One of the nicest “hidden” features in iOS 5 is the ability to set custom tones for text messages, finally. If you are tired of hearing the tri-tone and tired of thinking it’s your iPhone going off when it could just as easily be another iPhone in the room, follow this guide to get whatever text notification sound you want.

Pick your sound

The first step is to find a nice short sound that you’d like to use for your notifications. You should be able to find what you are looking for on Google; popular text tones include video game sounds, short quotes from movies, a clip from your favorite song, the list goes on. If you need to cut down the length of a song or sound, you can use Audacity, a free audio editor.

Convert to M4R

Next, we’ll use iTunes to convert your ringtones into the correct format, M4R. Once you have your ringtone audio file, drag it into iTunes and find the file in your library. Open iTunes Preferences, and then make sure that the Import Settings are set to Import Using: AAC Encoder.

Once that’s been set, close the preferences window and find the file in your iTunes library again. Right click on the file and select Create AAC Version. iTunes will then convert the notification tone file to AAC format, which is what your iOS device needs for its ringtones. The last step is to change the file extension. Right click on the file again, select Show in Finder on Mac or Show In Windows Explorer on Windows. This will pop the file up in a new window, and you’ll want to change the file extension from .M4A to .M4R.

Copy to iPhone

Once you have converted and renamed your tones to M4R, they should now appear in the Ringtones tab of your iPhone Sync Options. Select which option you would like (All Ringtones or Selected Ringtones), and the new tones will sync to your phone the next time you perform a sync. Now all that’s left is setting the notification sound.

Picking your new custom tone

Finally, on your iPhone, open the Settings app and select Sounds. Pick the notification sound you would like to change (Text, Mail, Alerts, etc), and then your new tones will appear at the top of the list, above all of the default Apple ones. It’s that easy!

How to Set Custom Text / Notification Tones on iOS 5