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When ringtone love misses the mark

Apple is offering ringtones through iTunes now, making it easy for iPhone users to create customized truetones. But there still the all-important question of which song to choose to announce the incoming calls of that special someone.

There's always potential for massive dorkiness when parents venture into a new pop culture arena like customized ringtones. I had stayed away from this trend, due to a general state of information overload as well as concerns about deceptive ringtone services that promise a free ringtone and then surreptitiously subscribe you to ongoing charges.

But this week I have been getting to know my iPhone better and the new version of iTunes has a ringtone function, so I decided to check it out.

The new iTunes feature is easy to use. You buy a ringtone-designated song from iTunes for 99 cents, select the snippet you want to use, and then pay another 99 cents to make it into a ringtone that you can upload to iPhone. Now there is theoretically a workaround that you can use to create free ringtone, but I can't vouch for it. For me, I wasn't going to sweat the $1.98, for which you do get the actual song added to your iTunes library.

Okay, getting the ringtone is easy, but who is there to solve the existential angst of deciding which song to use to announce the incoming call of that special someone? My husband Michael is a musician, so I didn't want any old piece of pop dreck to signal his calls. Given my taste, it was at least going to be a very special piece of pop dreck.

Apple says there are more than half a million songs on iTunes that can be used as ringtones, but when you browse the whole library there's no guarantee that your favorite song will be available. Frequently, an original artist's version is not available, but a karaoke version is. As terrible as that sounds, it can work. Think of it as a customized Garage Band music loop. I wouldn't listen to it on my iPod but it works as a ringtone.

But which song to choose....the song clearly needed a distinctive opening, and I decided to go with one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Aimee Mann. I got the clip, loaded it up, and asked Michael to call me from his cell while I proudly showed off my iPhone.

His call came in, and the ringtone did its thing. Michael looked at me askew, asking, "Isn't that from the album, I'm With Stupid? Is there something you're trying to tell me?"

Okay, so the score is technology 1, true love 0 so far. Back to the drawing board.