$3.2 billion

May 04, 2004

According to a recent NYT article, consumers spent $3.2 billion on custom ringtones in 2003. What the hell is wrong with people? I remember when predictions of this sort of thing started surfacing a few years ago; I just brushed them off as nonsense, but apparently I was wrong. I just don't get it — who's buying these things? First of all, ringtones should only be used when absolutely necessary. Second of all, if your phone is in your pocket (which I'm assuming it is 99% of the time), it should be on vibrate. Period. That way, you never disturb others with the ring and never have to worry about switching it to vibrate when required. For those who haven't yet received the memo: no one needs to know that you've received a phone call except you.

Ring tone sales are expected to continue to expand as more sophisticated cellphones and advanced technologies become available, which will make the rings sound less like they are being played with one finger on a tiny calliope.

I hate to break it to those out there who think this cash cow is going to last, but this little bubble is going to burst as soon as the majority of mobile phones allow the user to use his own audio files for ringtones (i.e., an MP3 of their favorite song), which is not too far off (I'm referring to the average user's mobile phone, not high-end models that have allowed this sort of functionalilty in one form or another for years). Even then, the argument for having it on vibrate still applies, perhaps more so given society's affinity for bad music these days; the last thing I want to hear when Suzy gets a phone call is "My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard."  :)

Among Cingular's newest offerings are name ringers that seemingly speak to the cellphone owner, as in "Mike. Mike. Answer the phone, Mike."

Again, this is going to be moot when end-user phones support the ability to use personal files (i.e., you could create your own, "hey, dumbass, answer the phone... what? you can't hear this because the phone is in your pocket and you should have it on vibrate?"). I could do this on my old P800 , but the point was lost on me.

At the end of the day, to each his own; if you want to pay for ringtones, so be it. I'll never understand. $3,200,000,000 in one year!

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