Mobile Ringtones - Look in the History

By: Grigoriy Anoshenko

Ringtones is one of the most common and age-old features embedded in mobile phones. It has made its presence felt since the birth of mobile handsets and has evolved from simple monotone to full track songs. Just imagine if we had to hear these monotones throughout the existence of cell phones, it would have become very irritating for us to listen to that single tone all the time. But thanks to the ringtone format technology, today ringtones are available in various formats for our convenience.

The first commercial mobile ring tone was created and delivered in Finland in 1998. It was when a Finnish mobile operator Radiolinja had begun with their downloadable mobile ring tone service called Harmonium. The Harmonium comprised of 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. These ringtones supported only one tone at a time at varying pitches. Most of the first generation mobile phones were embedded with this kind of monophonic ringtones. These ringtones were available in various formats depending on the phone model. One of the most common formats for monophonic ringtones was RTTTL, which was in a text format and could be sent over-the-air (OTA) to a mobile handset via SMS. Most of the initial versions of Nokia handset include ringtones in this format. Some of the cell phones also included melody composer software that enabled us to create our own ringtones with the help of "keypress editor". At this stage, other manufacturers developed their own formats like eMelody and imelody by Ericsson, and KWS by Kyocera's and many more.

After the monophonic phase, came in the polyphonic ringtones, which are embedded in almost all the recently launched handsets of major companies. These ringtones have been originated from Japan circa 2001. They are different from monophonic ringtones because they enable different types of notes to be played at the same time. These ringtones were most commonly found in MIDI formats. However, later on, other formats like SP-Midi and SMAF had also evolved.

Lastly, the third generation ringtones known as "truetones" or "realtones" are ringtones encoded with high fidelity formats such as MP3, AAC or WMA format. Truetones allow hi-fi recordings like vocals, to be used as a ringtone. The first format of truetones was AMR-WB, which were incorporated into Nokia handsets around 2004. This format allowed the extracts from the original recording or master track to be used as a ringtone, whereas the other two were purely instrumental. This is one of the reasons, why truetones have an edge over monophonic and polyphonic ringtones. It is also one of the medium used by the music industry to generate revenue, as extracts of the labels are often released as tones before the singles, in order to promote the album in the market.

Initially, ringtones were only available for download by the service providers and people were charged for it. But thanks to the World Wide Web, Bluetooth and infrared technologies, getting ringtones is a much simpler task now.

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