Industrious cell phone users can always create their own ringtones, and lazy ones can buy them packaged. Sharetones 1.0 beta for Android, released to the Android Market on Tuesday, falls somewhere in between.
The premise is simple, but intriguingly computational. You create ringtones from songs you already own on your phone. Instead of asking you to do the tedious editing legwork, Sharetones will send your songs to a database of over 65,000 tones and return several options that someone else has created. One ringtone may capture the intro instrumentals; another may clip the chorus.
The key here is that Sharetones isn't shuttling any actual files to and fro. It's sending a musical 'recipe' based off of another user's edit, which tells your song where to start and end to form the ringtone. Once Sharetones receives the timestamp instructions, it will rip a ringtone from your own file on the fly--including fade-ins and fade-outs--and will save it as a separate MP3. It will save the metadata 'recipe,' too.
Since Sharetones deals in formulas rather than files, it can duck the usual legal tar pits of ownership, licensing, and fair use. But that doesn't mean Sharetones is free. It's still providing the service of quickly carving out a ringtone for your use. The app won't charge a thing on Android throughout the beta period, but after that it'll cost you $1.49 for 3 recipes, $2.49 for unlimited use for a month, or 7.49 for unlimited use for a year.
Interface and performance
The application's actual interface is a little sparse. It looks through your library at first launch, displaying how many available ringtones there are for each positively-matched song (remember that ringtone formulas are user-created). You can preview the ringtone, pausing or saving it. The menu button reveals options to sort by title or artist, to re-sync the library, and to view the ringtone, alarm, and notifications library. There is, however, no built-in ringtone editor and no album art. There's also no arrow navigation to scroll forward or backward on the preview screen through ringtone options, nor a way to tag favorite matches from a deep results list.
Those with a little more time on their hands can create ringtone recipes through the Sharetones plug-ins in Audacity or Songbird (links below). Alternatively, Ringdroid is an easy way to make free ringtones yourself.
Sharetones' music-matching is certainly an interesting idea. It might even be one some users are willing to pay for, especially those looking to acquire ringtones in bulk. The interface could use some polish, and we'd like to see a way for users to contribute new ringtones directly from their phones. An incentive program would be even better, where the author of a new ringtone recipe can download a different tone for free.
Sharetones is available now in the Android Marketplace for Android phones running version 1.1 of the operating system or higher. It has been tested for U.S. users, but should work elsewhere. Sharetones is expected to arrive for Windows Mobile and BlackBerry within a few months.
Note: We tested Sharetones on a T-Mobile G1 running version 1.5 of the Android operating system.