A ringtone or ring tone is the sound made by a telephone to indicate an incoming call. The term, however, is most often used to refer to the customizable sounds available on mobile phones. This facility was originally provided so that people would be able to determine when their phone was ringing when in the company of other mobile phone owners.
A phone only rings when a special "ringing signal" is sent to it. For regular telephones, the ringing signal is a 90-volt, 20-hertz, AC wave generated by the switch to which the telephone is connected. For mobile phones, the ringing signal is a specific radio-frequency signal.
A telephone ring is the sound generated when an incoming telephone call is received. The term originated from the fact that telephones notified the user to an incoming call by repeatedly striking a bell or bells, producing a ringing sound.
This "Magneto" bell system is still in widespread use; newer telephones use electronic sounders to produce other noises, but the term "ring" is still used. The ringing signal sent to a customer's telephone is AC at around 90 volts (at 20 hertz in North America, because of the use of 60 Hz mains; other regions with 50 Hz mains use 25 Hz); modern telephones electronically produce a warbling or chirping sound. The signal is sent for every ring and allows phone operators to provide several services with different kinds of rings (for example, rings with a shorter interval between them might be used to signal a call from a given number). When a home phone rings, it may carry Caller ID information and present it on a screen.
The first commercial mobile ring tones were created and delivered in Finland in 1998 when a Finnish mobile operator Radiolinja (today Elisa) started their downloadable mobile ring tone service called Harmonium invented by Vesa-Matti Paananen. The Harmonium contained both tools for general public to create monophonic ring tones and a mechanism to deliver them over-the-air (OTA) via SMS to a mobile handset and to bill customer on their phone bill. The service concept spread quickly in Europe and Asia and developed to be a multi billion dollar industry globally. A ring tone service was one of the very first successful m-commerce services and contained also social media aspects like composing, sharing and rating ring tones. The Harmonium also created quickly a need for high quality professional ring tones and commercial ring tone libraries.
The rise of video games has also contributed to the popularity of ring tones. On August 5, 2006, the BBC reported that "free ringtones" was the eighth most likely search term to return links to malware.
By 2005, ring tones generating more than $2 billion in annual worldwide revenues. Real tones, which are often excerpts from pop songs, have become popular as ringtones.
Types of ringtones
A monophonic ringtone is a ringtone that can play only one type of musical tone at a time.
A polyphonic ringtone is a ringtone that can play several types of tones at a time (up to 72 in recent phones). The first polyphonic ringtones used sequenced recording methods such as MIDI. Such recordings specify what instrument should play a note at a given time, but the actual instrument sound is dependent upon the playback device.
A truetone (also known as "realtone", "mastertone", or "superphonic ringtone") is a ringtone which has been encoded with a high fidelity format such MP3, AAC, or WMA format, and represents the latest evolution of the ringtone. Truetones, which are often excerpts from songs, have become popular as ringtones.
eMelody - Older Ericsson format.
iMelody - Most new phones that don't do Nokia's Smart Messaging are using this format.
KWS - Kyocera's ringer format.
MID / MIDI - Popular sound format.
Morse code - Text files with a .MORSE extension get converted into morse code songs
MOT - An older ringer format for Motorola phones.
MP3 - Some phones support ringtones that are mp3 format.
Nokia / SCKL / OTT - Nokia Smart Messaging format. Nokia phones can receive ringtones as a text message. Ringtone tools can create these text messages. This allows anyone with a compatible phone to load their own ringtones in without a data cable. There are other phones besides Nokia that use this.
PDB - Palm database. This is the format used to load ringtones on PDA phones such as the Kyocera 6035 and the Handspring Treo
QCP - File format generated by Qualcomm PureVoice software.
RTTTL - A popular text format for ringtones.
RTX - Similar to rtttl with some advanced features. Also the octaves are different on rtx.
Samsung1 & Samsung2 - Samsung keypress format.
Siemens Keypress - Can create and read in a Siemens text file format.
Siemens SEO - Siemens SEO binary format.
SMAF - Yamaha music format that combines MIDI with instrument sound data (ala Module files). Filenames have the extension "MMF."
AAC - Some phones like the Sony Ericsson W810i support ring tones in ".m4a" AAC format.