A ringtone is a custom sound that plays when some mobile phones receive an incoming call.
Early cell phones had very boring rings, just like standard landline telephones. When a dozen people were in a meeting and one of their cell phones rang, it took some time to sort out whose cell phone was ringing!
Ringtones allow each of us to give our cell phones a bit of personality, while at the same time they help us to sort out our incoming calls from everyone elses incoming calls.
Different models of cell phones from the various manufacturers support an enormous number of different ringtone formats.
Some ringtone formats, such as monophonic and polyphonic ringtones generate the music in real time using the mobile telephone itself as a musical instrument. Other ringtones formats, such as the ubiquitous MP3 format, use pre-recorded music which the phones merely play back.
Getting Ringtones into the Phones
Most mobile phones come with a few default ringtones. These ringtones are usually quite ersatz and undesirable.
Some phones allow you to enter new ringtones using the keypad. This is useful for monophonic ringtones, but limits you to very simple tone sequences. Few of us are talented musicians!
The most advanced mobile phones have removable storage cards, such as SDCards. You write the ringtones onto the storage card using your computer, and then read them off of the storage card using your telephone.
Other advanced telephones come with data cables which allow you to transfer ringtones between your computer and your cell phone. A variation of this is transferring the ringtones using Bluetooth or IrDA.
Finally, a very popular method of transferring ringtones to cell phones is sending them over the mobile telephone network — often as an e-mail attachment. This is the method normally used by websites who sell ringtones online.