What Is the Difference Between Ringtones & Ringback Tones?

By Tony Myles

Ringtones and ringbacks allow cellphone users to personalize their experience.
i Cellphone image by Jaimie Duplass from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Ringtones are the sounds your phone makes when you receive an incoming call or alert. Shorter sounds typically signal a text message, email or voicemail. Longer ringtones, such as music or homemade audio, are generally used for calls.

Ringback tones offer a personalized sound that others hear when calling your cellphone. Wireless carriers, such as Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and AT&T, offer online media stores and cellphone applications to browse downloadable ringback tones.

Wireless Provider Ringback Tones

Ringbacks replace the standard ringing sounds others hear when calling you. Verizon Wireless offers the option to designate specific ringback music based on the caller, day of the week or time of day. A default ringback can also be set up for all callers to hear. Most users choose a song that expresses their personality and can create conversation. Since this music is offered and hosted by your wireless carrier, you cannot create your own ringback tones.

Visit the website of your wireless carrier or check the downloadable applications for your cellphone to preview and purchase a ringback selection. Determine if there are any other costs, such as a monthly subscription fee for the service.

Wireless Provider Ringtones

Cellphones are typically set to a default ringtone when purchased. Wireless providers offer other ringtones on the phone and to download, but most may require a one-time purchase. Use your phone's applications or go online to browse the selection.

Third-Party Ringtones

Third-party websites, such as PhoneZoo.com and Myxer.com, offer an online catalog of ringtones that are either free or require a small fee. Preview the ringtones and enter your cellphone number to receive the ringtone as an attachment to a text message.

Homemade Ringtones

Most cellphones include a recorder that can be used to create audio for ringtones. An MP3 file on your computer can also be edited to highlight the potion you like via a free audio program, such as Audacity or Windows Sound Recorder. Send these files to yourself or another person as an attachment to a text message, and designate the received audio as a ringtone by using your options menu.