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A ringtone or ring tone is the sound made by a mobile phone to indicate an incoming call or text message. The term is a misnomer, as it is often used to refer to any ring sound, almost all of which are not tones. The term is most often used to refer to the customizable sounds used on mobile phones.

A phone “rings” when its network indicates an incoming call and the phone thus alerts the user. For landline telephones, the call signal can be an electric current generated by the switch to which the telephone is connected. For mobile phones, the network sends the phone a message indicating an incoming call.

A telephone “ring” is the sound generated when there is an incoming telephone call. The term originated from the fact that early telephones had a ringing mechanism consisting of a bell and an electromagnetically-driven hammer, producing a ringing sound. The aforementioned electrical signal powered the electromagnet which would rapidly move and release the hammer, striking the bell. This "magneto" bell system is still in widespread use. The ringing signal sent to a customer's telephone is AC at 90 volts and 20 hertz in North America. In Europe it is around 60-90 volts AC at a frequency of 25 hertz

While the sound produced is still called a “ring”, more-recently manufactured telephones electronically produce a warbling, chirping, or other sound. Variation of the ring signal can be used to indicate characteristics of incoming calls (for example, rings with a shorter interval between them might be used to signal a call from a given number).

The first commercial mobile phone with ring tones was the Japanese NTT DoCoMo Digital Mova N103 Hyper by NEC, released in May 1996.[1] It had a few preset songs in MIDI format. In September 1996, IDO, the current au, sold Digital Minimo D319 by Denso. It was the first mobile phone where a user could input an original melody, rather than the preset songs. These phones proved to be popular in Japan. Kētai Chakumero Do-Re-Mi Book (ケータイ着メロ ドレミBOOK, "Mobile Ringtones Do-Re-Mi Book"), a book published on July 1998 introducing the "notes" of popular songs sold more than 3.5 million copies.

The first downloadable mobile ring tone service was created and delivered in Finland in autumn 1998 when a Finnish mobile operator Radiolinja (today Elisa) started their service called Harmonium, invented by Vesa-Matti Pananen.[2], the Harmonium contained both tools for individuals to create monophonic ring tones and a mechanism to deliver them over-the-air (OTA) via SMS to a mobile handset. On November 1998, Digitalphone Groupe, the current SoftBank Mobile, started the similar service in Japan.

The service concept spread quickly in Europe and Asia and developed into a multi-billion dollar industry.[3] A ring tone service was one of the very first successful m-commerce services, with social media features like composing, sharing, and rating ring tones. The Harmonium also quickly created a market for high-quality professional ring tones and commercial ring tone libraries.

Truetones (or real tones), which are often excerpts from pop songs, have become popular as ring tones. The first truetone service was started by au on December 2002. [4] My Gift to You by Chemistry was the first song to be distributed as a truetone.

The rise of video games has also contributed to the popularity of ring tones.[5] On August 5, 2006, the BBC described "free ring tones" as a dangerous search term, because of the risk of malware and other malicious websites.[6]

By 2005, ring tones generated more than $2 billion in annual worldwide revenues.[7]

Sales and marketing of ring tones is a prime example of vertical telecommunication convergence.

Ringing signal

A ringing signal is an electric telephony signal that causes a telephone to alert the user to an incoming call. On a POTS telephone system, this is created by sending an alternating current signal of about 100 volts [90 volts and 20Hz in the USA] into the line. Today this signal may be transmitted digitally for much of the journey, provided as an alternating current only because a majority of landlines are not digital end-to-end. In old phones, this voltage was used to trigger a high-impedance electromagnet to ring a bell on the phone.

Fixed phones of the late 20th century and later detect this AC voltage and trigger a warbling tone electronically. Mobile phones are fully digital, hence are signalled to ring as part of the protocol they use to communicate with the cell base stations.

In fixed POTS phones, ringing is said to be "tripped" when the impedance of the line reduces to about 600 ohms when the telephone handset is lifted off the switch-hook. This signals that the telephone call has been answered, and the telephone exchange immediately removes the ringing signal from the line and connects the call. This is the source of the name of the problem called "ring-trip" or "pre-trip", which occurs when the ringing signal on the line encounters excessively low resistance between the conductors, which trips the ring before the subscriber's actual telephone has a chance to ring (for more than a very short time); this is common with wet weather and improperly installed lines.

Early research showed that people would wait until the phone stopped ringing before picking it up. Breaks were introduced into the signal to avoid this problem, resulting in the common ring-pause-ring cadence pattern used today. In early party line systems this pattern was a Morse code letter indicating who should pick up the phone, but today, with individual lines, the only surviving patterns are a single ring and double-ring, originally Morse code letters T and M respectively.

The ringing pattern is known as ring cadence. This only applies to POTS fixed phones, where the high voltage ring signal is switched on and off to create the ringing pattern. In North America, the standard ring cadence is "2-4", or two seconds of ringing followed by four seconds of silence. In Australia and the UK, the standard ring cadence is 400 ms on, 200 ms off, 400 ms on, 2000 ms off. These patterns may vary from region to region, and other patterns are used in different countries around the world.

A service akin to party line ringing is making a comeback in some small office and home office situations allowing facsimile machines and telephones to share the same line but have different telephone numbers; this CLASS feature is usually called distinctive ringing generically, though carriers assign it trademarked names such as "Smart Ring", "Duet", "Multiple Number" and "Ringmaster." This feature is also used for a second phone number assigned to the same physical line for roommates or teenagers, in which case it is sometimes marketed under the name teen line. Caller ID signals are sent during the silent interval between the first and second bursts of the ringing signals.

The interrupted ring signal was designed to attract attention and studies showed that an intermittent two tone ring was the easiest to hear. This had nothing to do with the coded ringing that was used on party lines.


