Google Patents Ringback Tone Ads – Coming Soon To A Phone Near You?


Google and ads go together like Apple and lawsuits. Heck, it’s the reason Google is even around in the first place. And if you own an Android device, you’ve no doubt seen an ad or two either pop up inside one of your applications, or possibly invade your homescreen. Well, Google is always looking for new ways to bring ads to the masses and it looks like they’ve found a new way to bring a few more to your phone, this time — while you place call.

A patent was filed and recently awarded to Google, allowing Big G to place audio adverts in place of that boring old ringing tone you hear when making a call. Think ringback tone, but with no music, just advertisements. Advertisers in return, are billed according to how long the user goes on listening to the advertisement before the caller on the other end picks up. If that sounds wild to you, this actually isn’t too far off from what The Onion parodied/predicted in a video a few years back. Looks like Google took it to heart?

While there’s no real way to predict if something like this will ever make it to our devices, how would you guys feel about listening to advertisements when placing calls? Too intrusive? Or could a potentially discounted phone bill make up for it?

[USPTO | Via Engadget]

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. If they make this something a user can opt into for like a 20% kickback to the user I can see this being huge.

    1. +1 – BUT there MUST be a kickback and it MUST be opt in.

      1. Agreed, although I would even take a $100-off-the-phone coupon, or a “upgrade one year early” sort of deal.

  2. That or a ring, who cares, doesn’t really make a difference.

  3. I will get paid to listen to ad’s all day! you dont even have to listen…..not like you actually “listen” to it ring any way….you just “hear it”

  4. Not a chance. I already see too many ads I could care less for. I mean how many men want to see (or listen to) an ad for invetro fertilization.

  5. Doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me.  I would rather listen to mildly entertaining ads (gotta admit, some are pretty good…) than the dull ringing.  If they also incorporate bill discounts, where do I sign? lol

  6. Another reason to root your phone and install an ad blocker.

    1. I don’t think an adblocker will be able to block ringback tones… O_o

  7. Google files patent to implant advertising chip in all humans, ads 24/7.
    Selling my cellphone if this happens.

    P.S. Ads don’t work, we have become so inundated with them they are now tuned out!

    1. If ads didn’t work, Google and Android wouldn’t exist.

      Billions of dollars say they work.

  8. sounds, coolish to me.

    1. sounds assholish to me.

  9. I didn’t know people use the phone

  10. Is Eric oreily the guy from that PBS show cyberchase? Come on I can’t be the only one watching that show

  11. Eff no! So tired of the ads. The only way, is if you have to opt in to it. I don’t want to hear ads when I call somebody. Next thing you know, they will put ads in ads about ads. 

  12. Who uses their phone as a phone?

    1. I hardly do at all. The thing that bugs me, is I speculate carriers will be bribed into setting a delay until the other phone rings, so that ads are played longer, and Google collects more money. Then, Google pays the carriers for incorporating that delay, and also takes up more of your minutes. Win for the companies, lose for the consumer.

      1. Bullcrap you don’t have to pay if a phone rings for an hour and don’t get picked up :) You pay from the moment the phone is awnsered (by the person or voicemail)…

        Besides the fact that the patent is filled in 3 years ago, it doesn’t even mean the technoligy will be used soon

        1. So maybe the minutes usage part wasn’t correct, but what I’m saying is; If these ad companies are paying Google, then Google might pay the carriers to “delay” the call a bit so more of the ad plays. If they want to be extra greedy.

          But still. We have enough ads in our lives. They’re everywhere. If I start hearing an advertisement every time I place a call, I’ll be shutting my phone off.

          1.  Verizon only has a hand full of old switches where they can even modify ring time (obsolete system)…I assume other carriers are the same…

  13. Doesn’t matter to me. I’m going to be listening to something I don’t care about either way. Advertisement, ringing sounds, whatever.

    1. I know, who needs to hear another gay incubus song again anyways!

    2. You’ll care when the advertisements hits.  as it stands, it’s easy to focus on other things while you are waiting on a line playing elevator music.  While you’re waiting you’re probably listening to your own music, tv or reading something.  It’s inherently distracting when a voice comes on the line and you have to switch gears ready to respond, only to find out it’s just another ad.  So you go back to what you’re doing…. and then another voice comes on.  damn it.. another ad.   30 minutes later you’ve listened to 100 ads and you’re pissed off because the people won’t pick up your call.    Also, some of those ads will be deceptive (and louder than elevator music) to draw you into listening to them. 

