NY Times’ Pogue: Apple’s iTunes ringtones a bargain compared to existing ringtone rip-offs

“Ringtones, of course, are little 30-second snippets from pop songs that play on your cellphone when somebody calls. It’s an insanely profitable industry—to the tune of $5 billion a year, worldwide,” David Pogue blogs for The New York Times.

“Apple is selling a [user-customizable] ringtone and the full song together for $2, and… that’s a bargain… at least compared with existing sources for ringtone sales. Pop song ringtones from T-Mobile and Sprint cost $2.50 apiece; from Verizon, $3. You don’t get to customize them, choose the start and end points, adjust the looping and so on. Incredibly, after 90 days, every Sprint ringtone dies, and you have to pay another $2.50 if you want to keep it. Verizon’s last only a year,” Pogue reports.

“Now, I realize that it’s easy to get ringtones onto your phone (or iPhone) for free, using unauthorized techniques of varying degrees of difficulty. Thousands of people do ringtones that way, but I’m not even going there,” Pogue reports.

“And my intention isn’t to shoot the messenger by blaming Apple for the insanity of this pricing. Apple’s pricing is lower than any American carrier, offers customizability that nobody else does, and gets you both the ringtone and the full song,” Pogue writes. “No, I’m sure that, if you follow the ringtone gravy train to its source, you’ll find record-company executives. There they’ll be sitting, rubbing their hands together with glee and hoping that their young customers don’t identify the ringtone industry for what it is: the last great digital rip off.”

Full article here.

Someone’s got to pay for Middlebronfman’s yacht fuel, right?


  1. What Microsoft and the music labels understand are subscription ringtones. Then you can have ALL of the ringtones. Imagine access to millions of ringtones. More is always better and it’s the best deal of all. I don’t see why the morons at Apple can’t get this very simple concept through their thick heads. You MAC lemmings are getting ripped off.

    Welcome to the Social.™

  2. I had forgotten about that 90-day limit on Sprint ringtones. Back when I had Sprint (never again, the worst coverage I’ve ever seen), I bought a ringtone (Mario Bros. Theme) and was quite happy with it. Then that fateful day, it said my time limit was up. I couldn’t believe I had paid $2.50 for something that lasted only 3 months.

  3. Has anyone ever pointed out the irony of kids (young and old) illegally downloading full CDs and movies, yet shelling out several dollars for a 15-30 second ringtone? I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice.

  4. There are few things in the world I detest more than the custom ringtone market and people that use them. Low quality bites blaring from the tiny, tinny, over-driven speakers of crap-box phones… I really want to hear “I Got Friends in Low Places” 6 times in a row in the food court. Oh yeah, you’re so clever, you set “Imperial Attack” to play when your boss calls. How very droll. You should work in cinema, young jedi.

    …sorry you all had to see that.


  5. Seriously, Sprint and Verizon ringtones kill themselves after a time? And people pay more for these crappy over-compressed mp3? I’ve never bought a ringtone because I had no desire to pay that much for something that I heard only when someone called. That they’re really only good temporarily is an insult that I’m glad I never fell for.

    Pogue’s question in his article, “Why must I pay one fee to play it by tapping Play, and a second fee to play it when someone calls my phone?” is a good one. Why is that? No doubt that it is indeed the demands of the greedy record companies. I can’t wait for digital music distribution to take these asshats out permanently.

  6. Ok… Pogue is smoking a big distilled kool-aid fatty.

    There’s nothing about the iTunes ringtone system that remotely calls for the use of the word, “bargain.”

    On top of that, not only is being forced to pay for something twice an insult of Microsoftian stature, the mere fact that Apple believes I do not have the right to install ringtones that I create from MY OWN intellectual property is detestable.

    This is an all new Apple Computer, and one I don’t like very much at all.

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