Older telephones simply used a pair of bells for the ringer. Modern ring tones have become extremely diverse, leading to phone personalization and customization.

Newer mobile phones allow users to associate different ring tones with individual family members and friends. Taking advantage of these features, a new ring tone maker trend has emerged. For example, websites like Mobilephoria, Phone Sherpa, and Dopetone let users make ring tones from the music they already own (MP3, CD etc.) and upload directly to their mobile phone with no limit on the number of songs uploaded. In addition to the cost benefits, a key feature is the music editor that lets the user easily pick the part of the song they wish to set as a ring tone. Such services automatically detect the phone settings to ensure the best file type and format. There are, however, providers who have already edited and trimmed the song for you.

Some providers allow users to create their own music tones, either with a "melody composer" or a sample/loop arranger (such as the MusicDJ in many Sony Ericsson phones). However, these use native formats only available to one particular phone model or brand. Other formats, such as MIDI or MP3, are often supported; they must be downloaded to the phone before they can be used as a normal ring tone. Commercial ring tones take advantage of this functionality, which has led to the success of the mobile music industry. Southern rapper Chamillionaire was the first to have a ring tone go 3x platinum for the hit single "Ridin." He now has his own category on certain phones.[citation needed]

The latest innovation is the sing tone, a type of karaoke ring tone where a user’s voice recording is adjusted to be both in time and in tune then mixed with a backing track to make a user-created ring tone.

An alternative to a ring tone for mobile phones is a vibrating alert. It may be useful:

* In noisy environments
* In places where ring tone noise would be disturbing
* For those with a hearing loss
Types of ring tones

A monophonic ring tone is simply a series of notes, one musical note at a time.

A polyphonic ring tone can consist of several notes at a time. The first polyphonic ring tones used sequenced recording methods such as MIDI. Such recordings specify what synthetic instrument should play a note at a given time, and the actual instrument sound is dependent upon the playback device.

A truetone (also known as "realtone", "mastertone", "superphonic ringtone" or "audio recording") is simply an audio recording, typically in a common format such as MP3, AAC, or WMA, and represents the latest evolution of the ring tone. Truetones, which are often excerpts from songs, have become popular as ring tones.

Ring tone formats

* AAC: Some phones like the Sony Ericsson W810i support ring tones in ".m4a" AAC format. The iPhone supports ring tones in ".m4r" AAC format.
* eMelody: Older Ericsson format.
* iMelody: Most new phones that don't do Nokia's Smart Messaging are using this format.
* KWS: Kyocera's ringer format.
* MID / MIDI: Popular sound format.
* Morse code: Text files with a .MORSE extension get converted into morse code songs.
* MOT: An older ringer format for Motorola phones.
* MP3: Some phones support ring tones that are mp3 format.
* Nokia / SCKL / OTT: Nokia Smart Messaging format. Nokia phones can receive ring tones as a text message. Ring tone tools can create these text messages. This allows anyone with a compatible phone to load their own ring tones in without a data cable. There are other phones besides Nokia that use this.
* PDB: Palm database. This is the format used to load ring tones on PDA phones such as the Kyocera 6035 and the Handspring Treo.
* PMD: Format co-created by Qualcomm and Japanese company Faith which can include MIDI, sampled audio, static graphics, animation, text, vibration and LED events
* QCP: File format generated by Qualcomm PureVoice software.
* RTTTL: A popular text format for ring tones.
* RTX: Similar to RTTTL with some advanced features. Also the octaves are different on RTX.
* Samsung1 & Samsung2: Samsung keypress format.
* Siemens Keypress: Can create and read in a Siemens text file format.
* Siemens SEO: Siemens SEO binary format.
* SMAF: Yamaha music format that combines MIDI with instrument sound data (aka Module files). Filenames have the extension "MMF".

Ring tone maker

A ring tone maker allows a user to take a song from his/her music collection, pick the part that he/she likes and send the file to his/her mobile phone. Files can be sent to the mobile phone by direct connection (e.g., USB cable), Bluetooth, text messaging, or e-mail, however, most ring tone makers have adopted a "one size fits all" strategy of downloading through the Internet; while appealing to the lowest common denominator, this method usually results in charges to the user for Internet time used on his/her mobile phones.

The Internet-based transition was further marked in 2005 with the on-air, G4TechTV review of "SmashTheTones" (now "Mobile17"), the first third-party solution to allow ring tone creation on a webpage without requiring downloadable software or a digital audio editor. With the Internet now playing the process' largest role, other websites began to offer such tools and ring tone making has not only become simplified but more accessible to the average user.


In April 2005, the law firm of Callahan, McCune and Willis filed a class action lawsuit against Jamster! on behalf of a San Diego father and his ten-year-old daughter.[8] The lawsuit alleges that Jamster! scammed cellular telephone customers through the use of fraudulent and deceptive advertisements. The plaintiffs argue that the ads in question offered one free ring tone to cell phone customers who responded to the ad via text message, but failed to inform users that they would be subscribed to a monthly service.[9] As of March 2007[update] the lawsuit is pending.

On July 20, 2005, the Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN), a non-profit California consumer advocacy organization, filed a complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) against Cingular Wireless for the unauthorized billing of non-communications related charges, such as ring tones.[10] UCAN claimed that Cingular billed its customers for Jamster! and other similar ring tone services without providing customers with the notice, opt-in, and proof of authorization requirements necessary for such charges.[11] UCAN further charged Cingular with violating numerous CPUC requirements by consistently telling customers with questions about non-communications service charges on their wireless phone bill that Cingular has no responsibility and cannot assist customers with their inquiries.[11][12]

See also

* Nokia tune
* Ringback tone
* Ringle (music)
* Teen Buzz
* Dial tone


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