Calling All Avatars

NEW YORK Who wants a talking avatar as their ringtone?

InPhonic, an e-tailer of wireless products and services, is betting that the answer is “U-Doo,” its name for a social networking program devised for, the company’s Web emporium that offers discounted mobile devices and consumer plans.

The program allows users to e-mail personalized avatars and messages. The avatars’ sound and image appear on mobile screens when their real-world alter egos call.

The company is also trying to provide “an easy-to-use application demonstrating the capabilities of the phone beyond voice,” said Sean Mallon, vp and general manager of mobile content services at InPhonic.

The launch is supported by banner ads on touting Wirefly. Ultimately, the message Mallon wants customers to hear is, “Sorry, your phone doesn’t support this type of download, so you’d think, ‘I really should get a new phone.'”

Originally seeking to snare a young demographic, the company quickly “discovered that the target age is much broader,” said Wirefly representative Trip Donnelly. “All ages are creating ringtones [including] professionals traveling and sitting in airports,” he said. So, the talking avatar campaign has been expanded to encompass 16-40-year-olds and will continue indefinitely.

The noise-happy cartoon “delivers more of a rounded experience and lends itself to the personal quality” of interactive communication, said Adi Sideman, CEO of Oddcast, which produced the ringtone application.

U-Doo users can post their talking avatar to their MySpace page.