Compose ringtones and drive trains: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps include a ring tone creator that uses MP3s from your library and a puzzle game where you help trains get to the station.


When Steve Jobs announced the MacBook Air a couple of years ago, I thought it was an incredibly sleek device that incorporated some great ideas about the coming age of cloud computing. Though the specs for the device weren't up to today's standards (they change so fast!), my main takeaway was that the MacBook Air was a great computer, but was just a few years before its time.

Just today, CNET's Erica Ogg wrote that someone familiar with Apple's plans says we're going to see a slimmed-down, cheaper MacBook Air at next Wednesday's Apple event. Erica goes on to talk about possible specs and pricing, wondering where a new MacBook Air will fit in Apple's laptop lineup.

My question to readers is, what would you be willing to pay for a slimmer (and probably more powerful) MacBook Air? Certainly you'll still likely be able to get a Windows laptop that's cheaper, but considering current prices for Apple computers, what is a fair price for a sleeker, more cloud-based Mac laptop?

Let's make it a contest. Here's my guess for the actual price of the Macbook Air that might be announced on Wednesday: $999. Give me your best guess in the comments and on Wednesday we can come back to see who's closest. Winner gets bragging rights!

This week's apps include a ringtone creator that uses MP3s from your library and an exciting puzzle game for wannabe train conductors.

Ringtone Maker Pro
Set your clip length and add effects using the intuitive interface. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Ringtone Maker Pro (99 cents) lets you make ringtones with clips from your MP3 library, but it's not anywhere near as simple as it should be. To be fair, the developer made Ringtone Maker Pro to work within the confines of how ringtones work on the iPhone and iTunes, so while the process is not ideal, it does the job and adds a few extras.

The interface is fairly intuitive when picking your songs. You simply touch a button, select a song from your library, and Ringtone Maker Pro gives you options for how you want to edit the clip. You can use a slider to set start and end points for your clip so you don't have to worry about tracks that are slow to get going. You have options to add fade-in and -out effects and there are also silly effects you can add, like pitch shifting and changing the playback speed. A number of presets are included, which show up as cartoony icons in the interface, that will do things like make the vocalist in your track sound like a chipmunk or give a female vocalist a low voice, for example. You also have the option to manually adjust pitch and track speed, often with funny results.

The only problem with Ringtone Maker Pro is the rather complex dance you'll need to do with iTunes and your iPhone to make your new ringtones work. You start by syncing your iPhone with iTunes, saving your created audio files to your desktop, then dragging them back into iTunes so they show up under custom ringtones. If this sounds confusing, that's because it is. Fortunately, Ringtone Maker Pro offers both a text and image help file, along with a short Youtube tutorial, to get you started.

Overall, in spite of the complicated process to get the ringtones onto your iPhone, Ringtone Maker Pro works as advertised and adds in some silly extras to boot. Anyone who doesn't mind putting in a little work will appreciate the ability to customize their ringtones.

Some levels require that you combine trains of different colors to match the color at the station. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Trainyard ($1.99) is a well-designed, though graphically simple, puzzle game in which you try to get trains from point A to point B by drawing tracks for them to travel on. The game starts off slow with very simple puzzles to help you get used to the controls. As you progress through the levels, new rules are added to make the challenges more difficult, but fortunately the game offers quick and clear tutorials before dropping you into the fray.

A typical level will have a starting point and an end point and your challenge is to draw a track between them before sending the train on its way. But later levels will have several starting and ending points or special rules that add to the challenge. In one level, you need to use color theory to combine two different-colored trains to match the color of the end point. Another level challenges you to create switcher tracks in order to distribute trains to multiple end points. The way the game gently introduces you to each new challenge is excellent and some levels will have you staring at the screen for minutes on end trying to figure out the best way to get your trains to their collective stations.

Trainyard is quickly becoming one of my favorite puzzle games on the iPhone, because it's so easy to pick up and play during those brief moments I'm waiting in line at the bank, or for the bus during my commute. Anyone who likes puzzle games will enjoy Trainyard's twist on an old game mechanic.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Is Ringtone Maker Pro too complicated or do you have a better app for the job? What do you think of Trainyard? Let me know in the comments!

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.