Now that I have my new iPhone, I’m thrilled to have it and using it is wonderful. While I’ve been working with it I’ve run into a strange oddity and a workaround for it. The oddity came when I tried to create my own iPhone-compatible ringtones. The creation of iPhone custom ringtones are in themselves needlessly fussy procedure. First you find the music you want, trim it to 40 seconds, then convert it to AAC format. Then you tear it out of iTunes, change the extension from m4a to m4r and then insert that back into the device for assignment.
What gets me about the ringtone creation is how involved and outrageously fussy it is. It wasn’t meant to be this way, the design clearly points to strict control. When Apple makes something easy, it’s ridiculously easy. This is something different. This is capitalism. Apple went a long way to make this obfuscation stick and the proof is in the obnoxious lengths that you have to go through if you don’t want to buy a ringtone from the iTunes store.
I ran into another issue with my new iPhone. I plugged it into my MacBook and tried to add the newly manufactured ringtone to the device. Then I discovered a rather new and odd limitation. An iPhone apparently fixates on the iTunes library that it first sees, it is with this library that you can turn on “Manage Manually” mode with an iPhone. Any other library locks the phone out but offers you the option of continuing by wiping your device and re-fixating on a new iTunes library. I quickly came up with a great way to beat Apple at this oddity, I created a new iTunes library from scratch (just the directory structure and some key files) and placed it on my Dropbox. Then using the option-key goaded iTunes to start from a different library, pointed it to my Dropbox-iTunes folder and now I have a work-on-any-machine-Manual-Manage iTunes skeleton that allows me to insert homemade ringtones into my new iPhone.
What a long way around for something that should be simple. Apple, if you are listening, the solution is only lengthy and annoying. It’s been paved by your own software and the only piece missing is either a USB memory stick or Dropbox. How easy would it have been to design this with the same vigor that you designed everything else? Eventually your customers find ways around this sort of thing, doesn’t that inevitability mean it’s not worth pursuing in the first place?