Mobile phone jargon buster A-Z

1G means ‘first generation’, indicating the first generation of mobile phone handsets which were based on an analogue system. This system’s main drawbacks were low call volumes and poor sound quality, as well as the ability to only handle voice calls.

2G means ‘second generation’, indicating the second generation of digital mobile phone handsets which replaced the original analogue system. The key features of 2G were that calls were digitally encrypted which meant higher levels of security and significantly better sound quality, as well as the ability to send and receive data (SMS – short messaging service, or ‘text messages’ as they are now more commonly referred to). 

2.5G is also known as ‘second generation enhanced’, a handset technology that sits somewhere between 2G and 3G. Overall the data transfer speed is much faster than 2G, yet still several time slower than full 3G. Additional features also include GPRS, HCSD, and EDGE.

3G means ‘third generation’, indicating the third generation of mobile phone handsets which replaced the 2G handsets. The key difference between this and 2G technology is the high speed data transfer rate which allows for mobile broadband and two way video calling.

3-way Calling
Also known as conference calling, this service allows for three or more individuals to take part in a group telephone call, where everyone can talk and listen at the same time. Normaly extra people join or leave a call at any, making this an extremely viable and efficient way for people to talk who may not be in the same location, or even the same country.

Some mobile handsets that have the GPS feature may also support A-GPS, which basically means Assisted GPS. The handset will use a triangulation technique to try and get a fix on your current location by measuring the distance from your handset to three mobile close phone masts. The system can calculate your position to within 100m, although sometimes this can take up to 30 seconds to work. The end result is a faster fix on your current location.  

Means ‘advanced audio coding’ and is a potential successor to the currently very common MP3 format. In comparison to MP3’s, AAC files are of am improved quality, however they only take up the same amount of memory space.

An accelerometer is used to measure the rate of acceleration. When used in a mobile phone the accelerometer detects the movement of the handset, which can work in conjunction with software to rotate the display to show in portrait or landscape, depending on the orientation in the phone is being held.

Audio Output Jack
An audio output jack on a telephone will allow the user to plug in a standard headset to listen to music or audio files rather than through a phone specific headset. It makes it much easier and cheaper to find a compatible headset than would otherwise be the case.

Auto Focus
Auto focus refers to the ability of the built in camera lens being able to automatically adjust itself to focus in on a specific object, which often results in a sharper and clearer picture than what would otherwise be attained using a camera with a fixed focus.

Bluetooth is a localised connection technology which allows enabled devises to connect to each other without the need for wires. Data can be transferred between the two devices as long as they are in range of each other. The technology is most commonly used to make handsets into hands free phones.

Bps means ‘bits per second’ and is indicative of the speed at which data can be transferred. The higher the number, the faster the transfer.

The term sometimes used to describe mobile phone communications. The term is derived from name given to the area covered by one transmitter, which is known as a Cell.

Mobile phone handsets normally cost upward of £200 for a reasonable model. Rather than purchasing the handset most people prefer to take out a contract which normally covers a period of 12, 18, or 24 months in which they agree to pay a set amount per month. As well as a free (or subsidised) handset the contract will normally include line rental charge, as well as inclusive minutes, texts, and/or data. A contract is normally subject to proof of ID, a background identity check, and a credit check.  

A specified are in which a mobile phone can receive a signal. Most UK phone companies offer coverage of over 99%.

Digital Zoom
Digital zoom refers to a zoom facility on a camera to give the impression of a zoomed in photo. Unlike a conventional optical zoom in which the lens is adjusted to zoom into an object, the photo is simply digitally edited and cropped to look like it is zoomed in. A digital zoom is cheaper than an optical zoom but there can often be a significant loss of picture quality.

Dual Band
A dual band phone can work on both a 900MHz and 1800MHz frequency. In the UK both frequencies are used to improve volume (the number of calls that can be made at one time). In the past single band phones would only work at one frequency, so would only work on a network which offered a service on the matching frequency. All new mobile phones in the UK have a minimum of dual band specification.  

