PERSONALIZED PHONES: The Ring's the Thing
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (Las Vegas, NV)
K, we're not going to mention any
names, but the wireless phone of one Las Vegas resident plays the theme from
"The Munsters" when her parents call.
Student Megan Teemant hears the Black Eyed Peas' "Where's the Love?" when her
mom's on the line. When close friends call, student Gabby McGhie's phone plays
John Mayer's "My Stupid Mouth;" a can-can theme signals unknown callers. Her
sister, Aubi, hears the "Law & Order" theme whenever their parents call.
Welcome to the world of wireless-phone ring tones, as individual as the phone
users themselves. For evidence of the trend, just listen to the tunes and chimes
and sound-effects and even actual songs you'll hear whenever someone's phone
Chris Rader, a project manager for a mechanical-contracting company, hears a
NASCAR car revving whenever he gets an incoming call.
Stephanie Wilson, director of marketing for Barrick Gaming Corporation, gets
Britney Spears' "Toxic" when her phone rings.
For Vickie Soares, spokeswoman for Sprint, unknown calls come to the tune of Men
at Work's "Who Can It Be Now?"
Lest you have any doubt that this is a bonafide, gen-u-wine cultural phenomenon,
20 million ring tones were downloaded last year by the customers of just one
company -- Sprint, which has 24 million customers.
Most current wireless phones come with a menu of ring tones built right into the
phone, which users can choose without extra charge and change as often as they'd
More can be downloaded from wireless providers; Soares said most Sprint
customers can access a list of more than 2,000. Sprint's tunes are sold to users
for $2.50 for 90 days.
There also are a number of Internet sites phone users can visit to download
tunes to their phones. For example, http://RingToneJukeBox.com, under the
Denver-based umbrella company 9Squared, offers an ever-increasing list of tunes
for customization. Potential customers browse the Web site, preview a song,
purchase it for 99 cents to $1.99 for an unlimited time period, and it's
delivered via text-messaging within 30 seconds.
"Instant gratification," said Ted Suh, chief marketing officer for 9Squared.
"It's really cool when we watch people do it for the first time. They're really
And the possibilities are almost endless. Got a sister-in-law named Donna?
Download Richie Valens' "Donna." A friend named Rhonda? The Beach Boys' "Help
Me, Rhonda." A neighbor named Caroline? Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline."
Cat lovers can download the Meow Mix commercial soundtrack. Teachers can choose
Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Teach Your Children." Birthday girls and boys can go
with the Beatles' "Birthday."
You can also get the fight songs of various universities and national anthems of
countries including Gambia and Uzbekistan, in addition to the good ol' USA.
Soares said artist ring tones also are available -- such as Jessica Simpson
saying, "Hi, it's Jessica. What were you telling me about those Buffalo wings?"
Suh said ring tone applications are increasing exponentially. (A co-worker of
Suh's has a friend who reminds him of Vanilla Ice, so the friend's incoming
calls come to the tune of "Ice, Ice Baby.") The company has launched
partnerships with dozens of radio stations, enabling each station to have a
portal through which users can download ring tones in the station's format.
Through Jones Media's Jones Banana Network, it helped country singer Tim McGraw
launch his most recent album, offering a pre-release of a McGraw cut as an
actual ring tone. The song, McGraw's hit "Live Like You Were Dying," sounds just
as it does on the radio or CD -- but you can hear it when your phone rings.
"It was the very first ring tone promotion out there," Suh said. "This is the
next generation of ring tones. There are limited handsets that can support it"
-- although he said 47 models can. "The majority of our sales are true
polyphonic. But this is the next step."
"Polyphonic" refers to a blend of sounds forming the tune; monophonic ring tones
are the equivalent one-trick ponies. Which you can have depends on what model
phone you have. The Web sites have lists of compatible makes and models.
As for Sprint, Soares said, "My understanding is that with the content that we
provide, it's accessible to all PCS Vision phones."
How much you hear -- what part of the song -- depends on the company that
produced the ring tone.
"We typically go for the hook or the chorus," Suh said. "Typically they're the
same. The chorus is the real hook in the song. If there are songs that have
multiple areas that sound real well, we'll go ahead and make that.
"With rap and hip-hop and pop tunes these days, they're all about the hook. So
it's an easy translation into ring tones."
Suh said the next trend is phones that play a song from a music video and show
the video on their screens.
"You hear the song, you pull your phone out, and there's Tim McGraw singing on
your flip-phone screen to answer the call," he said. "That's coming in the next
year for sure."
Soares said camera phones already can take a picture and put it on the phone's
screen. When her husband calls, for example, her screen shows a photo of him and
"You can personalize your ring so many different ways," she said. "Record a
message from a friend or loved one, download featured artists -- categories as
in-depth as country, Latin, patriotic.
"People have always talked into their phones, and now their phones are talking
McGhie said that's what she likes about being able to assign different ring
tones to different people.
"That way, I know when certain people are calling me," she said. "I'm able to
utilize that, and then I don't get any surprise phone calls, for the most part."
"I have group songs for people," Teemant said. "For people that bug me at work,
I put on the complicated songs, like Avril Lavigne. Songs that really resemble
what a person's like."
Rader said he has a NASCAR car revving because "I'm a big-time race-car fan.
I've got a Nextel phone; it's pretty easy since they sponsor NASCAR.
"For messages, I've got the theme from `Halloween.' I thought it was pretty
cool. It's kind of spooky." He has OutKast's "Hey Ya" on his second line.
"I know when I'm getting a message," Rader said. "I know when I'm getting a
call. I know when I'm getting a call on my second line."
"The reason I have Britney Spears' `Toxic' is because it's really fun," Wilson
said. "Music affects your mood, and the ability to have that music on your
cellphone is great, because I might be having a tough day and that will come on
and remind me not to take the day too seriously."
Customized ring tones also have a practical application. Time was, when one
mom's phone rang during soccer practice, everyone reached for theirs because
they all sounded the same. Not anymore.
"You're personalizing so that you know what your ring is," Suh said. "So when
you hear Juvenile's `Slow Motion,' chances are the next guy doesn't have that."
And wireless-phone users love ring tones, Suh said, "simply because they want to
personalize their device. Cellphones have largely become quite a lifestyle-type
element. Music also is a very cultural-type thing with youth. To combine the
two, the ring tone is just the perfect way to express yourself through your
"It's my first time having such a fun phone, so that was really the first thing
I did," Wilson said. "People really use their cellphones now to express their