Verizon Tones

The Verizon (VZW) Tones app on flip phones was way ahead of its time. The use of ‘tabs’ here was revolutionary.


VZWTones was Verizon’s RingTone and RingBack Tone app. Initially on flip phones (running QualComm’s BREW OS), it was later ported to Android and iOS. At its height, it was the number-one downloaded app worldwide for a few years. Someone once told me that the app’s data needs consumed 10% of Verizon’s early 1x network capacity. I understand it made Verizon well over a billion dollars.

Of course, it allowed you to download and install a ring tones. There was also a ‘preview’ of the tone feature. We had relationships with top artists… people would then use this preview mode as an early ‘Spotify’ to listen to these previews. (Of course, we knew people wanted a music player, but Verizon out-and-out refused at the time since it would blow up their network)

The app initially was for Ringtones. We eventually added ‘ringback’ tones. Ringback tones allow your caller… i.e., your friend, to hear songs you pick for them while they’re waiting for you to pick up. This feature was wildly popular in Asia but never took off in the US.

The app was at the forefront of emerging app UI standards. For instance, we were the first app to use ‘tabs.’ In the middle of the flip-phone era, ‘touch screens’ first came to market. We were the first to use touch in our app, key-holing a ‘next-next-next’ paradigm into direct touch.

This was the user’s manual I worked with Verizon to produce: