Knock Knock, Notifications

Knock, Knock

Who’s there?

No one, I’m getting a text message.

That was a horrible joke, but I couldn’t stop myself. The tiny invaders that have attacked for the second time this month are finally dying under the onslaught of the human immune system (I like to picture my immune system as vikings with spears and magic helmets going after aliens), and I’m back with this week’s topic: notification sounds and your Android phone.

I’m treating notifications separately from ringtones primarily because they are set in slightly different places in Android.

There are default notification sounds installed with your device (and/or your device’s version of Android). You are not limited to just those notification sounds, however difficult it is to initially try to figure out how to set alternate notification sounds.

First, getting your sounds: notifications are typically short, unlike most ringtones, so you don’t really want them to keep going. You want to know about whatever you wish to be notified about, and then move on. So, you typically don’t want the sound to last more than 10 seconds for this task (and 10 seconds is still kind of a long time when it goes off accidentally in a meeting). As noted in the title, I use a ringtone/notification provided by my Samsung Galaxy S3, Grace, titled appropriately: Knock. There are two quiet knocks and I know I’ve got a text message.

The Google Play store and The Amazon App store both provide options for apps that provide sounds. The iOS store (notable of less interest to Android users) also provides a wide variety of sounds–definitely wide–as is evidenced by a phone being stolen, answered, and then sent texts by a fox after some teenagers got the bright idea to play dying rabbit noises. Yeah. iOS lets you download dying rabbit noises. For the record, I recommend against. Not only will curious foxes be inclined to steal your phone (and apparently rack up the texting charges), but there’s a possibility that someone, somewhere is going to think you’re a sociopath. Me, for example.

Might I instead recommend any short mp3, such as “Message for Sir” from Monty Python? Note, any mp3 (full on song, Opera, or ringtone) can be used for a notification sound; check with your specific device manual/web pages/google to find out if other sound types are also accepted (such as .wav or .ogg, etc.).

Once you’ve found what you like, you need to get it on your device. Before we discuss the nuts and bolts of moving the files, I recommend that any additional content–such as notifications, ringtones, books, movies, etc.–be stored on an external storage device, such as an SD card, to save precious space on your device hard drive. You can put the files anywhere, but much like throwing things randomly around your house, finding them later might be hard if you don’t invest in a little organization. I recommend creating a notification/sound/ringtone or whatever folder and storing all like items in there. On my phone, they are numbered, to make them come to the top of the external file list.

To physically get the files to the newly organized location for them, you can download the sound, legally, to your computer (you did get your sound legally, didn’t you?) and then copy the file to your device through a usb cable. Alternately, you can download the file directly through your device (also legally), provided you are sure you know where it ends up on the device (and you’re happy with it there) when you’re done. If you opt to download directly, you can still move files if you wish to do so using the internal file system (Apps -> My Files on the S3).

Now you have the sound, on to hooking it up. If you want to alter the default notification sound for all things that provide notifications (not specifically ringtones, but notifications like an incoming text message), you can do so at a global level in the settings folder. Click on settings (available through Apps->Settings unless you used one of my previous articles to move this icon to your home screen or doc), then “sound” then default notifications. Navigate to the location of your sound, select it, and you’re done; your default notification sound is now set.

If you are like me and like different notifications depending on the application, however, you can typically set the notification at the application level. To do that, open the application, look for “settings,” “options,” or “profiles” and dig around in the menus until you find notifications and then select your sound. For example, I have my default notification for Grace set to silent, but my text message notifications are set to Knock. To do this, I opened my text message app, clicked the menu button on the phone, selected settings, then I used (confusingly enough) “select ringtone” and selected Knock.


Do not be afraid to change notifications for apps or your phone; worse to worse you can do a back up of your device using an app like Lookout Mobile Security (as noted in previous posts and I swear these guys aren’t paying me) and then experiment away, always knowing you can go back to a last known good configuration.


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