If you have ever wondered what people mean when they say "ringback tones", chance are you are not alone. This new service available with the majority of North American cellphone providers has actually been around for a few years, but doesn't seem to have taken off like it did in Asia when ringbacks where introduced there. Just as a quick definition, ringback tones are "the sound you hear when you call someone and are waiting to be connected". Generally this is a 'ringing' sound. With ringback tones you are able to customize this sound so that your callers will now hear a different sound or song when they are waiting for you to pickup.

If you want a more technical description, "the ringback tone is a status indication that the number dialed is available (ie the receiving line is in service and not busy). This requires that the proper connections through the network or networks between the caller and the callee's audio devices are either made, or are available to be made, and the phone call will be connected if the call is picked up - either by an answering service or a person."

All you really need to worry about is that once you have downloaded one or more ringback tones, you can select a ringback from your list of tones and have them play when someone calls you. Now, to be clear, downloading a ringback tone doesn't download the ringback tone to your cellphone like it does when you download ringtones. When you download a ringback, what that means is that the tone is downloaded to your cellphone carriers server, where they will have access to play the tone when someone is trying to connect with your cell number.

This is an important difference between ringtones and ringback tones. You can control ringtones on your cellphone, but ringback tones are controlled by your carrier. This is the major reason that it is not as simple to get free ringback tones like you can with ringtones, and also the reason that you can't create your own ringback tones either. The service carriers have not implemented a system that allows you to send sound file to the server where they will be played on your callers phone.

Having said that, there are a few providers who publishing a small list of ringback tones that can be downloaded for free, Sprint is one of these providers. You need to be aware of the billing structure that applies to the ringback tone service though, as the 'free ringback tones' are not entirely free.

In order to get ringback tones on your phone, you will need to agree to a monthly service charge in order for your cellphone provider to activate the service. This is typically $1.99 per month, although Virgin Mobile is less at $1.49 per month. Once you have the service, you will also have to pay for each ringback tone that you download. You can find most tones for .99 cents, but new releases can be as much as $2.99 or more. Also note that when you buy a ringback tone it will have an expiry date. Most tones are good for a year, but some may expire in as little as three months. You need to check the details for each tone that you download to know how long you will be able to use it. Having different tones on your phone can start to add up quickly. Something you could watch for to save money are ringback tone bundles, where you buy 10 or 20 ringbacks for a package price.

Now that you have a general idea about ringbacks, here is the best part. You are able to customize your ringback tones on your phone so that different callers will hear different tones. You can choose a funky hip-hop tune for your mates, and put some oldie tune on for the folks. Another way you can customize who hears your tones is to set certain tones to play during different times of the day. For example, one ringtone might play while you are in school, one while you are at work, and one in the evenings when you are free.

Setting up ringback tones on your cellphone is an easy and fun way to customize your phone. I hope this essential ringback tones articles has given you enough information to get you started.