Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Modifying Ring Tones

Modifying ring tones is the most popular way to individualize your mobile phone. Maybe individualize isn't the right word since so many people download and use the same ring tones. Visit any ring tone Web site and you'll see a Top 10 or Top 50 list. Often the top five songs have been downloaded tens of thousands of times. So when every other phone you hear plays 50 Cent's "In Da Club," it's hard to be exactly an individual.

You can compose your own ring tones and even share them with friends if your phone supports it. Many newer Motorola, Nokia, and Sony Ericsson phones have this feature. You can compose right on your phone or use a third-party application on the computer and download your tune to your handset using a data cable or SMS messaging.

There are two types that you're likely to see on download sites: mono and polyphonic. Most phones support one of the two, but some newer handsets support digital music (MP3) for ring tones.

Mono are the old one-tone "beep-beep-boop" ringers that sound like old video games. Mono can only play one note (or beep) at a time. They don't even come close to real music. All phones, even older ones, have mono ring tones, though not all are programmable.

Polyphonic are ones made up of multiple notes, or phonics, played at the same time. They sound more like real music. The number of notes that a phone can play at one time depends on the chipset and model. Many polyphonic phones are quadraphonic, capable of playing four notes at once; but some handsets can play over 24 notes simultaneously.

Another popular choice for ring tones among owners of the newest phones is real tones, or tones that are clips of real sounds or celebrity voices. Instead of ringing or playing a tune, your phone can play a sound effect, like a dog barking or maybe even Barry White saying, "Pick up the phone, you sexy beast."

A ring tone's file format depends on the phone for which it was recorded. Nokia paved the way for ring tones and graphics; as a result, you'll find a lot of ring tones available in RTTTL or the Nokring format. Don't worry if you don't have a Nokia phone. You'll still be able to find ring tones; you just might not be able to create custom tones.

Some carriers use proprietary formats for their phones, which means you have to get your ring tones from your carrier. This means that, unlike Nokia which made its format available for people to create their own customized sounds, these carriers are missing out on a way to drive demand for their services.

Downloading Tones

There are many sites on the Web where you can download ring tones. Some offer tones for purchase, while others are free. When you purchase a ring tone or download a free one, the site delivers it to your handset either through a WAP portal or using smart messaging.

Smart messaging is a protocol designed by Nokia and Intel that allows software upgrades to be sent to handsets as specialized text messages. Smart messages have a special prefix that alerts the phone that the message isn't a standard message for the user; it contains instructions and code for the handset. The instructions could be a new ring tone, a graphic, software update, or the like.

Many carriers and handset manufacturers support smart messaging, or deliver their ring tones and graphics through EMS. Many EMS services use the iMelody ring tone format. iMelody has advanced features, such as volume control for varying the volume in a tune and the ability to make a phone light up or vibrate.

Regardless of the delivery method, you should be able to download a ring tone as long as the site supports your carrier and handset.

Patrick Smith is a NYC native who not only loves his cell phone but has reviewed under cabinet microwaves for

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