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How to Personalize Your Cellphone

This Mobilook guide helps cellphone users personalize their phone handset and operation. It discusses the various ways to personalize a phone, such as adding ringtones, wallpapers, images and accessories, and how to get the feature items.

  1. Overview
  2. Ringtones
  3. Ringback Tones
  4. Wallpapers (Backgrounds)
  5. Screen-savers
  6. Themes (colors, skins)
  7. Icons
  8. Logos
  9. Caller Group Logos
  10. Face-plates (Covers) and Cases

1. Overview

There are many ways to personalize your mobile phone. You can add a background image to the main screen, add a colorful face-plate, change ringtones for specific callers, add ringback tones for callers to hear, change menu icons, change the screen's theme (colors), and more.

You can make your phone into a personal accessory that matches your lifestyle and shows your personality and style to others.

Personalizing your phone is fun. You can make your phone cool and functional or wild and crazy. It's up to you.

Personalizing your phone is easy. Most recent handsets have some built-in ways to be customized, such as changing themes or ringtones. Many manufacturers and service providers have a wide range of ringtones, images and face-plates available to suit every style and taste.

For the more adventurous, there are software programs that let you design your own tones or images for your phone.

You can spend a little or spend a lot of money personalizing your phone. Buying dozens of premium tones and images can add up. Have a budget for personalization so you don't spend too much. But if showing your style is important to you, then go for top quality bells and whistles.

The most common ways to personalize your mobile phone are:

  • Ringtones – Program different tones (sounds) for you to hear on your phone when different people call you.
  • Ringback tones – Program different tones for callers to hear on their phone when they phone you. Only available from some wireless service providers.
  • Images for the display screen – Themes (skins, colors), screen-savers, wallpaper and logos.
  • Handset face-plates (covers) and cases – Change the exterior appearance of your phone handset.

2. Ringtones

Ringtones, or ringer tones, are custom sounds (melodies) you can add to your phone that you hear when your phone receives a call. Ringtones play sounds such as instruments, voices or tones.

Ringtones are sound files stored on your handset. Older phones can store only one ringtone. Newer models can store up to seven or more. They can be pre-installed on your phone from the manufacturer or downloaded from the website of a service provider.

Ringtones that come standard on your cellphone cannot be deleted or replaced with new ringtones.

There are software programs available for your phone or computer for composing and editing ringtones or sound files for use as ringtones.

There are three ways to add ringtones to a phone handset:

  • Receive a text message (SMS) – from another phone or from a vendor. Ringtone providers have made it easy to buy and download ringtones. Some carriers block downloading ringtones via SMS or WAP to prevent you from getting free ringtones and to force you to buy their ringtones.
  • Transfer a file – from a computer via a data cable or IR (infrared) port. Get the tone or image to your computer from the Internet or another phone. Edit the file, if you want. Then transfer it to your phone.
  • Keypress – By manually entering the ringtone's notes using the edit music menu on your handset. You get a melody composed of a string of monotone sound notes. It's a bit clunky to do, but many free ringtones are keypress codes.

There are three main levels of sound quality of ringtones: monotone, polyphonic and realtone. These are described below:

Monotone (monophonic) Ringtones

Monotone ringtones are single monotone notes that are played one after another. They are in MIDI (electronic sound) format. Monotone ringtones can be sent to your phone via text message (SMS).

Or you can enter or edit the notes using your keypad. Most phones, and all Nokia phones, play monotone ringtones.

An example of this tone programming language is the Ringing Tone Text Transfer Language (RTTTL) format, developed by Nokia.

Polyphonic Ringtones

Polyphonic ringtones play music, but not vocals. They have richer sound quality than that of monotone (single-note) ringtones because they can play many notes at once. A 4-chord polyphonic plays 4 simultaneous notes, which is only slightly better than monotone. Some polyphonics can have up to 40 or 74 chords, if played on compatible handsets. The more chords, the richer the sound.

Most polyphonic ringtones are MIDI files and have a size of 10-20 Kbytes. MIDI ringtones can't reproduce a voice because it is limited to what the phone can produce electronically.

