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Which came first, Nokia phones or the famous Nokia ringtone? It might come as a surprise that the Grand Vals (also called Grande Valse) ringtone was composed in 1902 – a full 92 years before Nokia released the 2110, the first phone to use an identifiable musical ringtone. That’s not all the immensely popular 2110 had to offer, of course. This solid (235g) handset was one of the earliest digital GSM phones, operating on a single frequency band, and had a large four-line LCD display, Navi-key and SMS messaging. It was also one of the first phones with a vibrating alert – although you did need to buy a replacement vibrating battery to enjoy it. Batteries faded fast in the early days of GSM, but the Nokia 2110 squeezed over 2.5 hours talktime and 30 hours standby from its nickel metal hydride rechargeable. It also had a larger than average 125-entry phone book.

What they say

“Things we’ve managed to do with this handset in 13 years: break a window, open a can of beans through brute force, watch it fall out a first floor window, run our fingers lovingly over the rubber keys. The Nokia 2110 is built to withstand a nuclear holocaust.”

Gareth Beavis, TechRadar

If you only do one thing

Enjoy Francisco Tarrega’s Gran Vals ringtone in all its monophonic glory. The tune – originally composed for the guitar – is actually a legal ‘sound trademark’ of Nokia. Sharp-eared music fans might notice how the final note is an octave lower in the original tune.


In the mid-2000s, a mangled, seconds-long polyphonic ringtone would cost about three times the price of a CD single of the same tune.

But the story of annoying phone melodies, starts with the Lord of the Ringtones, Finnish software developer, Vesa-Matti Paananen. His Harmonium application allowed people to compose simple tunes and share them by SMS.

Incredibly, Paananen then just gave Harmonium away, allowing ringtone ‘aggregators’ to reap billions of pounds by selling jingles to kids.

The most successful ringtone of all time, earning at least £14 milllion, was Crazy Frog, a digitised home-recording of Swedish teenager Daniel Malmedahl pretending to be a motorbike.

At its height, the ringtone market was worth around £4 billion worldwide, but the rise of MP3-playing phones means that it is now a shadow of its former self.