EDGE is a technology that offers greater speed for transferring data across a GSM network and is seen as an alternative to 3G in area where this is not available.

Face Recognition
Face recognition technology is a digital camera feature that can work out which part of a photo is someone’s face. This enables a sharper and more focused photo which overall results in an improved photo quality.

GB stands for Gigabyte, which is a measurement of memory storage. 1GB is equivalent in size to 1024MB (Megabyte), although this is more commonly rounded down to 1,000MB.

GPS stands for ‘Global Positioning System’ and is used to calculate your location by measuring the distance from your phones location in relation to 3 satellites using a method known as triangulation.

GPRS stands for General Packet Radio Service and was the first high speed data service available on digital mobile phones.

GSM stands for ‘the Global Standard for Mobile communications’ and is the standard technology used for mobile phones across the world. Quad band phones operate on 900MHz and 1800MHz frequencies which are the most common. Tri band phones also operate on those frequency’s as well as 1900MHz which is a common frequency United States . Quad band phones operate on all of the above frequencies as well as 850MHz, so if you have a quad band phone it should work anywhere.

Is the ability to make or receive a telephone call without physically holding the mobile phone. The devices used can take many forms from speaks and a microphone, to earphones and a mic, or indeed wireless Bluetooth.

‘High Speed Circuit Switched Data’ is a technology which allows for faster data transfer on a 2G handest. The introduction of 3G has all but made this technology obsolete.

‘High Speed Download Packet Access’ is the rather cumbersome name for a product everyone else knows to be Mobile Broadband which is delivered via the 3G network. It works in connection with HSUPA.

‘High Speed Upload Packet Access’ is the technology which allows high speed upstream connectivity. Combined with HSDPA and you have the full 3G mobile broadband; both upstream and down.

IM or ‘Instant Messaging’ it is more widely known comes in the form of software such as MSN Messenger or Yahoo Messenger, which allows you to ‘chat’ live with other users via streaming text.

Image Stabiliser
Image Stabiliser lessons the effect of a shaking hand when taking a photo, resulting in a sharper, clearer image.

‘Internet Message Access Protocol’ is a method of sending and receiving email from your handset. The main message is stored online and you download the header and sender information. You can then decide if you want to download the full email or leave it online to access at a later date using your PC.

‘International Mobile Equipment Identity’ is a unique serial number which is given to every phone. You will normally find this printed under the phone battery. If the phone is stolen the mobile phone providers can ‘black list’ the handset using the IMEI number to stop it from being used on all UK networks.

Internal Memory
Internal Memory refers to the capacity of the built in memory which allows you to store, photo’s, movies, and sound files.

IrDA is the technology used to exchange data between devices using infrared. Typically the range of this technology is up to 2m and the technology has been surpassed by a superior alternative in Bluetooth.

Java is a programming language used in games, web browsers and email software which you can install on your handset. Most modern phone support Java.

Kbps stands for kilobytes per second and is indicative of the rate of data transfer. The higher the number, the fast the data is being transferred.

‘Liquid Crystal Display’ is used to produce the screens found in mobile phones.

‘Light Emitting Diode’ is a very small light which can be found on a camera phone as a means of illuminating objects before you take a photo. An LED isn’t as bright as the less popular Xenon Flash but the power consumption is significantly lower.

Lithium Ion
Is used to store charge in many mobile phone batteries.

MB means ‘Megabyte’ which is a measurement of memory storage.

A megapixel is equivalent to 1 million pixels (with a pixel being one dot on your computer screen). The higher the number of megapixels that a camera has, the better quality the photo’s will be.

Memory Expansion Slot
A memory expansion slot on your mobile phone allows you to increase the available memory the phone has by inserting a memory card. The most common types of memory cards used in mobile phones are Micro SD and M2.

Mobile Broadband
Mobile Broadband is the name widely given to high speed data access either on your mobile phone or on a PC/Laptop via a dongle/3G modem.

MP3 files are audio files which have been compressed using MPEG audio technology. Despite the fact the file has been compressed, the sound quality is still good. MP3’s are one of the most common formats for music files, especially those which are downloaded from the internet.

