Over 1 billion cell phones are now sold world wide annually, with well over 200 million in use in the United States alone. With almost everyone seeming to have one these days – from Grandma Pat to 10 year old Cousin Kimmie – there is a strong market for anything “mobile.”

One thing that everyone with phones can attest to is that the carrier company will charge you for anything and everything they can. As the capabilities of our phones grows exponentially – one of the basic upgrades you can do for your phone is to get a custom ringtone. Ringtones are a great way to show you aren’t technology handicapped by sporting the carriers’ theme ringer that is all too familiar to anyone not living in a box. Custom ID ringtones ring only when the person it is set for calls – so you can know who is calling before you even get out the phone – for example when “Mama Said” by The Shirelles goes off you know it’s your Mom calling you without looking at the phone, as opposed to if “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train goes off – you know that is the ID ringtone of your girlfriend, and so on and so forth.

The downside however is that ringtones from your carrier can cost anywhere from $2.99 to $5.99 for a 15 second sound clip that usually isn’t from the best part of the song, or isn’t very good quality. So what’s my tech solution? Mobile17

Mobile17.com is a free website that only requires that you sign up for a free user name account so it can store your phone brand and carrier info so you don’t have to go though the set-up process every time you go to their site.

Cell phone selection menu

On this page you are asked to select the type of cell phone you use based on your service provider, cell phone brand, and cell phone model

After initially signing up the free account and selecting your carrier brand (Verison, AT&T, etc.) and your phone brand (Moterolla, Samsung, Apple, HTC, etc.) your phone model (Chocolate Touch, Rogue, iPone, Droid, etc.) and entering in your phone number you’re set to go. All you have to do is click “Create a new ringtone” and browse to upload the song you would like to use from your computer.

Also keep in mind that you can use websites to rip songs for free – as mentioned in my previous post “YouTube Audio Ripping – The Newest Secret in Internet Piracy.”

Uploading a song file

Here is the window used to upload a music file to be used as your ringtones. Enter file information as well as the in and out points for where the ringtone should start and end.

From there you enter in at what time in the song you want the ringtone to start at, and what time you want it to end at (keeping in mind most phones will cut clips off at anything past 25-30 seconds). A cool new feature to the site in the last few months is recognition of the song title when you enter it – and presenting time suggestions that were most popular with other users who uploaded the same song.

Wait time message for ringtone

Once the upload is complete, as message appers confirming the upload, and stating the wait time before the file can send. You can also opt to skip the line by donating to the website.

The only downside to the free service is the wait time. Sometimes it can take as little as 20 minutes for your ringtone to send, but others I have had to wait as long as 4 or 5 hours for it to go through. It all depends on how much traffic and demand there is on their site, as well as how much traffic is on your cell phone providers network. The alternative is to pay a small donation to Mobile17 and they’ll send the ringtone right away – but the point of this article is to tell you free ways to get stuff, and that is the route I recommend as long as you aren’t in a desperate need to get that latest tune as your ringtone.

Occasionally Mobile17 drops the ball and your free ringtone never comes. Nothing lost – you simply have to go back onto the site and upload and send the song again. Mobile17 also lets you custom create wallpaper images for your phone as well, but my experiences with that show it’s not as reliable as their ringtone services. The images are often not formatted right with parts being cropped or edged with a white border because of sizing and formatting mistakes.

Mobile17 is another great free tech tool out there for anyone looking to keep their technology fresh and changing. Custom ringtones are a fun way to keep your phone new, and a great trick to knowing who’s calling you before you even pull your phone out. The ease of their service at Mobile17 is great, and as long as you don’t mind a bit of a wait for the free tone to get to your phone – you are guaranteed to love this program.