We Know: All About Ringtones

What is a ringtone?

Ringtones (or Ring Tones) are song-like melodies or simple beeps that are played on a cell phone. Originally, it was the sound that a phone made when a call was received on standard home telephones. Today, ringtones on digital cell phones have evolved in complexity, ranging from monophonic ringtones to those that play CD-quality music.

Why are ringtones important?

Ringtones identify a caller. On many phones you can set different ringtones for specific callers (like family and friends).

How does a ringtone work?

Ringtones are programmed in Ringing Tone Text Transfer Language (RTTTL). Ringtone encoding depends on the type of phone involved. Ringtones are included with most phones, while others are downloaded and delivered using Nokia's Smart Messaging Service (SMS), a text delivery service for cell phones. Ringtones are set up for certain phone numbers so it identifies a specific caller.

What are the different types of ringtones?

There are three major types of ringtones:

  • Monophonic ringtones
    • simple tones played one at a time
    • can be simple beeps or basic music notes
    • found on older analog cell phones
  • Polyphonic ringtones
    • plays more than one tone at a time
    • can emulate musical instrument sounds
    • ringtones of newer cell phones can play up to 40 tones simultaneously
    • sounds more like music, but does not play lyrics
  • Full music ringtones
    • plays actual music
    • also plays vocal music
    • MP3, wav, QCP, or AMP capabilities
    • usually found on newly released cell phones

How do I get ringtones?

Cell phones come with standard ringtones. Additional tones can be purchased off the Internet, or from cell phone companies for about $1.99 per ringtone. Polyphonic and full music ringtones dominate the downloads today. Once a purchase is made, the manufacturer or third party retailer text messages the tone to your cell phone.

Can I make my own ringtones?

Downloading ringtones can be a costly venture, so people have discovered how to create their own ringtones. Programs exist on the market that record music from a CD, MP3, wav, or other format onto the computer. You edit the portions that you want included in your ringtone. Once the editing is complete, you convert it into the appropriate format for your phone. You can then text message the tone to your phone.

Programs that allow you to create your own ringtones include

  • Audacity - freeware available for Mac, Linux, and Windows
  • Wavepad - converts MP3, M4A, AAC, wav, MMF, CD music to telephone-quality tones
  • PsmPlayer - creates polyphonic ringtones
  • Yamaha SMAF - converts musical pieces to MMF format and saves these as CD quality tones

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