- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2009

We were once satisfied with a simple ringy-dingy.

Once.

Phones that chirp, rumble, bark, hoot, burp, warble or grandly announce themselves in the voice of former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich are simply a given these days, even if it’s during church. Or a funeral. The ringtones seemingly can’t get any more invasive.

Up until now, perhaps. Disco phone has arrived. The “LifeVibes MixDJ FX” handset was introduced in Barcelona on Monday at the GSMA Mobile World Congress, an international showcase displaying the new wares of 1,200 manufacturers.

“Users create cool effects for a professional DJ sound. The software enables the kind of sound effects commonly found on professional DJ consoles such as flanging, phasing, reverb and time-stretching,” manufacturer NXP said.

“Users can overlay audio clips and do instant scratching,” the company added, indicating that the creative phoner can rub the phone’s touchscreen and subject the ringy-dingy of their choice to endless electronic alterations.

Such technology arrives at a time of great unrest in the phone world. We love our phones, but seem to hate everyone else’s, according to a spate of recent surveys.

Eighty four percent of Americans have a cell phone, and we spend 2.2 trillion minutes on them a year, according to the Wireless Association, an industry group. An increasing number of people are opting to be buried with their phones, according to the Future Laboratory, a London-based think tank, and the American Funeral Director, an industry magazine.

Asked whether they would give up their cell phone or their “significant other,” 44 percent of American men said the sweetheart would go before the phone, according to a survey by Energizer, the battery maker.

Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation found that two-thirds of us would never give up our cell phone, a sentiment echoed worldwide. A United Nations report released Monday revealed that mobile phones are now deemed a “basic necessity” in most countries despite economic doldrums, with the fastest growing mobile markets in Nigeria and India.

The industry is “one of the few locomotives which can help pull our economies out of the current slump,” said Alexander Izosimov, chairman of VimpelCom, a Russian phone provider.

“Governments need to adopt policies that nurture this potential, rather than stifling it,” he added.

Still, the term “cell phone rage” has been in popular use since 1999 and now encompasses our annoyance with other people’s ringtones and oblivious conversations, drivers compromised by their cell phones and unscrupulous service providers.

But the manufacturers are onto such divided feelings.

Along with the DJ handset, green-minded virtuousness also entered the marketplace. Other debuts Monday included Samsung’s Blue Earth, billed as “the world’s first solar-powered mobile phone.” Tiny solar panels are located on the back of the phone; a 10-hour charge in the sun yields four hours of talk time.

Guilty phoners also can consider Nokia´s 5630 XpressMusic, which features a built-in calculator that figures one’s personal carbon footprint, along with Motorola´s Moto W233, made entirely from recycled plastic water bottles.

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