is where you’ll probably find whatever song is big on TikTok right now. But let’s say, hypothetically, you wanted to set your alarm to play a clip from Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” to pay tribute to the 1993 classic film Groundhog Day. Or to annoy your partner every morning. The reason why isn’t important. Here’s how you would go about it:

  • Tap the search icon in the bottom menu bar.
  • Type in your search term — in this case, “I Got You Babe.” 
  • You’ll see results under the Songs and Albums categories up top, but look for the options under the Ringtones label.
  • Tap on the thumbnail image to play a preview, or tap on the name of the song to get more info, including reviews and related sounds. If you like what you hear, tap the price to pay with your Apple account. 

During this process, you’ll be prompted to set the new tone as your default ringtone or text tone or assign it to a contact. Don’t do any of that yet — just tap Done and pay your $1.29. 

Once you’ve made your purchase, follow the steps above to find the sound settings for the alarm you want to change. Choose Download All Purchased Tones to access your purchased tone — it will appear right at the top of the ringtones list once downloaded. Tap it to set your new alarm sound. 

Congratulations! You’re on your way to irritating your partner every single morning with a joke from a ’90s comedy until you both get sick of it. That’s $1.29 well spent in my book.

Update October 12th, 2022, 11:58AM ET: This article was originally published on June 9th, 2022, and has been updated to account for changes in the OS.