Not long ago, CNET Editor Brian Tong gave an instructive Insiders Secret video on creating your own iPhone ringtones using only iTunes 8. Although he only used one program as promised, there was quite a bit of cobbling involved to turn that song into a phone tune. Truth is, I'm a little lazier than that. I'm looking for one application to make me a decent-sounding ringtone I can get on my phone with the least amount of hassle possible.
ToneThis is a good fit for this endeavor. I've reviewed this freeware application in the past--it was the update it received this month that recaptured my attention. More on that later.
The core application makes use of buttons and tabs to guide you through creating audio or video ringtones and wallpaper. (Games may be available for some handsets.) You'll choose the format and browse for your media from either your hard drive or from an internal Flickr browser. Then you'll crop the image if you're making wallpaper, or you'll use the mouse to pick off a selection for your audio or video ringtone. When you're done, you can click to send the link to your phone via SMS, or e-mail it to yourself or a pal.
ToneThis 3.6 includes a new toolbar for Firefox that gives you avid ringtone-collectors an easy way to scout and save new media. It promises you'll be able to conduct quick searches for wallpaper and mobile videos, and even click a button to highlight the media available on a given Web page. Clicking the media opens it in ToneThis, where you'll be able to make your simple edits and then send it to your phone.
In reality, the toolbar is a fair idea with a big bug problem. For one reason or another, sending videos and images from the toolbar may fail. For example, sending YouTube videos to the phone from the toolbar may not work if YouTube updates their protocol before ToneThis can adjust. The toolbar takes up a fair amount of precious browser space. For it to only sometimes work doesn't make it a useful addition, though it's no reason to shun the entire product. It is, however, reason enough for the ToneThis team to get cracking on that bug list. Other known bugs include the first frame of a video not displaying while in edit mode (make your selection first, and then press 'play' to preview), and the mouse temporarily disappears if you roll over the video while in editing mode.
These would be formidable stumbling blocks were this a premium program, but users are generally much more forgiving about freeware, me included. As a simple ringtone-maker that's geared toward novices or ringtone opportunists, ToneThis' basic settings and controls will calm new users and will almost assuredly disappoint the ringtone elite.
However, there are a few settings, like the Flickr browser for making wallpaper out of images let loose in the public domain. There are also volume adjustments for audio ringtones, selections for adding fade-ins and fade-outs, and an option to make high-quality true tones. It's frustrating, however, that there's no option for manually setting the range or adjusting the selection on either side--it's easy to lose your place and be forced to start over to capture the sample you want.
The same elementary features go for wallpaper. You can crop and rotate an image, but you'll see no other editing features bundled in.
As a smooth operator bent on impressing the populace, ToneThis trips and falls. Yet as an incredibly easy and free way to self-produce decent ringtones and phone wallpaper from your own collection, ToneThis achieves a high measure of success.