How to get custom/different SMS notification tone per contact (download the new app now)

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SMS messages contact custom tone

Update [June 15, 2018]: Good news, everyone! Samsung has brought the feature back. You can now set individual custom notification tones for your contacts again, and you do not even have to wait for a system update for this. Samsung has installed the feature back into the Messaging app itself, and already, so all you need to do to get custom tones per contact is download and install the latest Samsung Messages app.

Here’s how:

  1. Download the APK file of Samsung Messages app version 5.0.21.
    • Transfer it to your Samsung Galaxy device if you downloaded it on PC.
  2. Open a file manager app on your Samsung Galaxy device.
  3. Browse to the folder on your phone where you have the APK file.
  4. Tap on the APK file to start the installation of the app.
  5. Follow the on-screen options to install the Samsung Messages app 5.0.21.
  6. Open the Messaging app now and you shall have the feature to set different tone per contact.

That’s it.

Thank you, Samsung! Or not (why take it in the first place)?


It’s always exciting to be at the receiving end of a software update, especially if its major one like the Android 8.0 Oreo. Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 users have finally been blessed with it, while Galaxy S9 users enjoy Oreo out of the box, but it seems like apart from bringing in a ton of new features, Samsung has decided to get rid of some great older ones.

Apparently, Samsung’s very own Messaging app no longer offers the functionality to set custom notification tone for specific contacts after the Android 8.0 update. This can be a deal-breaker for some, and the only solution to Samsung taking away this useful feature is bringing it back with the help of SMS Popup.


Related Galaxy S8 problems:


How to set custom SMS notifications for contacts using SMS Popup

There are two ways to get different SMS notification tones for different contacts. First one would be the Method 1 below, wherein you continue to use the default Samsung’s Messages app, but use another app — SMS Popup — to get the functionality that allows you to set custom notification alerts contacts-wise. You can disable the pop-up from the Settings, so that’s not an issue if you don’t want that feature.

The second method would be to switch to a different Messaging app available on the Play Store. This is our Method 2 below, and we totally recommend this one, as you get even better app than Samsung Messages app.

So, here we go. Do let us know which method you decide to use, and why?

Method 1: Use default Samsung Messages app with another app for custom alerts

While you can choose to get yourself an ad-riddled alternative to the stock Messaging app from Samsung, SMS Popup saves you the trouble by fixing what Samsung took away with the latest Android 8.0 update.

Step 1: Download SMS Popup and set it up

Available for free and completely without any annoying ads, SMS Popup comes with the ability to bring custom contact-specific notification tones to your Samsung Messaging app. Start off by downloading it to your device using the link given below.

Download SMS Popup Android app

  • Once downloaded, open the app and select the empty checkbox next to Enable SMS Popup to start the service.
  • Press Notifications and then navigate to Contacts Notifications to find the specific contacts that you want to set the custom notification sound for.
  • Type in the name of the contact and tap on it once it shows up under the search bar.
  • Tap on Notification Sound to select the custom notification tone for your contact and press Test Notification to give it a trial run.
  • If you don’t want the SMS Popup app to bring quick reply pop-up screen every time you get a new message, be sure to disable Show a Popup.

There are additional notification tools such as the LED Configuration panel which you can use to set custom LED notifications for a specific contact too.

Step 2: Disable notification sound for the Messaging app

Now that you have put the SMS Popup app in charge of the notification sounds for your Galaxy device, you need to take away the sound notifications from the default Messaging app. If you don’t do this, you’ll just end up hearing two separate notification sounds every time you receive an SMS.

  • Let’s start with making the SMS Popup default notification sound app (not the default SMS app, it would just sound off SMS notifications).
    • Open the SMS Popup app > Notifications > Default notifications > Enable notifications > Tap on OK on the pop-up > Notification sound, select the default Notiifcaiton Sound for all your SMS.
      Tip: While you are here: Also change the Notification icon for the status bar as to your liking. Pretty cool.
  • Now, disable the SMS notification alerts from the default SMS app, the Messages app.
    • Open the Messages app > tap in 3-dot menu button at the top > Settings > Notifications > use the toggle button to turn it Off.
    • disable notification sound from default sms app
      disable notification sound from default SMS app
    • Now every time you receive an SMS notification, the custom ringtone will be played for the contacts you have set it for, while the default tone would play for all the rest of the messages, from whomsoever.

You won’t receive two SMS alerts, but when you tap on the SMS notification, you will be taken to Samsung’s Messaging app, which is still your default SMS app.

Step 3: Add SMS Popup to Unmonitored apps

With the aggressive Doze Mode on Android 8.0 Oreo devices, you don’t want to be left out high and dry when the system decides to put your SMS Popup notification app to sleep. This is why it is imperative that you add SMS Popup to the list of Unmonitored apps to give it full permission to run in the background and keep bringing you custom notification sounds.

  • From the home screen of your Galaxy device, head over to Settings and scroll down to find Device maintenance.
  • Press the Battery button at the bottom of the screen and scroll down to open the Unmonitored apps tab down below.
  • Press the Add apps button and scroll through the list of installed apps to find and select SMS Popup and press the Done

With the SMS Popup added to Unmonitored apps, you don’t have to worry about it being force-closed by the system anymore.


