How to Customize the Text Message Sounds on Your iPhone

Different tones help you identify messages by sound alone

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

Instructions in this article were written for iOS 12 and iOS 13, but they generally work with most of the recent iterations of Apple's mobile operating system.

How to Change the Default Text Message Tone on iPhone

Every iPhone comes with dozens of text message tones. You can set one to be your iPhone's default text tone. Then, every time you get a text message, the default tone will sound. To change the default text tone on an iPhone, follow these steps:

  1. On the iPhone home screen, tap the Settings app.

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

  3. Tap Text Tone.

  4. Swipe to browse 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, tap it to place a checkmark next to it. Your choice is automatically saved and that tone is set as your default.

How to Assign Custom Text Message Tones to Individuals

Text tones share another similarity with ringtones: you can assign different tones 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 a contact:

  1. Select the contact whose text tone you want to change.

    Find the contact in either the Contacts menu in the Phone app or the standalone Contacts address book app, both are built into the iPhone. From your contact list, browse or search for contacts.

  2. Tap Edit.

  3. Tap Text Tone.

  4. Choose a text tone. This list includes the iPhone ringtones and text tones that are installed with iOS. It also includes custom text and ringtones you added to the phone. Tap a tone to hear it play.

    Edit, Default, and Chosen text tone (Aurora) in iOS contact settings
  5. When you find a text tone you want, tap the tone to place a checkmark next to it, then tap Done (in some versions of iOS, this button is labeled Save).

  6. In the contact screen, tap Done to save the change.

Where to Get New Text Tones and Ringtones for iPhone

If you didn't find the right text tone or ringtone on your iPhone, there are ways to add new sounds, including paid and free options:

Using Custom Vibration Patterns​

Sounds aren't the only way to be alerted to a new text message. The iPhone also lets you turn off the ringer, silence tones and alerts, and sets the phone to vibrate in certain patterns when you get texts from certain people.