Re: The History of a Sound: iOS' Tri-Tone
My pleasure! There is also a long post about other tones and some backstory on the marimba tone here: iPhone: What's the story behind the iPhone's default "Marimba" ringtone? - Quora
Originally Posted by Chetan Takyar
The Apple Marimba And GarageBand
In late 2005 Apple released the GarageBand Jam Pack 4: Symphony Orchestra Instruments . This was an amazing collection of Software instruments and Orchestra loops. The sound quality and utility of this enhancement was outstanding. In the very long list of Software instruments is the high quality Orchestra Marimba. This GarageBand / Logic Pro Software instrument, marimba, is nearly identical to what has become the famous iPhone marimba ringtone. So much so, that there are versions that were faithfully reproduced in GarageBand where one could not distinguish a difference with the correct filters and effects. Thus I and a number of people, some inside of Apple, have concluded that Dr. Lengeling [see source for more info on Lengeling--Massie] may have directly or indirectly created the marimba iPhone ringtone on a Mac using GarageBand / Logic Pro. However this is not apparently officially discussed or otherwise revealed.
From Apple's GarageBand Jam Pack 4.
The Marimba As An iPhone Default Ringtone
The marimba contains all of the factors that can create a distinctive and useful ringtone. And as mentioned, it is not too far from the original Bell Ringer conceptually and it indirectly supported the decades of Human Factors research from Bell Labs. It is rich in tonality and contains a number of harmonic and inharmonic overtones. The sound is unique enough that the human brain could easily detect the sound even when layer in a crowded soundscape. It is annoying perhaps to us today as the original bell telephone ringers were to our grandparents. But in the end, that's the point, not to so much annoy but to remove your attention and focus to the alert.
To Steve the marimba ringtone alluded to cultural sophistication and echoed Steve's eclectic style. It also disarmingly showcased the iPhone's surprisingly loud and rather high fidelity sound and speaker system. It was Steve's default ringtone for quite awhile, apparently even in the pre announcement phase, although most of the time Steve preferred the vibrate only mode. It is clear that up to the actual release of the first iPhone there was much internal debate about the default ringtone, however all insights seem to suggest this was Steve's final call to pick the 18 note marimba ringtone.
Early iPhone Ringtone Envy And Early Adopter Tax
During the first year, the iPhone marimba and perhaps a close second, the ringtone "strum" (strum also has similar Human Factors as marimba) was a "badge of honor" much like the white headphone earbuds were to the iPod. It allowed the early adopters to broadcast our rather large early adopter "tax" in a very noticeable way. Thus the high quality and unique ringtones combined with a limited selection made the marimba ringtone well known. Even though today there are a multitude of options, a vast majority of iPhone users default to marimba and strum. Although in some circles these default ringtones cast a squinty eye of judgement. In the early years "business" users especially wanted a respectable Blackberry-like ringtone.
The marimba ringtone, love it or hate it can not easily be removed, as the audio file is not located in the /Library/Ringtones folder, it is located inside of SpringBoard.app found at /System/Library/CoreServices/SpringBoard.app/ring.m4r. So at least for most of us, the marimba ringtone will be a part of the iPhone for a while.