iOS 11 Upgrade and Custom Ringtones

If you upgraded to iOS 11 this week and lost the ability to use custom ringtones, this post is for you. After two unsatisfactory conversations with Apple technical support and some experimentation, I believe I have an answer (I definitely have a solution.)

I use custom ringtones for all of my calls. The default is a USR modem tone, and I have six song snippets I created in iTunes that identify individual callers (these are defined in the Contact profiles.) After the upgrade my default ringtone still worked, but many — about two-thirds — of my other ringtones failed. Interestingly, they played if you selected them in the Sounds control panel, but when a designated person called my phone the default ringtone played.

Apple technical support was unhelpful. The first tech immediately told me I had to reset the phone to factory settings and restore a backup, an intolerable suggestion for two reasons. First, because I backup my phone to iTunes and only one copy is saved, plugging in my phone to restore it would overwrite the backup that I wanted to restore (Apple, you really need to fix this.) Second, the amount of time required to restore my music made the suggestion unacceptable. The second tech did help me try to reload the ringtones manually, although that did not fix the problem. However, it did give me an idea.

I decided to create new ringtones from the same music files. I went through the process with the first song and when I tried to convert the file to AAC I received an error message stating the file “could not be converted because protected files cannot be converted to other formats.” At last a breakthrough. The ringtones in question had been created from older DRM-encrypted songs. For whatever reason, Apple is no longer accommodating them in the new iOS release. The solution is to create unprotected copies of the songs and re-create the ringtones.

In order to create unprotected copies you will need to add the songs to a playlist and burn them to CD, then import the CD into your iTunes library. Make sure you use the new version of the song when you create the ringtone.

Hopefully Apple will address this in an upcoming bug fix, but the manager I spoke with expressed some doubt. And even if they do it might be weeks before it’s fixed, so this is probably the best path to take. Good luck.