They are usually downloaded from the Internet using a WAP-enabled phone or sent via MMS message. Most modern handsets play polyphonic ringtones. Check the handset's features before you buy.

Realtone Ringtones

Realtone ringtones play real music, song or voice clips that are composed of instruments, vocals, animals, etc.

Realtones have the best sound quality for ringtones because they are a full-frequency audio (sound) recording.

They are stored as an MP3, WAV, AMR or other sound file format. MP3 is the best quality format, but it has a large file size and requires lots of memory on your handset.

For a list of ringtones providers, see our Personalize Your Mobile Phone: Ringtone and Image Providers.

3. Ringback Tones

Ringback tones are custom sounds that play back to a caller when they ring your handset number. A ringback tone plays in place of the simple phone company ringback sound.

Different sounds can be specified for individual phone numbers or groups, as long as the inbound call sends Caller ID information to your phone. For example, you can have your girlfriend hear a love song when she calls, your boss hear a joke, and your mother hear a classical music tune.

Ringback tones do not depend on the phone handset because they are not stored on a handset, as are ringtones. The phone carriers store and control the ringback tones on their network. Any mobile or landline phone can hear a ringback tone.

Ringback tones are available from the service provider (wireless carrier) that supplies your mobile phone number.

4. Wallpapers (Backgrounds)

Wallpaper is the background image that shows on the handset screen. They can be plain, patterns, graphics, photos, logos or any digital image creation.

Many websites have wallpapers available for most phones for free or a fee. Or use an image editing program on your computer to create your own image. Then transfer the image file to your handset.

5. Screen-savers

Screen-savers are animated images that are displayed when the phone is left in standby mode for a period of time. The moving image prevents the screen from being damaged by "burn in" which happens when a static image is left on the display screen for a long time. The result looks like a faded computer display with persistent "ghost" images always visible on the screen.

Screen-savers can look cool, too. There is an unlimited range of creative and artistic images available, such as doodles, cartoons, and photos.

A screen-aver covers up both the operator logo and the name of the current profile but not the time and status bars. Screen savers can be added to the phone by saving a picture message.

Many websites have screen-avers available for most phones for free or a fee.

6. Themes (colors, skins)

A theme, also known as colors or skin, is the palette of colors used to display the header, body, typeface (font) and menu/navigation elements on your handset's screen. A theme is usually a stylish, harmonious or artistic color palette.

You can customize the theme displayed on your handset screen. There are many themes available for some handset models that cover a wide range of color palettes, from soft pastels to hard bold patterns.

Many handset have some optional themes installed. Check your handset's features.

Choose a theme that you like and that is easy to see in all ambient light conditions. A garish (glaring) theme might look cool initially, but will be impractical for regular phone use.

Many websites have themes available for most phones for free or a fee.

7. Icons

Icons are the image symbols used to identify the selections on the graphic menu on a handset screen. Manufacturers install default icons on their handsets.

You can change some or all icons on the menu of a phone, if the handset supports it.

Many websites have icons available for most phones for free or a fee.

8. Logos

A startup logo is the image that is displayed when you turn on the phone before the main screen appears. If your handset and firmware version support startup logos, the only way to add a new startup logo is via a cable or possibly an IR port.

A company that provides software for creating logos for Nokia phones is Logo Manager for Nokia Phones.

9. Caller Group Logos

Caller group logos are the logos that are displayed when a phone number from a specified caller group calls you. Think of it as visual caller ID. The caller must send a valid caller ID.

If your handset supports caller group logos, they can be added via cable, IR port or text message (SMS) from another phone.

10. Face-plates (Covers) and Cases

A face-plate, also called a cover or skin, is a plastic add-on cover that "dresses up" the outward appearance of your handset. It can be used as a fashion accessory or a unique identifier.

You can have different face-plates for different activities or events. For example, at work, at school, with friends or on a date. Match your face-plate to your wardrobe, jewelry, style or looks. If you need several face-plates, consider buying a variety pack of three or five.

A huge variety of face-plate designs, styles, images, patterns and colors are available from many suppliers and retail outlets.

For more – To find products for personalizing your mobile phone, see our Personalize Your Mobile Phone: Providers and Vendors page.

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