      Having worked on the fringes in marketing, I know the shitty tricks they play. You do not want this.

  14. If I’m forced to hear advertisement when im making a call, I better damn well be getting some sort of kick back for the annoyance factor or atleast able to opt out.

    Don’t realy need to be hearing adds for herpes medication while callin up a girl for a night time romp…. Kind of puts you out of the mood………..

    Condom adverts when callin mom? Diapars when callin gramps… ok, that ones kindda funny, but you get the idea.

    People would absuse it if there were some sort of kick back tho. I know
    I’d call another phone in the house, turn the volume down and let it sit
    there and advertise (ring) for a couple hours a day…….

    How would this effect T-Mo customers who already have custom rings set up for when someone calls them? Wil this override this feature that they have? Thats kind of F-ed up it it does…

  15. I find it way too intrusive.  Ads in app and everything is one thing but an ad every time I pick up the phone to call someone?!  Though it would be fun to see how long it takes someone to find a way to block ’em.

  16. Calling a google advertiser ? Free phone call.

    Did your pay as you go phone balance drop to 0 ? 15 second ad for free 3 minute phone call.
    Like it or not, it will happen. And some people will accept it, and others will not.

  17. Sounds like something they could use with Google Voice when people make calls with it. But, not with a paid carrier.

    Next thing you know, Google is listening to your conversation, you talk about t-shirts, and an Old Navy ad with Mr. T inturrupts your conversation. Uuuuugggggg!

  18. I already can’t stand ringback tones.  People paying for music that only other people can hear – whoever came up with THAT was a GENIUS (I wouldn’t have thought so at the time, but it’s apparently very successful).  As for the people that pay for them, well, I won’t go there.

    If this is something implemented on the caller’s end without some ability to opt out, I’ll immediately find a new carrier.  If it’s on the receiver’s end, I’ll refuse to call that person, and when they finally call me, I’ll tell them why.

  19. quite a logic leap from “google is aiming for a patent” to “they’re going to implement this”. It’s more a protection thing from vague patents.

  20. If it was optional and I would get a part of the generated income – why not.
    I’d go for it.

  21. its the onion so its not real. but if it was real, then i would be so pissed at google. i HATE ads.

  22. Great for those telemarketers that call you!

  23. That Whisper technology is frightening.  There’s no amount of money I’d take to have my calls interrupted like that.  The ringback thing isn’t as bad but I’d still opt out and just pay for my phone/services.

  24. Something like this, if it wasn’t something that I could opt-out of (or that required you to opt-in) would get me to stop using Android. That is how absurd, stupid, annoying and offensive to me, it would be.

  25. After reading the comments on engadget, I can’t believe how entitled people really are. If I were CEO of Google, I would take the 40+ billion dollars, cut severence checks to everybody, and shut down ALL Google services like search, YouTube, maps, etc. I know phandroid has some intelligent readers, but if you go to other tech blogs, everyone acts they they deserve these things for free. You have to give a little to get a little…… unfortunately no one wants to give and everyone wants to take :(

    1. You act as if the world would magically end without google. We’d use a differnt search engine (many do already) Google Maps isn’t the only Map/GPS in the world, Youtube could be replaced. It wasn’t created by Google afterall, only bought by them. Etc etc. Google isn’t God…….

      If they want and give me FREE phone calls and data every month or pay my montly bill then sure, Ill listen to the stupid ads, but I pay monthly for my phone calls and data and I don’t want to hear ads when making phone calls…….

    2. Luckily you’d never get to the point where you would be CEO of anything as that is not how business works.   How are people getting stuff for free?   Our cell phone bills aren’t free.   Putting data caps on our plans aren’t free.   The phones aren’t free.   Nothing is free, so quit trying to pretend your above the noise here.

      Unfortunately some people don’t understand how reality and business go hand in hand.

