Revelations about ring tones
By GINA VIVINETTO
Can you tell something about a
person by the ring tone on his or her cell phone?
Silly question, you say?
Think about the song you chose, or didn't choose; some folks are content with
their choice of built-in rings.
For the people buying the estimated 600-million cell phones that will be sold
worldwide this year, and the members of the wireless community who own phones,
customized ring tones are the rage.
The sales of customized ring tones were more than $2-billion worldwide last
year, according to Entertainment Weekly. People will pay anywhere from $1.50 to
$3 for a tune by Jay-Z or Morrissey.
The most popular ring-a-ding-ding tunes are by rappers, says Chuck Hamby, public
relations manager for Verizon Wireless. Verizon's Get It Now service, which
sells the tunes, has been in operation for about 18 months.
"Most of the customers for these programs are youth - upper teens and young
adults. They have really embraced ring tones as a way to personalize and to
individualize," he says. Those younger folks pick hits. Hamby says OutKast's Hey
Ya! is hot, asis Crazy In Love by Beyonce and Jay-Z. (Vibe magazine lists
several other popular ring tones: 50 Cent's In Da Club, Kanye West's All Falls
Down and Usher's Burn).
Hamby says that baby boomers, on the other hand, tend to choose TV theme songs
or tunes that have sentimental meaning.
Hamby has programmed his phone so certain callers are announced by their own
ring tone. For his wife, he's programmed the love theme to The Godfather. For a
business associate he's not too fond of, it's the Scarecrow's If I Only Had A
Brain from The Wizard of Oz.
Many customers like to change their ring tone frequently, Hamby says. With
thousands of songs available for download on the Internet, it's tempting to shop
"It's fun to see what the new releases are," Hamby says. "The quality, too, is
getting better all the time. The tones are much richer, and they're getting more
What does your ring tone say about you? Are you trendy, or tried and true?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie wide receiver Michael Clayton is down with the
rappers. For him, it's Welcome Back by Mase.
Carl Webb, manager of Vinyl Fever, a music store in Tampa, opted for Notorious
B.I.G. He's got the late gangsta rapper's Big Poppa programmed for his ring.
Margaret Murray, general manager of Sunrise Cinemas (formerly Madstone Theaters)
in Tampa, also went with hip-hop, selecting Missy Elliott's Get Ur Freak On.
Christopher Holland, a computer specialist who lives in St. Petersburg, did like
Mr. Hamby and programmed several ring tones into his phone, personalizing songs
for specific callers. A Mozart aria plays when Holland's father, a classical
music lover, calls. When his best friend, a sci-fi movie junkie, rings him,
Cantina Band from Star Wars plays. When wife Christina calls, the theme to
Bewitched beeps. ("Insert your own joke there," Holland says).
For Holland, who also co-chairs the stomptokyo.com Web site dedicated to
B-movies, the programming is about fun as much as functionality.
"It gives the phone a little more personality," he says, "and I know who the
caller is without looking at the phone."
Technology is improving in ring tones with the sounds coming in three styles:
* Monophonic: the classic digital beepy and bleepy ring.
* Polyphonic: a bit more full, with some harmonics.
* True-Tone: the new high-tech tone that allows folks in Japan and Great Britain
to enjoy real, recorded songs.
Maybe the True-Tone ringer could have saved the relationship between Philip
Clark and his ring tone.
Clark had a falling out with Pink's Get This Party Started.
"I don't want to ever hear that song again," Clark says. The graphic designer
and artist, who lives in St. Petersburg, chose the peppy party anthem thinking
it would put him in a festive mood every time the phone rang.
Instead, it drove him nuts.
"I heard it a million times a day, for four months," Clark says. "It was worse
than hearing it on the radio over and over because it was this annoying beeping
version of it."
Clark, scowling, imitates the cell-phone version of the song: "Beep (pause) beep
beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep bep beep beep."
"It was awful."
It didn't just get on Clark's nerves.
"Everyone I worked with was going crazy, too," Clark says. "When I walked away
from my desk, they would turn my ringer off."
Clark cautions people against choosing a song they enjoy for their ring tone,
saying, "It really does ruin the song for you."
Does Clark have a song on his phone now?
"I just have the most basic ring tone you can use."
- Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.