The horror of ring tunes

January 3, 2007

A phone playing a crappy ring tune.I hate mp3 ring tunes. Everybody else loves them. This is a problem.

I’m sitting at home, minding my own business, when suddenly I hear a screeching, static sound. Some combination of a TV not on a channel, a blown out speaker playing music, and a dying yak. My mind races - what could this be? Should I take cover? Nevermind, it’s just my roommate’s cell phone “playing” heavy metal at its max volume. I don’t have a problem with heavy metal, but apparently his phone does - it just doesn’t have the capability to convey the song that loud without it sounding like Mötley Crüe is going through a trash compactor as they attempt to play whatever song it is (I can’t even tell, I’m pretty sure it has cymbals in it.)

What gets me most is that the owner of the phone in question is an audio engineer - he understands and respects music for all that it should be. For everything except his cell phone ring tone, he demands the best. Yet for his phone, he’ll put up with awful audio quality - and so does everyone else. People are paying as many millions each year for ringtones as they are for proper song downloads (e.g. iTunes). You can’t go 5 minutes in public without hearing the latest pop song trying to escape the tinny clutches of a cell phone speaker.

Am I the only one who just wants my phone to gently yet successfully notify me of a call? My (somewhat old) phone can beep when it gets a call, pause then beep more and more frequently until I pick it up or answer. Combined with vibration, the beep works great for me and doesn’t annoy anybody around me. I have no particular love of beeps - I’d be happy with a chime, a chord from any instrument, or maybe even a simplified, coherent, high-quality version of a song. These are the sorts of notifications all other electronics give you when you use them, why can’t people be happy with them on their phones?

© Allen Pike. See also Twitter and Steamclock.