Breaking: Missing Malaysia Airlines passengers phones are still ringing but not answered.
They either crashed on land or they did not crash at all. This story is getting weirder and weirder...
But it's not that simple. When you hit the call button on some phones, a ringing tone begins immediately.
"However, that does not mean the phone you are calling is ringing yet," wrote wireless analyst Jeff Kagan in an email to NBC News. "The network is searching for the phone. First based on where it last was, then it expands. Then if the network can't find the phone, the call terminates."
The search for the party on the receiving end may be nearly instantaneous, or take a few seconds — during which time the phone (depending on model, network and other variables) may or may not make a ringing noise to indicate to the caller that it is attempting to make the cell connection. So while it may ring four times for you, the person you're calling may only hear it ring once -- or not at all.