Customize Text Message Tones on Your iPhone

Different tones help you identify messages by sound alone

Person using an iPhone and Messages to text

Changing ringtones is one of the best and most fun ways to customize your iPhone. It's especially fun to assign a different ringtone to each person in your address book so you can know who's calling without even looking at your iPhone's screen. Phone calls aren't the only kind of communication that can benefit from this trick. You can also do the same thing with text messages by changing your iPhone text tones.

The procedures listed below have been tested for iOS 12, but work with most recent iterations of Apple's mobile operating system.

Changing the Default Text Tone on iPhone

Every iPhone comes with a couple dozen text tones. You can set any of them to be your iPhone's default text tone. Every time you get a text message, the default tone will sound. Change your iPhone's default text tone by following these steps:

  1. Tap the Settings app to open it.

  2. Tap Sounds & Haptics (or just Sounds on some older versions).

  3. Tap Text Tone.

  4. Swipe through the list of text tones (you can use ringtones as text tones; they're on this screen, too). Tap a tone to hear it play.

    Sound & Haptics, Text Tone, and Chord tone chosen in iOS settings
  5. When you've found the text tone you want to use, make sure it's got a checkmark next to it. When it does, your choice is automatically saved and that tone is set as your default.

Assigning Custom Text Tones to Individuals

Text tones share another similarity with ringtones: you can assign different ones to each contact in your address book. This gives you greater personalization and a better way to know who's texting you. To assign a custom text tone to an individual contact, follow these steps:

  1. Find the contact whose text tone you want to change. You can do this through the Contacts menu in the Phone app or the standalone Contacts address book app, both of which come built into the iPhone. Once you're in your contact list, you can browse your contacts or search them. Find the contact you want to change and tap it.

  2. Tap Edit button in the top right corner of the contact.

  3. Once the contact is in edit mode, scroll down to the Text Tone section and tap it.

  4. On this screen, you'll choose from the text tones installed on your iPhone. This list includes all of the iPhone ringtones and text tones that come pre-loaded with the iOS. It also includes any custom text and ringtones you've added to your phone. Tap a tone to hear it played.

    Edit, Default, and Chosen text tone (Aurora) in iOS contact settings
  5. When you've found the text tone you want, make sure it has a checkmark next to it. Then tap the Done button in the top right corner (in some versions of the iOS, this button is labeled Save)

  6. After changing the text tone, you'll be taken back to the contact. Tap the Done button in the top-right corner to save the change.

Getting New Text Tones and Ringtones

If you're not content to use the text and ringtones that come with your iPhone, try one of a few different ways to add new sounds, including paid and free options:

Bonus Tip: Custom Vibration Patterns​

Sounds aren't the only way to get alerted to a new text message. The iPhone also lets you silence tones but set the phone to vibrate in certain patterns when you get texts from certain people.