Familiar ring for those under 30: Younger ears perk up for ringtones that older ears can miss.
Byline: Cynthia McMullen
May 19--Mosquito Ringtones are all
the buzz. But don't be alarmed if you haven't heard one yet.
You're probably too old.
Actually, the hugely annoying, high-pitched whine, designed not to be heard by
folks older than 30, has been around for about a year.
But its sting is just making itself felt in some quarters.
"According to an American statistical site, it was the most downloaded ringtone
of 2006," says its inventor, Howard Stapleton. "Unfortunately, it was also the
most pirated ringtone of 2006."
But Stapleton, managing director of Compound Security Systems in Merthyr Tydfil,
Wales, isn't complaining.
The Mosquito Ringtone might not have made money, but its promotional value has
far exceeded his company's wildest dreams.
It doesn't matter how unattractive or nonmusical the whiny ringtone sounds. Its
pop ularity hinges on the fact that most people older than 30 can't hear it.
As one ages, the human ear starts losing its ability to hear tones in high
frequencies. And if a cell phone ring is so high-pitched that one's parent or
teacher doesn't know it has rung . . . well, you can see the attraction.
What these blissfully ignorant teens might not know is that their doggy-pitched
ringers were spun off a different product.
The original Mosquito, ironically, was designed as a teen deterrent. Stapleton
wanted to help a local shop that had a problem, he says, with "teenage
He came up with the idea of broadcasting an irritating, high-frequency, mosquito
drone that only younger people could hear.
"The Mosquito truly is annoying, and it works by being sufficiently loud," he
says. "Many teens describe the sound as a demented alarm clock."
At 41, Stapleton couldn't hear the tones necessary to develop the Mosquito, so
he enlisted his children's help. When the device was released, he thought he
would sell four or five. But 3,500 sales later, the Mosquito, at $750 a unit, is
flying off the shelves.
"The biggest problem," Stapleton says, "is that the majority of purchasers, who
are in their 30s, 40s and 50s, don't believe they work because they can't hear
them. But we've got some very big blue-chip customers who use them -- even
That customer list extended to the United States about four months ago with a
Newport Beach, Calif.-based franchise called Kids Be Gone.
Kids Be Gone representative Dan Santell says about a dozen Mosquito units have
sold in the Washington-Maryland area.
Inevitably, the company is pursuing other products -- there will be a licensing
show in New York next month -- such as an alarm clock, a plush mosquito (push
its tummy to trigger the whine) and high-frequency ringtones related to computer
As for those ubiquitous cell users, Stapleton says yes, he has had a couple of
requests for a Mosquito Ringtone detector.
"But not enough to make it commercially viable. You're going to have to find the
one kid who's -- what do you call it in the States? -- the teacher's pet, and
have him report them for you."