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Difference Between Ringtones and Call Tones

Updated on January 24, 2012

Cellphone users can use music clips or other types of audio recordings for both ringtones and call tones. Ringtones have been around for a while, but call tones are now becoming more popular, as well.

Learning the difference between ringtones and call tones is a bit confusing at first because there are obviously two parties to a phone call: the caller and receiver. For example, when you are the receiver, you will hear a ringtone if you have one on your phone. For the very same call, the calling party may hear a call tone.

What is confusing is that you hear a ringtone based on what you personally program into your phone. With a call tone, the caller has nothing to do with programming the tone. Rather, it is the person receiving the call that has programmed the call tone. In other words, ringtones are always heard only by one person: the receiver of a call who programmed in the ringtone on his own phone. Conversely, a call tone is heard by everyone who calls a receiver who has programmed a call tone into his phone.

You might wish to use a call tone if you have a flamboyant personality and would like to show it off. With a ringtone, you are not showing off to anyone except to the people within hearing distance of your phone. Thus, a call tone allows you to display more of your personality to the people who are actually calling you.

The other difference is that ringtones have been around longer and, accordingly, are widely available. You can even download free ringtones in various places online. According to, you need to talk to your service provider to get call tones. An example is T-Mobile's CallerTunes service. Ringtones are also more widely available because you simply install them on your own phone. Technologically, this is much simpler than call tones, which need to be programmed at the phone-company level because they play for everyone who calls you.

Notes: You will find that phone companies often use a different term than "call tone." T-Mobile uses the trademarked term "CallerTunes," and Sprint uses the phrase "ringback tones" to describe a call tone that people hear when calling your phone.

Sources: Where to Get Call Tones

T-Mobile: CallerTunes

Sprint: Ringback Tones


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