The Origin Story of Nokia’s Ringtone

Man holding an old Nokia 3310 phone.

The Nokia ringtone may be one of the most recognized jingles in the world. (Image: Petrajz via Dreamstime)

Nokia’s ringtone may be one of the most recognized jingles in the world. It is a ringtone that transcends generations and has a touch of nostalgia connected to it. Even people who haven’t heard the tone will think it sounds familiar. 

Nokia phones have a cult following, especially the Nokia 3300, which is even the star of some memes online as the “​​indestructible phone.” It is a prominent figure in the world of meme subculture. 

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So where did Nokia’s ringtone come from? Well, it’s actually a good, simple story.

Francisco Tárrega

Francisco Tárrega’s composition titled Grand Vals is where Nokia’s ringtone came from. He was a musical composer who composed the tune at the beginning of the 1900s. In fact, he actually drew inspiration from another piece: Frédéric Chopin’s composition called Grande Valse Brillante.

Frédéric Chopin provided inspiration for the composer who wrote the piece from which Nokia's ringtone was taken.
Frédéric Chopin provided inspiration for the composer who wrote the piece from which Nokia’s ringtone was taken. (Image: Dimakig via Dreamstime)

The tune’s first brush with Nokia wasn’t as its ringtone just yet. It was used in one of the commercials that Nokia launched back in 1991 for their phone, the Nokia 1011. However, it still didn’t use the specific part of the song that became the ringtone. In 1994, when the Nokia team was deciding on their ringtone for all the models, they drew inspiration from that specific commercial. 

Nokia’s ringtone

It was actually very forward for its time when they used that specific piece of music for the ringtone. Most companies that manufactured phones had a different approach in terms of marketing their products. 

Their commercials were partnered with heavy metal or techno music while focusing on the specific features of their phones. They were more geared toward marketing a technological marvel. 

Nokia’s commercials were a little bit different. Their commercial campaign focused more on situations where their phones were used. It gave people the idea that Nokia phones made life easier and better. 

Generally, it was genuine and simple, perfectly encapsulating their motto: “Connecting People.” Grand Vals was the perfect score for this wonderful marketing campaign by Nokia. 

Blue and white Nokia sign on a building with the slogan "Connecting People".
In the 1990s, Nokia’s commercials were genuine and simple, perfectly encapsulating their motto: ‘Connecting people.’ (Image: Ifeelstock via Dreamstime)

Of course, one of the big considerations with using Grand Vals as Nokia’s ringtone was that the composer was already dead. In fact, one of the main factors for royalties and copyright for music is that it becomes free to use once the composer has been dead for 70 years. This is why Grand Vals was heavily considered as well because it fit the clause. 

Nokia’s success

The marketing campaign proved very successful for Nokia, and the ringtone was one of the most recognizable worldwide. Throughout the 1990s, Nokia was climbing to the top of the mobile phone market, and by the late 1990s, it was the top-selling phone manufacturer. 

At its peak, it was estimated that almost 1.8 billion people heard the Nokia ringtone every day. During the 1990s, phones were usually switched off and then turned back on in the morning, which is why the ringtone always played. 

The tune was also used as a default ringtone for calls as well as a default sound for alarms. Ask anyone from the ’90s if they can hum the Nokia ringtone, and I’m pretty sure they can. 

Why are Nokia phones so strong?

The main material used in manufacturing Nokia phones is polycarbonate plastic. High-quality plastic such as this can absorb a lot of impacts and have minimal to no damage. 

Where is Nokia’s headquarters?

The Nokia Company is based in Finland. It was just taken over by HMD global, which launched Nokia into the smartphone market. Generally, it made Nokia one of the largest network equipment managers worldwide. 

Is Nokia still around?

Nokia phones are still around and can be purchased. The company is a far cry from what it was during the 1990s. Nowadays, it is not considered one of the leaders in either sales or quality. The two phone giants, Apple and Samsung, are responsible for most of the market share regarding phones and other mobile devices. 

How much is Nokia worth?

Its highest value was around the late 1990s, estimated at around US$250 billion. Some unfortunate business moves saw a steady decline in Nokia’s value and stock, and by the late 2000s, the company was sold to Microsoft for a measly US$7.2 billion.

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