Mobile phone ringtones have been around for nearly a decade now, with the first commercial ringtone services said to have emerged in Finland in 1997. Gradually, they have become an established part of modern life, with some of them becoming headline news over the years. So as we look back over the history of ringtones, which stand out as the “big hits” or “classics” of this new kind of music format? Here is an attempt at a top 10 list.
The Nokia Tune, based on a 13 note rendering of “Gran Vals” by Francisco Tarrega, a 19th-century Spanish musician, is typically included within all Nokia handsets as the default ringtone and has therefore become famous or infamous due to its popularity. It is the typical ringtone of the middle-aged business man who hasn’t got the time or inclination to work out how to change it.
The mosquito tone or “Teen Buzz” is based on adaption of a high-frequency sound designed to repel teenagers from hanging around outside shops, without bothering older people, who could not hear the sound due its pitch. It began being used and sold as a “silent ringtone” for teenagers to use, for example in class, without the teacher being able to hear it.
The “Crazy Frog” ringtone was based on an animation called “The Annoying Thing” by Erik Wernquist, and made famous by the mobile content company Jamba who heavily promoted “The Crazy Frog” on TV and the internet. The ringtone spawned a chart hit based on a remix of “Alex F” which went to No.1 in the UK, Japan, Australia and a number of European countries;.
Nokia Morse Code SMS alert
Similar to the Nokia Tune, the Nokia SMS alert is probably the most famous “SMS tone” designed to be used for text message notifications. The tone spells out “S-M-S” in Morse Code.
Classic telephone ring
With the rise of personalised tones a lot of people have decided to avoid them in favour of the classic “bell ringing” sound of a normal telephone. A number of surveys over the years have shown this to be one of the most popular tones.
In 1992, Sir Mixalot, a rapper had a huge hit with “Baby Got Back” which was re-recorded as a ringtone with the lyrics “Pick up the phone! Pick up the phone! ‘Cause you don’t want to miss this call and I cannot lie!.” This was one of the first “ringtone remixes” of popular songs to achieve success after being marketed by Jamba, the same company that produced the Crazy Frog ringtone.
Ringtones based on the sounds “R2D2” from the film Star Wars makes in the film are emerging as a popular choice for ringtones. R2D2 sounds make a great choice for a ringtone as they are loud, easily heard and distinctive but just about manage to avoid a tack, novelty feel like some ringtones.
Nokia Dying Remix
Based on the classic Nokia Tune, the Nokia “Dying” or “Flat Battery” remix is a humorous version of the classic Nokia Tune where the sound eventually goes flat or explodes, giving a nod to the annoyance that it can cause when heard repeatedly.
The popular TV show “24” features a highly recognisable ringtone on the phones in the CTU office complex. The same sound is now being marketed as a ringtone for mobile phones and is rapidly becoming a big hit.
When Steve Jobs announced the launch of the iphone in early 2007, his demonstration included a ringtone, which was quickly made available as a recording by a number of websites. The ringtone has been described as like “holy angels tinkling” and was eventually included within the standard ringtone set on the iphone.