Related:
Common issues with Galaxy S8 Oreo update and their fixes


Method 2: Use even better SMS app as default (say goodbye to Samsung Messages app)

The Google Play Store (APK) is home to many incredible apps and games, some of which are the 3rd party Messaging apps that are easily better than the Samsung’s Messages app. We totally recommend them, and here are a few.

Must try Android messaging apps that would provide you far better overall experience than the Samsung’s messaging app, and also give you an ability to set different tones for different contacts for SMS messages.

Alternatives to default Samsung Messages app

Try any of the two apps link to Google Play Store above. Both are incredible messaging apps with lots of cool options.

Do let us know which one of them you like the most.


Finally excited to get custom notification tones working on your Galaxy devices, or hating Samsung for complicating it all in the first place? Speak your mind freely in the comments right down below.

43 comments
  1. Has anyone tried the message download 5.2.01?? I checked my phone message app software which is 4.4.10.13 and it says it is up to date. I’m a bit leery about downloading something to my phone if it didn’t come directly from Samsung. And I also do not want to have to download a new message app! I was perfectly content with the message app on my phone until they took away my individual text tones feature! They have had plenty of time to fix the problem but I’ve had 2 new updates since it was removed and still nothing! I’m beyond upset!

  2. Unfortunately a lot of the information in this article is incorrect. Textra and Mood Messenger do not have the feature to set custom sounds by contact: they only do it by conversation. So if you have a text conversation with more than one person, you won’t get a custom sound.
    The same is true for the 6/14/18 Samsung Messenger update. You still cannot set notifications by contact, only by conversation. It’s a weak workaround but definitely not a fix.
    For now, only Method 1 above seems like it would actually fix the problem. Also unfortunately, the comments for the SMS Popup app are a horror show. Normally I would trust an article author over random commentors but given that everything else in the article is inaccurate, I am hesitant to try it.

  3. I am really upset that the different sound – notifications – for my contacts when they tex me, has disappeared! Thought I was loosing it! Have spent, wasted, so much time looking, and it’s GONE! What is samsung playing at? This will have upset sooo many people! BRING THE OPTION BACK! I’m NOT HAPPY . . . . . . . Ps. I have the A5

  4. I’m very upset I got the 9. I thought you couldn’t set custom ringtones and then I found out you could so I automatically thought you could do it for text messages. I have 5 children plus other family members who mainly text me and now I can’t tell if I’m getting a text or a notification from some app. I can’t believe you can’t even separate them. I should have gone with my 1st mind and not even got this phone. If I could get a full refund I would return it. I guess I’ll just put it away and go back to using my s6 since I can still set notifications, ringtones, and text on it. I just hate paying for the s9 that will be sitting in a box.

  5. Just tried method 2 and works like a charm. Thanks for all you help and the great information. Just switched back to andriod after two years with Apple 6s. Love my new Samsung phone 9+ but was disappointed that this key feature was not available. i knew there was a fix in the android community.

  6. Thank you so very much! I was able to download and successfully make the contact customizations I had before the worst update ever was installed… without my permission during a time when phone was not being used. I am very unhappy with Samsung and Google Adroid’s Oreo; when they took away the customizations, I was livid! however, thank goodness for good people like you who understand our pain and helps us work around the most frustrating issues. thank you!!!!!!! 🙂

    1. I had tried it thoroughly before writing this. But I would try it again, and share the screenshots of my own settings with you guys so that you can match those settings and get it working.
      Give me a day for this.

  7. I followed the instructions for sms pop up and when i get a text there is no sound or notification at all. I went back and tripple checked that i didnt miss a step but everything is exact. My volume is turned up as well.

  8. I’m right there with all of you. I sent an email to Samsung about this and guess what…they don’t care! Not only did they take this away, but they changed everything that was so easy to get to. AND they completely mucked up my Ring devices. Now I’m really unhappy and want to sling this phone across the room. I wish I had NEVER updated.

    1. Wish Samsung knew which features are being used the most. After all, and I think, they do keep track of the Settings being used, and do get reports from the phones to make the “User Experience” better. All of that, and what gives?
      Thankfully, there are 3rd party solutions, but that doesn’t beat having it pre-installed.

  9. I got the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus without ever thinking that they would have disable the ringtones for the text messages. Now that I’m locked in a contract totally unhappy. Thinking of selling this and trying to switch to an iPhone.

  10. What was the purpose of Samsung removing this feature? Was it hurting something by being there?? Ridiculous to have to go thru all this just to get custom notifications again. That being said, thank you for this article explaining how to get custom notifications again. The ONLY way I could get my husband to notice my texts was setting a special tone for my messages. So since the update, all my messages have gone unnoticed. Option one worked perfectly to get it back for him. Thank you for taking the time to write out the step by step instructions to make it work.

    1. Taking down most-used and most-loved features is the worst an update could do, and looks Samsung totally screwed it. I hope the SMS Pop-up helps you with this.

