A phone “rings” when its network indicates an incoming call and the phone thus alerts the user. For landline telephones, the call signal can be an electric current generated by the switch to which the telephone is connected. For mobile phones, the network sends the phone a message indicating an incoming call.
A telephone “ring” is the sound generated when there is an incoming telephone call. The term originated from the fact that early telephones had a ringing mechanism consisting of a bell and an electromagnetically-driven hammer, producing a ringing sound. The aforementioned electrical signal powered the electromagnet which would rapidly move and release the hammer, striking the bell. This "magneto" bell system is still in widespread use. The ringing signal sent to a customer's telephone is AC at 90 volts and 20 hertz in North America. While the sound produced is still called a “ring”, more-recently manufactured telephones electronically produce a warbling, chirping, or other sound. Variation of the ring signal can be used to indicate characteristics of incoming calls (for example, rings with a shorter interval between them might be used to signal a call from a given number).
The first downloadable mobile ring tone service was created and delivered in Finland in autumn 1998 when a Finnish mobile operator Radiolinja (today Elisa) started their service called Harmonium. Invented by Vesa-Matti Pananen., the Harmonium contained both tools for individuals to create monophonic ring tones and a mechanism to deliver them over-the-air (OTA) via SMS to a mobile handset. On November 1998, Digitalphone Groupe, the current SoftBank Mobile, started the similar service in Japan.
The service concept spread quickly in Europe and Asia and developed into a multi-billion dollar industry. A ring tone service was one of the very first successful m-commerce services, with social media features like composing, sharing, and rating ring tones. The Harmonium also quickly created a market for high-quality professional ring tones and commercial ring tone libraries.
Truetones (or real tones), which are often excerpts from pop songs, have become popular as ring tones. The first truetone service was started by au on December 2002. My Gift to You by Chemistry was the first song to be distributed as a truetone.
The rise of video games has also contributed to the popularity of ring tones. On August 5 2006, the BBC described "free ring tones" as a dangerous search term, because of the risk of malware and other malicious websites.
By 2005, ring tones generated more than $2 billion in annual worldwide revenues.
Sales and marketing of ring tones is a prime example of vertical telecommunication convergence.
Fixed phones of the late 20th century and later detect this AC voltage and trigger a warbling tone electronically. Mobile phones are fully digital, hence are signalled to ring as part of the protocol they use to communicate with the cell base stations.
In fixed POTS phones, ringing is said to be "tripped" when the impedance of the line reduces to about 600 ohms when the telephone handset is lifted off the switch-hook. This signals that the telephone call has been answered, and the telephone exchange immediately removes the ringing signal from the line and connects the call. This is the source of the name of the problem called "ring-trip" or "pre-trip", which occurs when the ringing signal on the line encounters excessively low resistance between the conductors, which trips the ring before the subscriber's actual telephone has a chance to ring (for more than a very short time); this is common with wet weather and improperly installed lines.
Early research showed that people would wait until the phone stopped ringing before picking it up. Breaks were introduced into the signal to avoid this problem, resulting in the common ring-pause-ring cadence pattern used today. In early party line systems this pattern was a Morse code letter indicating who should pick up the phone, but today, with individual lines, the only surviving patterns are a single ring and double-ring, originally Morse code letters T and M respectively.
The ringing pattern is known as ring cadence. This only applies to POTS fixed phones, where the high voltage ring signal is switched on and off to create the ringing pattern. In North America, the standard ring cadence is "2-4", or two seconds of ringing followed by four seconds of silence. In Australia and the UK, the standard ring cadence is 400 ms on, 200 ms off, 400 ms on, 2000 ms off. These patterns may vary from region to region, and other patterns are used in different countries around the world.
A service akin to party line ringing is making a comeback in some small office and home office situations allowing facsimile machines and telephones to share the same line but have different telephone numbers; this CLASS feature is usually called distinctive ringing generically, though carriers assign it trademarked names such as "Smart Ring", "Duet", "Multiple Number" and "Ringmaster." This feature is also used for a second phone number assigned to the same physical line for roommates or teenagers, in which case it is sometimes marketed under the name teen line. Caller ID signals are sent during the silent interval between the first and second bursts of the ringing signals.
The interrupted ring signal was designed to attract attention and studies showed that an intermittent two tone ring was the easiest to hear. This had nothing to do with the coded ringing that was used on party line.
Newer mobile phones allow users to associate different ring tones with individual family members and friends. Taking advantage of these features, a new ring tone maker trend has emerged. For example, websites like Mobilephoria, Phone Sherpa, and Dopetone let users make ring tones from the music they already own (MP3, CD etc.) and upload directly to their mobile phone with no limit on the number of songs uploaded. In addition to the cost benefits, a key feature is the music editor that lets the user easily pick the part of the song they wish to set as a ring tone. Such services automatically detect the phone settings to ensure the best file type and format. There are, however, providers who have already edited and trimmed the song for you.
Some providers allow users to create their own music tones, either with a "melody composer" or a sample/loop arranger (such as the MusicDJ in many Sony Ericsson phones). However, these use native formats only available to one particular phone model or brand. Other formats, such as MIDI or MP3, are often supported; they must be downloaded to the phone before they can be used as a normal ring tone. Commercial ring tones take advantage of this functionality, which has led to the success of the mobile music industry. Southern rapper Chamillionaire was the first to have a ring tone go 3x platinum for the hit single "Ridin." He now has his own category on certain phones.
The latest innovation is the sing tone, a type of karaoke ring tone where a user’s voice recording is adjusted to be both in time and in tune then mixed with a backing track to make a user-created ring tone.
An alternative to a ring tone for mobile phones is a vibrating alert. It may be useful:
The Internet-based transition was further marked in 2005 with the on-air, G4TechTV review of "SmashTheTones" (now "Mobile17"), the first third-party solution to allow ring tone creation on a webpage without requiring downloadable software or a digital audio editor. With the Internet now playing the process' largest role, other websites began to offer such tools and ring tone making has not only become simplified but more accessible to the average user.
On July 20, 2005, the Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN), a non-profit California consumer advocacy organization, filed a complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) against Cingular Wireless for the unauthorized billing of non-communications related charges, such as ring tones. UCAN claimed that Cingular billed its customers for Jamster! and other similar ring tone services without providing customers with the notice, opt-in, and proof of authorization requirements necessary for such charges. UCAN further charged Cingular with violating numerous CPUC requirements by consistently telling customers with questions about non-communications service charges on their wireless phone bill that Cingular has no responsibility and cannot assist customers with their inquiries.