The days of bulky landline telephones has come and gone. It was the process by which a user was alerted to an incoming call was through the receiver getting an electrical pulse that activated a bell or buzzer mechanism. This “ringing” sound became synonymous with the initializing of a phone connection and has become an ingrained part of the slang of the language.
While research has shown that the ring-pause-ring pattern is the easiest code to hear, modern digitized mobile cell phones have taken the incoming call signal to a new level of not only practical application but enjoyment as well.
The first actual ringtones were put into use in 1998 in Finland. The Harmonium service allowed individualized ringtone sounds to be transferred directly over the air as part of the call signal. This new fad became so popular that before too long there were entire libraries of special ringtone sounds that could be accessed and used. While these early ringtones were still monophonic, they did offer a wide variety of sounds and tonal patterns.
Soon new cell phones acquired the ability to utilize multiple ringtones and set different sounds to individual callers as an advanced cue for the user to know who was calling them. While the first ringtones were monophonic, the popularity of this cell phone feature soon brought improvements.
With the introduction of Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) sequenced recordings gave melody to the new ringtones. Usually looped in three to thirty second segments of sound, these new style ringtones produced recognizable music selections and further improved the customizing features to identify individual callers.
In the newest cell phones and especially the high tech iPhone, actual pre-recorded high-fidelity music from mp3 and WAV files stored in the memory of your phone can be used. Truetones as they are called can make use of pre-existing sound files or, by use of onboard programs, can edit and excerpt any selected part of that file for use as a custom ringtone.
Along with this ability there have been several websites dedicated to the easy creation of custom ringtones without needing to have special software downloaded on the phone. Since its inception in 2005, these sites have increased the availability of custom ringtones to just about any user.
While there are many free ringtone services to choose from, some of them charge for the privilege of downloading specific sound files. A new element has been added to commercial ringtones as a few musical artists have created songs specifically designed to be sold as ringtones for cell phones. The rap artist Chamillionaire has gone multi-platinum with the ringtone made from one of his songs and has created his own niche within some cell phone services.
Ringtones have become a multi-billion dollar industry and with such financial success it is no surprise that unscrupulous people have taken advantage of this popularity. There have been several major lawsuits against providers for such tactics as giving a free ringtone without informing the customer that by accepting it they are being signed up to a billable service.
Most recently Cingular was fined for billing people for ringtone service automatically whether they were using it or not. With the complexity of the new cellular phones and the ability to connect to the internet with them, there have been a few incidences of spyware being downloaded into phones through supposedly “free” ringtones.