  11. I followed the steps above for SMS Popup, but for some reason, I don’t get any sound when texts come through. I’ve turned off default app’s notifications, and set up SMS Popup with the default notifications. I’m not sure if I’m missing something, but I even went so far as to install and uninstall SMS Popup only to end with same result. Any ideas?

    1. Can you share the screenshots of your SMS Popup app? Share enough screenshots that help us get the idea of settings enabled and disabled in the app.

  12. Samsung took the customize notifications away for individual contacts so that’s why I can’t have different sound for each contact? I have going crazy trying to fix my phone

  13. oh yes…. Bring this feature back Samsung!!!! Also the one where u can change the tone for different apps…. I can’t for the life of me, change the notifications tone for “messenger” and I’ve turned my S9 inside out looking for how!!!!!

  14. Why did you take this fabulous feature away!?!
    Please bring it back! Having to jump through hoops to get this back is definitely a deal breaker….so disappointed.

  15. Wow Samsung – One step forward 3 steps back. I thought I was losing it not remembering how to set up a notification for each contact I wanted different. I hope they send a update soon to fix it on the S9.

    1. You could say that. I am inclined to think Samsung didn’t have a clue how much widely used feature this was? They too a great deal of time coming up with the Oreo update, but it looks all they were managing was not adding features, rather removing loved-one features. Gah!
      But this stuff also tells bloggers like us how much regular people love custom skins for their features. I have found myself find of custom skins like Xiaomi’s MIUI and OnePlus’s OxygenOS (and Vivo’s one, too, strangely!) but I am a Pixel guy for the most part, like (almost?) ALL other bloggers. But yeah, I do now know how much stuff people would simply miss on stock Android that nexus and Pixel give us.

  16. Anyone want to take bets on how soon this feature will come back? When I saw this I was not happy. I have grown accustomed to being able to know who is texting me while I am at work without having to look at my phone. Having to download another app was not my ideal scenario. I seriously think Android will listen to the user base and fix this problem.

    1. Agreeeeed!!! I have the Pixel 2 and am so disappointed. The Pixel 2 let’s you set them, however you have a chat started to do it. So if I were to delete the conversation, it will set the notification sound back to default. I like to keep a tidy inbox. I shouldn’t have to keep over 20 conversations in my inbox just to keep my custom sounds for each of my contacts. Although, I AM that compulsive just so I can know who is texting me. The Pixel 2 on this Oero system doesn’t even have a notification sound setting for my group contacts (labels). I can’t have conversations open with every contact from that group in order to know they are my coworkers, family, patients, etc. This is definitely a fundamental feature for Android phones. They’re fixing what wasn’t broken. I’m glad to know many users feel the same. It really helps to prioritize answering messages.

    2. I don’t think they will fix it. After all, they spent great deal of time *removing* it — Oreo rollout delay for the S8 sets is the worst among the 2017 flagships, you know.
      But yes, looking at user feedback, they should devote resources towards this, and maybe bring these features back as an update to their messaging app, on the Galaxy Apps app store.

  17. This is rediulas that Samsung took the customize notifications away for individual contacts. Should have stayed with my Iphone

  18. This totally sucks! Having a custom sound for my contacts messages is very important to me! Android needs to get this fixed ASAP!!!

  19. Totally ridiculous, updated to oreo and now I no longer can assign custom sound to my contacts sms, I HATE IT !!!!
    I would never updated had I known this.

  20. First, the Oreo update sucks!
    Second, Method 1 worked for me on my Galaxy S8. Its similar to the old Ringo app from days gone by. The only wish, is that after you set up your first contact with how you want to be notified, you could copy that contact and just rename it, and give it its own ringtone.

  21. Dumbest update! This is what made android different from apple but all they want to do is have similar features. There’s no longer a difference between apple and android they’re both the same to me now. Worst update ever!!!!!

  22. I cannot believe that Android took away the customizable text tone option. That was one of the most important features for me. I am eligible for an upgrade with my carrier. I will be switching over to iPhone after this update! I have been a faithful Samsung owner (upgrade after upgrade), but this recent upgrade is a deal breaker for me! Goodbye Android! As bad as I hate to switch, you have forced me to!

  23. My husband and I installed the SMS Popup by Adam K on our Samsung S8+ phones. We were looking for the feature lost in he Oreo upgrade where you could set a unique text alert tone per contact. We hear the unique tone we set up for one of our kids when they texted us from their iPhone. Then we realized when we text each other from our Samsung S8+, we hear nothing, no sound. We followed all the steps in the article, including the one where you disable the Samsung messaging app notifications. Does anyone know of any unique setting we need to make on our Samsung S8+ in order for the SMS PopUp to allow us to hear the unique text contact sound we set up for each other? Thanks for any insight.

      1. I have the same issue. I get a custom tone for my wife but not my kids. Only differences I can see is 1) she is not using a Samsung phone and 2) She is not using Advanced Messaging

  24. Hit my wife’s phone today when she upgraded! How serious – given some of the other things Samsung has been doing lately (Spy TVs, etc) this could very well influence our next buying decision – for any electronics!

  25. I hate not being able to have specific notifications. It’s BS that Android took it away and about to go downgrade my OS

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