How many different notification sounds do you use?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| Published: July 28, 2012

Even if your phone isn’t known for being the platform for customization, at least you know there’s one area where you can let your choices actually make a difference: the sounds. If you’re anything like me, the first thing you do when you get a new phone is start going through the notification and ringtone sounds, trying to find that best sound to alert you to your phone needing attention. Most devices let you have a wide range of options, whether that’s from the options they give you right out of the box, or by giving you the ability to let you use your own music.

So how many different notification sounds do you use on a regular basis?

I was made curious about this during dinner last night. I was at a restaurant, and the dining room was pretty empty. Four groups were at tables scattered around the establishment, and the area was quiet enough that any notification sounds going off from people’s phones could be heard clearly. At a couple points during the night, the room would be tuned up with all sorts of musical notes, digital noises, or even spoken words. It was funny, to a point, and made even better when my own phone started to join the party.

I started to notice that one person, who I can only imagine uses her phone for work in some capacity or another, had all sorts of sounds coming from her phone. Over the course of the night, I heard at least three different sounds come out of her phone. The reason it stuck out to me so much in this particular case, is because she was quick to look at her phone after each individual sound. It didn’t matter the sound her phone made; she had the device in her hand and her eyes glued to the display seconds later.

I imagine that people use notification sounds in much the same way that I do: for clarification. I don’t like to have my phone’s display on all the time, so differing notification sounds give me a chance to know what type of action is happening on the handset without me having to look directly at it. Unless I have to. Or, more accurately, unless I should.

I’ve got three different email accounts on my phone, all of which have a different notification sound. I use these sounds to let me know if my work accounts are getting pinged, or if it’s my personal email account that’s getting all the attention. The sounds let me know if I need to look at my phone now, or if I can wait. The same goes for a notification when I receive a text message, or Google Talk has been used to get in touch with me.

It goes further when I look at specific sounds for specific contacts. I have a different ringtone for my mom than I do for everyone else. I have sounds set up for instant messaging clients, Twitter notifications, and even other social networking sites as well. Basically, if there was ever a moment where all these services got a notification in a quick, staggered way, my phone would blurt out a growing crescendo of different sounds and pitches. I think it would be pretty fun to listen to.

I haven’t added my own music to ringtones in quite some time. I usually forget that’s even a feature. It doesn’t help that on platforms like Windows Phone, it isn’t a feature. Then again, I think Windows Phone needs a better range of notification sounds when Windows Phone 8 lands late this year. Right now, sure, there’s a healthy list of sounds you can choose from for notifications (there could certainly be more), but in my opinion, they all kind of sound the same. They are all just a bunch of digital notes but together, and the pitch of each notification sound is almost the same. Yes, they’re different, but not all that different.

iOS and Android have a healthy range of sounds, and it gets even better for owners of the latter platform when the manufacturers add their own sounds in there for good measure. I was always impressed with the sound options that Research In Motion included with their BlackBerry devices – I can’t help but wonder if that tradition will continue into BlackBerry 10.

So I’m curious, Dear Reader, where do you stand on notification sounds? Do you use a different sound for all sorts of different services on your phone? Or are you someone who just picks one sound for everything and leaves it at that? A notification is a notification, right? Let me know in the comments how many different services/apps have unique notification sounds. Or why you don’t use different options.