Personalize your cell phone

Ringtones are sounds made by cell phones signaling an inbound call. Usually ringtones are a selection of customizable musical tones available on your handsets. Most cell phones today come with a feature that allows the user to ID the caller with a certain tone or piece of music. The handset or service would operate in conjunction with the caller ID feature to give virtually any number listed in the handheld's phonebook a separate tone. The alternative to the ring tone to notify the cell phone user of the inbound call is the vibrating alert which is more appropriate in discreet settings.

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The earliest ringtones were monophonic, which operates like a simple midi sample on a PC. Ringtone playback was limited to a few easy notes with only a limited number of tones or sounds. These were simple tunes that with a very shallow electronic sound to them, unlike the fuller sounds you can achieve today. Users can sometimes program custom ringtones with a rudimentary built in composer. The development of formats like RTTL encoding allowed ringtones to be shared and uploaded to the phone as a text file. Newer cell phones use polyphonic ring tones. Polyphonic simply means multiple tones at the same time. This is a more advanced form of midi where complex sounds that mimic instruments can play a tune at the same time. This creates the sound of a full band playing the ringtone. These polyphonic ringtones can be programmed with up to 128 separate notes with unique instrumentation. Manufacturer's have started adding better speakers to cell phones to take advantage of the popularity of complex musical ringtones for better quality playback.

Some ringtones can actually play back recorded music as many phones are capable of using MP3, WAV, WMA, QCP or AMR ringtones. These are the latest ringtones where the cell phone user can create custom ringtones from recorded music. The MP3 and recorded music playback has become an integral part of the cell phone industry with Smartphones slowly cutting into the MP3 player's share of the mobile media market. Many phones are programmed with a combination of ringtones depending on the inbound call. The user can immediately identify the caller by ringtone, one for mom, one for the girlfriend/boyfriend another for work and even one for an unknown caller. The ringtones will inevitably help the handset user decide if the call should be answered or allowed to pass to voice mail.

Ringtones can be programmed and sampled from recorded music and shared on the web. Likewise they're downloaded and saved by millions of users worldwide. Communities exist online dedicated to sharing their own unique ringtones. Many ringtone collectors have more than they'll ever use and switch them so frequently what sound comes up next whenever an inbound call arrives is anybodies guess.

Ringtones are an important part of customizing the cell phone, along with logos and graphics decorating the cell phone's display. Personal style plays as much a part as function in the choice of cell phones today and ringtones add the audible edge to your handset's personality.