The Phone Belch

Why is it that cellphones ring louder the longer they go unanswered? The ring starts quietly, then builds up to an ear-splitting crescendo. I know what the apparent logic to this is — if the phone is right in front of the person, they don’t need it loud to be able to hear it, so the loudness is only needed if the phone hasn’t been answered immediately — but is that really logical?

What happens most of the time is that folk don’t hear the phone ringing immediately because it’s in their pocket/bag/desk/mouth. So they remove it just as the ring gets louder. The phone is now ringing at the loudest volume it can reach, without any clothing/leather/hardboard/teeth to muffle it. By now other folk in the bus/train/office/bed are getting irritated, which is not helped by the callee staring intently at the phone display to figure out who it is and whether it’s worth answering. It’s at that point that the phone’s clever software cranks the volume up a notch.

If phones are so smart, why don’t they fix the volume so that it starts quietly for two seconds, gives one polite belch if no one has answered, and then stays at a modest volume — or no sound at all — until answered or ignored? The belch would be good because everyone will look around, something people never do if a phone is ringing, so there’s very little chance of the callee not being made aware that something is going on. Those offended by the belch idea, or living in classier neighbourhoods, could go for discreet coughs, sneezes or subtle but distinctive exhalations of air. In Hong Kong, still nervous about SARS, a cough or sneeze would empty the bus. That’s how you’d know your phone was ringing: Everyone suddenly got off at the same stop.

Anyway, my message to the phone industry is: Think before you implement clever tweaks like the increasingly-loud-ring-tone. Oh, and if you need someone to record the polite belches, I’m free next Thursday. 

28. April 2005 by jeremy
Categories: Design, Phones | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 comments

Comments (2)

  1. In most phones methinks, the “ascending volume” feature can be set by the user.

    Not so for the latest Siemens phones. Their latest firmware ensures that the volume ascends regardless of the setting. This was, I heard, in response to ‘complaints’ that the phones had a habit of going gangbusters when it starts ringing.

    (subject to corroboration, of course)

    Personally, I don’t need ‘ascending volume’ ALL the time. In fact, for me it’s mute-n-vibrate while in transit (‘coz I’m listening to MP3s), and loud-all-the-way while in the office.

  2. ummm, by “belch” are you referring to a single loud report (SLR) followed by silence? or are you referring to the body-gas combo?
    for the SLR, older nokia phones had (dunno bout the newer ones) a BEEP and buzz combo. which was very polite.
    for the body-gas combo, most phones now have the capability to record and use that for playback. Im sure people have their prferenceto what bodily sound that they would want. (i prefer a do-re-mi belch btw).
    so, sorry to dash your hopes for making millions in playback rights.

    cheers.