RealNetwork's Listen customises your ringback tones – and we find out what UK networks will support it

Android apps, iPhone apps

listen.pngRealNetworks have today announced a new app offering customised “Ringback Tones” – which are a bit like custom ringtones, but for the people who call you. And we can reveal that it’s coming to T-Mobile, Orange and Virgin Mobile in the UK.

Remember RealPlayer? It’s what we used to use to stream audio and video in those dark, pre-YouTube days. It turns out that the company behind it – RealNetworks – are still around – and are trying something a bit new.

The ringback tone is the “ring ring, ring ring” sound that you hear when you call someone and they haven’t answered yet. This ringing noise has been pretty standard for decades – but it turns out that it can actually be customised. And that’s exactly what this new app does.

Listen, as the app will be known, has a whole host of clever ringback functionality – and will be available for both iPhone and Android.

You can assign different songs to different people in your contacts – and add images so you can see at a glance who you’ve customised. This means you can have it play some vile and offensive hip-hop when your friends call – and something a little more wholesome for your mum. You can even set it to play not a song, but specific “voice status updates” for when you can’t answer – so rather than have people call and wonder why you’re ignoring them, it can tell them that you’re currently driving or whatever.

listen2.pngIt can even automatically do special songs for calls on birthdays or other occasions – which I’m sure isn’t at all unbearable over Christmas. And apparently there’s also functionality to let your friends choose what song they hear when they call you (presumably this will need both of you to be users of the app).

Because it’s an app that plays with the very fabric of telephony, simply downloading the app doesn’t mean it will work – RealNetworks need to make arrangements with individual phone networks. As above, in the UK this means that when it launches here in a few weeks we can expect it to work with T-Mobile, Orange and Virgin Mobile. I think it’s also reasonable to presume that means it’ll also be supported by EE, which is afterall just a merged T-Mobile & Orange.

For similar reasons it can’t just work using the music from your phone – and is instead powered by a database of “thousands” of songs – so you should be able to find what you want… as long as you’re not looking for that unsigned hardcore band you saw in a dive bar that one time.

So it’s certainly an interesting idea – it’ll be interesting to see whether this sort of customisation takes off… and if it does, expect loads more apps trying to do the same thing.

James O’Malley
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