How to Set Unique Ringtones for Each Contact on Your iPhone

Know who's calling before you pick up your phone

Two girls playing on smartphones

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With the iPhone, you can assign different ringtones to specific contacts in your address book. If you do this, a love song can play when your significant other calls or you can hear Take this Job and Shove It when your boss is on the line. It's a fun way to customize your phone, and it helps you know who's calling without even looking at the screen.

There are two things you need before you can assign unique ringtones to contacts: contacts added to your address book and a few ringtones. The iPhone comes loaded with a couple of dozen ringtones — and you can add your own.

The tips in this article apply to iPhones running iOS 11 and iOS 12.

How to Set Ringtones for Individual Contacts on iPhone

Unless you customize the ringtones assigned to your contacts, all of them are automatically assigned the default ringtone. To personalize the ringtones for your callers:

  1. Tap the Phone app to launch it.

  2. Tap Contacts at the bottom of the screen.

  3. In the contacts list, find the person whose ringtone you want to change from the default. You can do this by searching for their name in the search field at the top or by scrolling through the list.

  4. When you've found the right person, tap their name to open their contact information.

  5. Tap the Edit button in the top right corner.

  6. The contact information is now editable. Look for the Ringtone option just under email (you may have to swipe down to find it). Tap Ringtone.

    Contact, Edit button, Ringtone button
  7. The list of ringtones available on your iPhone is displayed. This includes all of the iPhone's built-in ringtones and alert tones, as well as any ringtones you've created or ringtones you've bought from Apple. Tap a ringtone to hear a preview.

  8. Tap the ringtone you want to assign to that person to place a check mark next to it and select Done at the top of the screen to return to the contact's edit screen. The name of the ringtone you chose is displayed next to Ringtone.

  9. Tap Done at the top of the contact's edit screen to save the change. Now, whenever that person calls you, you'll hear the ringtone you picked.

    Ringtone, Done button in iOS Settings

How to Customize Contacts' Vibration Patterns on iPhone

If you have your phone set to vibrate instead of ring for incoming calls, you can also customize each contact's vibration pattern. This tells you who's calling even if your ringer is turned off. The Vibration option is on the same screen as the ringtones. To change a contact's vibration setting:

  1. Go to the Ringtone screen just as you did in the previous section (Steps 1 through 6).

  2. On the Ringtone screen, tap Vibration to display the set of vibration patterns that comes on the iPhone.

  3. Tap one of the vibrations to feel a preview. When you find the one you want to use, tap it to put a check mark next to it.

  4. Tap Ringtone in the top left corner of the screen.

  5. Tap Done to return to the contact's editing screen.

    Vibration, Ringtone, Done buttons in iOS Settings
  6. The chosen vibration is listed next to Ringtone along with the ringtone the iPhone uses when vibration isn't turned on. Tap Done at the top of the screen to save the change, which is listed on the contact's information screen.

    Done button in Edit Contact screen on iOS

How to Get New Ringtones for iPhone

The couple of dozen tones that come with the iPhone are nice, but you can expand that selection to include virtually any song, sound effect, and more. Here are a couple of ways to acquire new ringtones.

Buy Ringtones at the iTunes Store. To do this, open the iTunes Store app on your iPhone. Tap the More button at the bottom right corner. Tap Tones. You're now in the ringtones section of the iTunes Store where you can listen to previews and buy Ringtones for your iPhone.

More button, Tones, Tone store on iOS

Make Your Own Ringtones. There are tons of ringtone apps that help you make your own ringtones. Among them are:

  • Ringtone Designer 2.0
  • Ringtones for iPhone
  • Ringback Tones for iPhone
  • Cool Ringtones: Ringtone Maker

How to Change the Default Ringtone

The iPhone uses the same ringtone for every contact and incoming call by default unless you change it. If you only want to use a single ringtone for all calls, you can change the default ringtone if you want.

  1. Open the Settings app on the iPhone.

  2. Select Sounds & Haptics.

  3. Tap Ringtone.

  4. Choose a ringtone from the selection of available ringtones by tapping on it.

  5. Tap Back at the top of the screen to save the new default.

    Sounds & Haptics, Ringtone buttons in iOS Settings

How to Change Alert Tones for Text Messages on iPhone

Just like you can change the default ringtone for all calls or assign individual contacts their own ringtones, you can do the same for the alert tones that play when you get a text message or other alerts.