Ring tones and wallpaper let cell phones reflect the owners.
By Heather Newman
A friend _ I won't say who, to
protect the guilty _ has his phone set to play the "X-Files" theme when his wife
Me, I picked the most annoying, obnoxious ring I could find _ something that
sounds like a harmonica gargling lemon juice _ for my husband, reasoning that I
would never again miss his call. Everyone else gets light recordings of
Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" or an upbeat Latin tango, which makes him laugh.
My friend and I aren't alone. Ring tones are the No. 1 thing people download
with their wireless phones, and wallpaper is a close second. More than half of
us now carry cell phones, and with so many of us using them every day, why
shouldn't they reflect our personalities _ and what we think about the people
There are a number of ways to trick out your phone with the tunes you desire.
The easiest, of course, is to browse the tunes built into the phone you bought.
If you purchased a phone in the last year or two, chances are that it has a nice
color display and a library of a hundred or two ring tones you never use.
They won't be unique, but they will be better than the standard ring. My
Motorola phone came with a charming "You have an incoming call" voice ring that
lasted approximately 30 seconds after I got it out of the box.
Using the phone's built-in tunes is easy, which is why _ I admit it _ everyone
in my phone book currently has one of the standard ring variations. Just pick
the ring you want from the list, or assign it to one of the numbers in your
phone book, and away you go.
But there are plenty of more sophisticated options, and some of them are free.
Check out http://cellphones.about.com for a slightly convoluted but
information-packed set of pages on wireless phone issues that is incredibly ring
tone-heavy. Not only are there free ring tones on the site _ and links to
thousands of others _ but there are also compatibility calculators that check
what types of tones are compatible with your phone and even a personality quiz
to see which ring tone types would be best for you.
Most of the free and pay-for-tunes sites offer something called WAP push. You
request the tune, a text message is sent to your phone with a link where the
tone can be found, and you use your phone's wireless Web browser to get to the
link and get the ring tone.
You can even buy software that allows you to compose your own ring tones, which
are then sent to your phone using that method. One option is Ring Factory (www.ringfactory.net),
which takes any sound file and allows you to turn it into a ring tone, assuming
your phone is compatible (there's a list of the ones that are on the site). It
retails for about $12, which includes a six-month subscription for sending the
tones to your phone (a year is $20).
All of that, of course, assumes that you have wireless Web access on your phone.
If you don't, you can probably still buy roughly a gazillion ring tones from
your wireless provider, browsing right from your phone. Use the menu option for
your provider's wireless shopping area _ for instance, Verizon's "Get It Now!" _
and you can browse from there.
Be aware that not all ring tones are supported by all phones, and the
distinction seems fairly random at times. Ring Factory, for example, doesn't
support any Verizon phones that don't have cameras built in, as I discovered.
(Fortunately, I had a camera phone as backup.) My attempts to download the free
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" ring tone were also foiled.
But "Charlie's Angels" in its full polyphonic glory? No problem, thanks to a
$1.99 program I downloaded directly on the phone called Vindingo Ringmaster.
Wallpaper works in much the same way. I use another cheap program purchased
through my carrier right on my phone, MySeenz, to take digital pictures I send
to the service and turn them into my phone's wallpaper. (Now playing: my
daughter at a birthday party.) But you can also choose from the wallpaper built
into your phone or thousands of free and for-pay images offered by folks online.
It takes a little bit of effort, though once you've tried getting a new ring
tone or wallpaper once, it becomes addictive. And at the end of your tinkering,
you'll have a phone that looks, and sounds, just like you _ and what you think
when your spouse calls.