Options abound when personalizing phones.
Byline: John Nolan
Barking dogs, meowing cats, movie
themes, chart-topping pop or hip-hop hits, patriotic songs, Latin or rap music,
Monty Python film quotes, impolite bodily sounds, or the Linus and Lucy theme
from Peanuts. The variety of ring tones available for your cell phone can boggle
the mind --and ultimately reverberate in the wallet.
The days when cell phones merely served as a mode of communication are gone.
Ring tones -- the programmed sound a cell phone user can choose to substitute
for a ring -- allow anyone to personalize a cell phone and pick its sound out
from those of other phones nearby that may be ringing.
But by way of marketing pizzazz, it also allows the cell customer to make a
statement about personal style, not unlike the choice of clothing or items
selected to adorn a car or house.
"It's just a way for somebody to personalize something. People do it as a
fashion statement -- or to surprise people," said Mark Frieser, chief executive
officer of 123 Multimedia USA Inc., a major ring tone provider.
It's largely a statement by younger users, with marketing surveys showing that
cell customers between the ages of 13 and 25 are most likely to have downloaded
a ring tone.
"My grandmother's never going to buy a ring tone. My mother's never going to buy
a ring tone," said Julie Ask, a San Francisco-based analyst who follows the
business for the market research firm Jupiter Research. "I'm 37. Most of my
friends will never buy a ring tone. But if you've got a 16-year-old at home,
they've probably already got 16 of them."
The hottest ring tones typically mirror the current top hits, so the favorites
of the moment include Coldplay's Speed Of Sound, Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train,
Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl and Jessica Simpson's These Boots Are Made for
The obscure, rarely ordered but available ring tones include Iron Butterfly's
1968 rock hit, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.
As the delivery technology has advanced and cell phones have become better
designed to support it, the market has boomed within the past few years,
starting with Europe, Korea and Japan, where ring tones caught on earlier and
more broadly than in the United States.
Forbes.com reported in June that ring tones are a $4 billion worldwide market.
Jupiter Research, a market research firm, projects ring tone revenues of $417
million in the United States this year, rising to $724 million in 2009. That
compares with $3 million in 2001 and $60 million in 2003.
Ring tones comprise a piece of the rapidly growing "mobile content" market that
includes downloaded games, screen savers, news, sports, weather, video and movie
clips. Cell users can also choose ringback tones, songs which callers hear
instead of a ring when they call a cell phone.