Listen, is that the call of a rare warbler? No, it's my new mobile ringtone
By Bryony Gordon
Mobile ringtones are already big business. This year alone, £2.5 billion in
revenue is expected to be generated from the downloading of tones of all types.
The British Library Sound Archive was thrilled to discover that its vast
collection has a new commercial application. Richard Ranft, the curator of the
wildlife section, is particularly enthusiastic about the British birdsong, which
he feels may well attract a previously untapped older generation of mobile
"Many bird sounds are proven to be relaxing - we provide a lot of doctors'
surgeries with bird calls for their waiting rooms for exactly that reason," he
said. "They can also be very evocative: the fiery-necked nightjar song is
tremendously beautiful and serene."
At the moment the ringtones can be downloaded only on to the new generation of
polyphonic telephones, which produce layers of sound rather than the more usual
strings of single beeps.
To test public reaction I borrowed the latest polyphonic mobile - an SPV which
claims to have the best sound quality yet of any mobile and is not due to go on
sale until September. The telephone came with its own security guard for the day
- and its animal ringtones sounded exactly like the real thing.
As I travelled into central London on the train, I used the screeches of an
Amazonian parrot to break through the British reserve of a carriageful of silent
passengers. The man sitting next to me, pen in mouth as he pondered a crossword,
nearly choked. "Is that your phone?" he spluttered.
On the number 390 bus to Marble Arch, a large crowd of passengers gathered to
listen to the quacks of a mallard duck as my mother tried to call me. "Oh, it's
lovely," said the beaming conductor. "So much nicer than the usual phones I hear