    3. ingua2 and Aslan, I can understand the point tony0101 is trying to make. Google has to support itself from somewhere, and that somewhere is ads. Without ads there would be no Google, and so you just have to learn to accept the good with the ads when it comes to Google.
      To ingua2, we get plenty of stuff for free, we get free maps and navigation, we get free word processing and image processing. We get free Youtube and free translation between languages. Everything Google gives us is free, or rather everything Google gives us is paid by ads.  Google makes Android for free, so even though you may pay for the phone and the plan, Google gets none of that, even though it put a lot of work into it. So is it hard to see it wants to make some money from it somehow?

      To Aslan, you think the other “free” services don’t also make money by advertising? You say Google isn’t god, and you’re right. If Google disappeared it would quickly be replaced by alternatives, and those alternatives would make money either by A) charging you for the service or B) advertising.As for how that would be relevant to the phone argument that’s simple. If Google disappeared there would be no Android, so its market share would be taken, probably by a combination of iOS and Windows phone. The first option puts higher premiums on all its phones than any other company, and the second option charges phone manufacturers for putting the OS on their phones. Either way you are paying, albeit indirectly.


  27. I would love to know if there is some way for the common person to help stop “patents” like this. Kudos to Google for identifying a new market opportunity, but I can’t see this as an “invention”. I’m no expert, but if they challenged me with coming up with a way to swap in an audio ad for the normal ringback tone, it would probably be trivial, even including filtering a subset of ads targeted to the caller’s profile.

  28. If they pay my bill in full, sure

  29. If you get a discount on your bill I’d opt in.

  30. I’m surprised people are so negative about this. The ringing tone is boring and dull. I’d much rather listen to something vaguely interesting or entertaining, even if it’s an ad.

    Let me put it this way, when you’re put on hold on a customer service line, a lot of the time you listen you a pile of ads about the company you’re calling. Would you instead prefer to listen to the ringing tone? No, because the ads are less boring than “bring bring” over and over.How is this any different?

    1. I’m surprised that you’re surprised people don’t want more spam.  While the government does nothing with the Do Not Call list, junk mail or spam email, now you don’t mind everyone being bombarded with this crap?

      Besides, if you’re on hold with customer support for 20 minutes doing other things, it’s a lot easier to distinguish between elevator music and the rep getting on the phone to respond to you.   By having ads air repeatedly while you wait, it makes it harder to multitask, especially if the ads start to act crafty with “hello, I’m Donna, I’m here to help…. save you money on your car insurance.”

      This is an extremely bad move on Google’s part and without an opt in, I can’t see digging Google much longer after that.

      1. I don’t like “spam” if it in any way hinders me in what I want to do. To me telemarketers are a different, because it’s far more intrusive, it actually stops you from doing whatever you were doing. Spam emails don’t bother me because of filters on my email. If I want to go look at my spam email (and I do) I’ll go look at it, but it doesn’t hinder me in getting to the emails I want. Junk mail also doesn’t bother me at all. If it’s interesting junk mail I read it, if it isn’t I throw it away. I like getting junk mail, because I like to peruse them and see what’s available at what price.

        To me this advertising is simply another instance of non-intrusive advertising. It doesn’t hinder me doing what I want to do, it doesn’t stop me in any way, so why should it bother me? It is filling a “space” that was previously empty and useless, so unlike ads on websites, it’s not taking up space that previously could have been used for something more useful.

        To me it’s analogous to seeing a giant blank brick wall in a city, vs one with a bright and colourful ad on it. I’d rather the ad, because at least it ads some colour. I’d prefer a lovely mural still, but heck I’ll take the ad over a blank wall any day.

        I personally don’t have any problems distinguishing between an actual person and an ad when I’m waiting on a customer service line, but even if it hinders you multitasking whilst you wait the argument doesn’t carry over to the ring-tone. You don’t multi-task whilst waiting for a friend to pick
        up a phone, you don’t do anything, you just wait.

        Obviously this is just my opinion and if that’s not your opinion that’s
        fine. To me we live in a big, colourful world, lit up by the neon Coca-Cola
        sign, and I personally don’t mind at all :)

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  32. Really? That’s so amazing I’m going to go do whatever you tell me!


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