a history of ringtones

Yet another good New Yorker article, this time about cell phone ringtones.

A kid I met on the subway told me that his mother doesn’t like his new 50 Cent ringtone, “Candy Shop,” not because it features explicitly sexual rhymes but because it’s not as cool as “In Da Club,” a previous 50 Cent ringtone, which received Billboard’s first Ringtone of the Year award, in 2004. A karate teacher in his thirties told me that he spends ten dollars a month on ringtones, and currently has about twenty, most of them polyphonic renditions of Led Zeppelin songs. An architect in her mid-thirties said, “I spent three days of productive work time listening to polyphonic ringtone versions of speed metal, trying to find exactly the ringtone that expressed my personality with enough irony and enough coolness that I could live with it going off ten times a day. In a quiet room, in a meeting, this phone’s gonna go off—what are they going to hear?”

Last year I was aghast to learn that ringtone sales were $3.5 billion dollars worldwide; now they’re $4 billion. I’m still aghast. I fall into the old and deeply uncool demographic for ringtone use; I use a chopin piano concerto that doesn’t make me want to smash the phone every time it rings.

(I got it from slashdot.)

3 thoughts on “a history of ringtones

  1. You think you’re uncool?

    I still use an old Bell telephone, with a big metal clanger that hits a metal bell. One day, I will be forced to get a mobile phone and the ringtone on that will have to be a recording of a big metal clanger that hits a metal bell.

    Anything else doesn’t scream “telephone”.

  2. You have crossed right through uncool and into and old skool and thus cool again. I’ve heard a bunch of clanger ringtones. They are really disturbing. They remind me of hanging out in the basement and putting little plastic disks in the center hole of the 45’s so they would play on the normal record player. In stacks of ten.

  3. Holy crap, Simon beat me to it. I’m in the same camp – my phones at home are Western Electric sets from at least thirty years ago, and my mobile phone is a Sidekick II which rings like a Western Electric. My only gripe with the Sidekick is that the ring is not actually close enough to the real thing for my liking. Of course, regular electronic warbles are fine with me. I can’t stand the musical ringtones.

    I use this thing in public, though, and it certainly manages to catch people off guard:

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