Once upon a time, cell phones rang. It was that simple. They didn't sing. They didn't rap. And they didn't make too many people want to break out the Michael Jackson, one-gloved-hand kind of moves.
But as the ringtone has evolved in the past 10 years, so has its users.
With cell phones able to play clips of entire songs, people now demand Madonna, Garth Brooks and Led Zeppelin notify them of incoming calls. A gym buff knows his wife is calling when he hears "When a Man Loves a Woman" blurting passionately from his flip phone. A mother knows it's her children calling when a homemade recording obnoxiously whines, "Mom, mom, mom, mom" over and over again. The cheerleader knows there's gossip to be heard when her rhinestone-covered Blackberry bumps and grinds to a Lil Wayne jam.
Whether its hip-hop, country, classic rock or a snippet of real life ringing through small speaker holes, these 30-second clips are a way for people to individualize themselves. Ringtones are a powerful accessory that blurt this is me, this is my personality, this defines me at any volume.
"It shows your personal style," said 18-year-old Lodian Andrew Reeves, who has noticed the ringtone trend for a few years. He is saving money to replace his old phone and plans to use the song, "Rock This Town" by the Stray Cats, as his ringtone. He says it will reflect that he's into rockabilly and the Beat Generation, something that makes him unique in his group of friends.
Thirteen-year-old Carly Hintz's Samsung slider phone plays "All I Ever Wanted," by Chuck Wicks. She did what most people do and chose a favorite song because it boosts her mood every time a call comes in.
"It puts me in a good mood," she said. "I get excited when someone calls."
Her friend, Kendell Sheets, 14, agrees that ringtones are about mood. She changes her ringtone based on "whatever I'm feeling."
For others, like 17-year-old Albert Burgos, the ringtone is what gets him pumped up. Every time his phone rings, "Just Dance" by Lady GaGa makes him think of dance moves.
"It gets me moving. It makes me just dance," he said.
How ringtones are downloaded to cell phones vary. It used to be ringtones - ranging from free to $3 each - were mainly purchased online. If you Google "buy ringtones," you get more than 263,000 pages of options. Even in the early days of ringtones, a small selection of cover songs could be purchased using a browser on a cell phone. Many were covers and, depending on the phone's abilities, couldn't play lyrics.
Most phones available today can play anything from simple rings to full MP3s.
Sarah Rios, 13, a Lodi student, changes her ringtones by recording songs from the radio. All she has to do is hold her phone to the speaker, press the record button on her phone and save it as a ringtone.
Just as file sharing became the way to get music for free, many have started swapping ringtones with Bluetooth. By putting two phones close enough together, ringtones can be sent from one phone to another with less effort than it takes to thumb-type a text message.
Student Amanda Lang, 20, has a ringtone - "Beat It," by Fall Out Boy - but she only has one because it was free by using her phone's Bluetooth, not because it's defining her personality.
"I'm a college student. I can no longer afford ringtones," she says, admitting $3 just isn't worth it.
- Billboard music magazine has a weekly chart called Hot
Ringtones. Billboard also gives out a Ringtone of the Year
- Ringtones cost about $2 and last 25-30 seconds.
- Most phones allow you to assign a different ringtone for
different callers: Classic rock for dad, R&B for boyfriends,
classical for grandma.
- Hip-hop is the most popular genre of ringtones sold.
- There are three different types of cell phone ringtones:
monophonic, polyphonic and true tones. True tones or MP3 ringtones,
the newest option, have original voices and original instruments.
Polyphonic has the ability to produce 16 separate sounds at once.
Monophonic is what really old phones still use.
Before you download a ringtone, make sure it is compatible with your phone.
Beware of buying a ringtone service that will add monthly charges to your cell phone bill.
Ringtone A-ListWhat your favorite celebrities hear when their phone rings.
David Cook, American Idol winner
"With or Without You," by U2
"Angel," by Sarah McLachlan
"Stolen," by Dashboard Confessional
"The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room," by Flight of the Conchords
"Drive," by The Cars
President Barack Obama
"Regulate," by Warren G
"Changes," by David Bowie
"Working Class Hero," by John Lennon
"Money Talks," by AC/DC
"Let's Get it On," by Marvin Gaye
Vice-President Joe Biden
Theme song from NBC's "The Office"
"Sharp Dressed Man," by ZZ Top
"Swagga Like Us," by Jay Z and T.I.
"God Bless the USA," by Lee Greenwood
"Killer Joe," by Quincy Jones
The Jonas Brothers
"Little Red Corvette," by Prince
"I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea," by Elvis Costello
"Jane," by Jefferson Starship
"Give My Love to Rose," Johnny Cash
"Livin' for the City," Stevie Wonder
"Don't Stop Believing," by Journey
"Rockstar," by Nerd
"Open Arms," by Journey
"I Think We're Alone Now," by Tiffany
"Milkshake," by Kelis
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin
"Shotgun," by Jr. Walker
"Lady in Red," by Chris De Burgh
"From Russia With Love," John Barry
"Case of the P.T.A.," by Leaders of the New School
"Sara," by Starship
"My Heart Will Go On," by Celine Dion
"Over the Rainbow," by Eva Cassidy
"Anytime You Need A Friend," by Mariah Carey
"Pastime Paradise," by Stevie Wonder
"Yellow," by Coldplay
Most popular ring tonesKanye West, "Stronger"
Soulja Boy Tell 'Em, "Crank That (Soulja Boy)"
Hurricane Chris, "A Bay Bay"
Sean Kingston, "Beautiful Girls (Main Chorus)"
Foo Fighters, "The Pretender"
Justin Timberlake, "Love Stoned/I Think She Knows"
Linkin Park, "Bleed It Out"
Young Jeezy, "I Luv It"
The All-American Rejects, "It Ends Tonight"
D4L, "Laffy Taffy"
Green Day, "Wake Me Up When September Ends"
Chris Brown, "Run It!"
Jay-Z , "Show Me What You Got"
Stone Sour, "Through Glass"
JoJo, "Too Little, Too Late"
Rick Ross (Hip-Hop), "Push It"
Jack's Mannequin, "The Mixed Tape"
Source: MTV 2008
What is your ringtone and why?
RoShamBo Salon owner
Cosmetologist, president of Children's Dreamworks