Staying on the cutting edge of the digerati these days means more than owning a
slick cell phone or a hi-res digital camera. It means having a zippy cell-phone
ring tone as well. Research firm IDC estimates that Americans spent more than
$57 million on ring tones in 2003, up from $16 million in 2002. Hip-hop songs
like 50 Cent's In Da Club are among the most popular tunes, but there are
thousands to choose from. You can even get prepaid cards at Wal-Mart and
7-Eleven stores just for buying ring tones. So how can you make your jingle
stand out from the crowd?
Since not every ring tone works with every phone, it's best to start by checking
the menus on your phone for downloadable tunes or visiting the website of your
carrier or handset maker. Most sounds cost between $1 and $2.50 each and are
added to your monthly service bill. Search beyond the Top 10 lists, and you'll
find lots of oldies but goodies like Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing (on SprintPCS
Vision phones), a selection of Bollywood hits (on Verizon's Get It Now service)
and 100 college fight songs (on nokia.com and other sites).
Next, check out some independent sites on the Web that let you browse and
preview tones before you buy. Zingy.com has more than 3,000, ranging from the
ever popular burps to a peppy rendition of dancehall star Elephant Man's Pon de
River, Pon De Bank, for $1.99 each or five for $4.99. Once you pay for the song,
Zingy sends it wirelessly to your phone. Other sites worth checking out include
ringtonejukebox.com midi ringtones.com and mobile craze.com Sound quality varies
from tone to tone, so be sure to preview the clips before you buy.
The best way to get a ring tone that nobody else has is to create your own.
Xingtone.com has a Windows application you can download onto your computer and
use to create a 30-second snippet of any MP3, WAV or MIDI file. It works on most
AT&T, Cingular, Sprint and T-Mobile phones, and it's free until Jan. 1, when the
company will start charging $15. MotoMixer, available on some Motorola phones,
lets you create your own mix of one of several songs by adjusting the drums,
brass and other instruments directly on the phone. It costs $2 a song.
Of course, sometimes the best ring tone is no sound at all. That is why Modtones,
which is available on several Verizon handsets, lets you download a silent
ringer that you can then assign to certain incoming callers. You know--people
like that ex-boyfriend who just won't stop calling. The caller will be none the
wiser, and you can enjoy a bit more peace and quiet.