Cell phone users spending millions to individualize ring tones
Knight Ridder Newspapers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When Cassie Keller gets a phone call, a lot more happens than
an archaic “ring, ring.”
Instead, her cell phone launches into this: meow-meow-meow-meow,
Right. The “Meow Mix” TV jingle.
That’s how it rings for the unidentified callers, says Keller, a senior who
attends Fort Hays State University via the Internet from her Fairway, Kan.,
Just about everyone in her cell phonebook has been assigned a distinct ring. For
her mom, there’s a rodeo song and her boss has an ambulance siren. She even has
the Kansas Jayhawks fight song, and snippets from the movie “Office Space” and
“Chappelle’s Show.” Then there’s her personal favorite, “Build Me Up, Buttercup”
by the Foundations.
“I like the fact that I can tell who is calling,” Keller says. “If the phone is
in the other room you can hear it and tell who is calling. It’s funny. I have
even had people request ringers; it’s like you can give different personalities
to different people.”
Keller gets her ringers from her wireless provider, Sprint, as well as from Web
sites like www.3gupload.com and www.matrixm.com.
Most Web sites have a yearly fee that gives customers access to unlimited
ringers, games and screensavers. Some even let you make your own ring tone. At
www.3gforfree.com, you can pay $7 a year for unlimited downloads. Other sites,
like matrixm.com, sell individual ring tones, starting at $1; a few are offered
for free. And you can access the sites from your PC or your cell phone, if your
phone has Internet access.
U.S. cell phone owners spent more than $75 million on ring tones in 2003,
according to research by In-Stat/MDR, a digital communications research firm.
Researchers predict cell users will spend $146 million this year.
They won’t see any of Kristen Vincent’s money.
“I think I would have a hard time paying for ring tones,” says Vincent, 39, a
Hallmark associate product manager. “You have to pay to download music already,
gas prices are already higher and with people just trying to survive, it’s just
hard to see myself paying for a ring tone.”
Vincent says younger, hipper people might think differently and she thinks it is
a great option to have. But she’s happy with the 40-plus tones standard in her
“I have never heard anyone with the same ring as mine,” Vincent says of her
Dragnet-like tone. “I’m unique, and it gets a lot of laughs when people hear it.
I like that.”
Keller says it’s the individuality that fuels the ringer trend.
“It has to be in the same vein of expressing yourself through fashion and
stuff,” Keller, 23, says. “When you have a ringer and it makes people go `What
is that,’ it’s fun.”
Wireless providers are broadening the alternatives to give cell users plenty of
creativity when it comes to customizing their phones.