What is a Polyphonic Ringtone?

Jeff Petersen
Jeff Petersen

A polyphonic ringtone is a cell phone ringtone in which more than one note of a song are played at the same time. It can offer a more complex sounding song than the monophonic ringtone, because it allows harmony, instead of a single line of music.

Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

If your cell phone has polyphonic ringtone capability, your choice of ringtones is vastly greater than that available from a phone without it. Newer phones may play MP3s, allowing you to use an actual recording of a song, but polyphonic ringtones give a close approximation of the instrumental melody and harmony. A phone with a this type of can be considered the middle ground between a phone that can only play one note at a time and a phone that can play MP3 music.

A polyphonic ringtone can be a great way to express your individual tastes while customizing your cell phone. It is often less expensive to purchase from your cell phone service provider than an MP3 ringtone, so for the same amount of money, you can afford more choices. You might set one ringtone to announce calls from family, another for work calls, a third for calls from friends, and a fourth one for unknown numbers.

Cell phones with polyphonic capabilities are very popular, so there is a wide variety of songs to choose from. A new cell phone often comes with around a dozen of these ringtones already installed, and it is simple to order more from your cell phone service provider through their website, or often through a feature on the phone itself.

Options for different styles of polyphonic ringtones range from country music to rock and roll, pop to heavy metal, television to movie themes, and video game music and classic cartoon themes to classical music and opera. Some phones even give an aspiring song writer the option to program his or her own songs into the phone to use as a polyphonic ringtone, or to add custom variations to a favorite song.

Jeff Petersen
Jeff Petersen

Jeff is a freelance writer, short story author, and novelist who earned his B.A. in English/Creative Writing from Creighton University. Based in Berkeley, California, Jeff loves putting his esoteric knowledge to good use as a EasyTechJunkie contributor.

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Discussion Comments


Does anyone know if polyphonic ringtones are actually composed by someone, or do they simply put popular songs into a program that produces simplified, polyphonic versions? If they are actually made by a musician I would love to get involved with something like this. I love tinkering with pop songs and creating new and unexpected versions.


The best ringtone I've ever had was a midi version of Gwen Stefnai's Holla Back Girl. I'm pretty sure it was a polyphonic ringtone. I had it on a cellphone I had a few years ago and now it is lost to the ages. I looked around online a little to try and download it all over again but I couldn't find the same version. I'm hoping its out there somewhere. If not, no big deal. Its just a ringtone, right?


Its kind of funny to read about polyphonic ringtones because only a few years ago they were such a big deal and now they are used by almost no one. It just goes to show how fast technology changes.

When they first came out, polyphonic ringtones seemed like music to everyone's ears. We had all become used to the bland and often silly sounding monophonic ringtones that the earliest cell phone used. Not only did these sound bad, but the often drew on the worst compositions for ringtone ideas.

Now most cellphones use MP3s as their ringtone and the quality is outstanding. It is like having a little stereo in your pocket that is always ready to play your favorite song. I'm glad polyphonic ringtones were there to bridge the gap, but I will not miss them now that they are gone.

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