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Hacking ringtones on your Nokia or LG Verizon phone

Instead of paying $2.99 to download the chorus from "Hey Ya" to your MP3 compatible Nokia or LG Verizon phone, you can take a more do-it-yourself approach, use some creativity to make your own ringtone, one you really like, and follow these instructions to email it to your phone. All you pay for is air time. Read on to see how it's done.

First step: Make your own ringtone with Audacity

To create a ringtone of the right duration and file size, you will need a good audio editing application. If you don't do this often and haven't purchased anything, don't despair: Audacity is a quality piece of audio editing software which is open source and available absolutely free. By following the link you can find versions for Windows, OS X, and Linux.

Since Audacity has a fairly discoverable user interface, this article isn't going to waste time and bandwidth with screenshots or detailed instructions. The basic idea is to create a new Audacity project, import an MP3 or record ambient sound with the mic, cut and paste to get the segment of audio you want, and export to MP3.

The one hassle here is that you need to create an MP3 file which is no longer than 200KB, or the email you are going to send later will be bounced. You can open the preferences dialog and set the MP3 export bit rate to something appropriate (96KB/s worked for my 15 second clip). Given the quality of cell phone speakers, it's not going to matter that the bitrate is somewhat low.

Next step: Email the ringtone to your phone

Fire up your email client and create an email with the MP3 clip you created as an attachment. For Verizon, the magic address you send this email to is: [your 10 digit phone number]

Most carriers have a similar service, but I haven't tested any of the others. For Nextel, try

[your 10 digit phone number]

For Cricket, try

[your 10 digit phone number]

Finally, SMS 411 has an extensive list of email addresses by provider. It's not known which of these support attachments.

Final step: Setting the ringtone

In a few moments (or a few hours, the server is sometimes slow), your phone should alert you of a new incoming message. When you open the message, the audio clip may play. Then you may be presented with the option of saving this audio clip as a ringtone or sound. If not, try the Options key and look for one of those options. Some phones will then ask if you want to make this your default ringtone, in which case you're done. If not, head over to the appropriate menu and set it.


This is a very easy hack which you can put together in 20 minutes or so, but it allows you to escape from the wasteland of canned ringtones to places that are only limited by your imagination. Happy hacking.

Further reading

For another cell phone loophole that allows you to transfer your MP3s to your cell phone, see my article Hacking MP3s on your Nokia or LG phone.

You can get some interesting effects by stripping MP3 audio from found video. See my FFmpeg on Mac OS X Howto for a description of a tool that will help. Lame may also prove handy for resampling MP3s.

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Last modified: Mon Oct 26 10:31:24 CDT 2009