The iPhone ringtone cat-and-mouse game

Apple and iPhone users continue to play a game of cat-and-mouse regarding ringtones.

Initially, there was no way to add custom ringtones to an iPhone.

Eventually, hackers found a way in the back door. Several alternative methods emerged, each new one easier than the one before—culminating with Ambrosia Software’s iToner, a no-brainer ringtone installer “for the rest of us.”

The ink was hardly dry on iToner’s press release when Apple released iTunes 7.4. This new version added support for Apple’s own .99¢ ringtone option. Unfortunately, whenever you synched your iPhone after installing the update, it had the side effect (intended or otherwise) of erasing ringtones installed by iToner.

Not to worry. It took only about 24 hours before word spread on the Web that you could make your own ringtones for free and, simply by adding a “.m4r” suffix to the music file, the item would appear in the ringtones tab of iTunes. From here, the files would sync to your iPhone the same way as ringtones you purchased from the iTunes Store. The hack worked beautifully. I know. I tried it.

Ironically, people were adding their own custom ringtones, using the Apple supported technology, even before the official Apple-supported tones were put on sale in the iTunes Store!

Within 48 hours of this development, Apple updated iTunes to 7.4.1, whose sole “improvement” is to disable the just-discovered home-grown ringtone hack.

Meanwhile, Ambrosia released an iToner 1.0.1 update. Guess what? It adds compatibility with iTunes 7.4, making it a viable ringtone tool once again.

Not to be outdone, I have already seen reports claiming that you can still get home-grown hacked ringtones to work in iTunes 7.4.1; Check this thread, for example. However, there may be some additional hassles to work around.

Does this mean there is an hack-blocking iTunes 7.4.2 in our immediate future?

Round and round it goes. Where it stops nobody knows.

And, with each iteration, I have had to start over and reinstall all my custom ringtones. For me, I am getting off the merry-go-round for the time being. Better off doing without custom ringtones until the dust finally settles on all of this. I don’t need to waste my time on this minor convenience any more.

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