‘Operating System’ is the main software platform that runs on a computer or phone. PC operating systems include Windows XP and Winsodows Vista. Examples of mobile phone operating systems include Symbian, UIQ, and Windows Mobile.

POP3 is the standard format for sending emails over the internet.

Pre-Pay (Pay as you go)
Is a mobile phone service which you pay for before you use it. You own your own handset (this isn’t given to you as it would be if you had a contract), and you ‘top up’ your pre pay balance which is reduced every time you make a call, or send a text etc.

‘Pin Unblocking Key’ is a security code used by the network providers to protect their customers sim card. If an incorrect code is entered three times you will lock your sim card and may need to return it your provider for a replacement. If you phone asks you for a PUK PUK you need to call your network provider and they will ask you some security questions then (assuming you pass security) give you the code.

Quad Band
Quad band means four bands and is indicative that your phone can be used on all four of the mobile phone spectrum frequencies; which are 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, and 1900MHz.

‘Quarter Video Graphics Array’ refers to the most common resolution for a mobile phone screen. As the name suggests it is quarter of the size of a standard VGA screen with a  resolution of 320 x 240 pixels (compares to 640 x 480 for VGA). Although it may not initially appear as being a quarter of the size of a VGA screen, the number of pixels can be calculated by multiplying the two sets of numbers (320 x 240 = 76,800 v 680 x 480 = 307,200).

QWERTY refers to the first 6 letters on the top row of a standard keyboard. If a mobile phone is advertised as having a QWERTY keyboard it would suggest that it has a full 26 letter keyboard as opposed to just the 10 digit number pad.

The ability to use your mobile phone while abroad. Don’t assume that this service is active, some providers will require that you call them to activate it and if you’ve already left the country it may be too late.

S40 refers to the Series 40 software used in some Nokia handsets

S60 refers to the Series 60 operating system used in Nokia smartphones

Generally speaking a smartphone is a phone which has an operating system which is open to third party software and applications to increase it’s functionality. The main operating sytems for these phones are Symbian, UIQ, or Windows Mobile.

Symbian is the name of the family of open source operating systems originally developed by Psion, then later by Symbian Ltd and the Symbian Foundation.

Tempered Glass
Tempered glass is around five time stronger than normal glass. It is manufactured by reheating it so the temperature reached just below melting point, then suddenly cooling it quickly.

‘Thin Film Transistor’ is used in LCD (flat screens) screens that are used in mobile phones.

Touch Pad
A touch pad is an input device which can be used to control functions or features on your phone. The touchpad will have icons that you can press that correspond to an individual application or feature.

Touchscreen is exactly as it sounds. The display screen doubles up as an input device allowing you to interact with the device by pressing the screen. Some touchscreen will offer QWERTY keyboards and/or handwriting recognition.

Track ID
Track ID is a Sony Ericsson feature which allows you to record a part of a song then upload it to the web, then you given full information about the track that you have uploaded including the track name, artist and album.

Tri Band
Tri Band means that the handset has the ability to operate on three of the four frequencies used by mobile phone operators, which are 900MHz, 1800MHz, and 1900MHz.

A mobile phone which has a “TC OUT” connection has the ability to show what you can see on your phone onto the screen of a TV. It uses a cable connection and allows you to view videos/photos and brows website on the TV.

‘User Interface Quartz’ is a software platform developed by UIQ Technology and is based on the Symbian operating system as a graphical interface layer.

Unlicensed Mobile Access is a technology which allows mobile phone users to access both voice and data services over a private network (using unlicensed spectrum). This can be done with a dual band handset. This must be supported by the network operator to allow an uninterrupted transition from the mobile phone network to the private network.

‘Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service’ is the universal (as the name suggests) technology behind 3rd generation mobile phone networks.

USB Connector
‘Universal Serial Bus Connector’ means you can plug your phone into a standard USB port that you would find on a PC or Laptop via a cable. This would be used to transfer data between the two devices or do a software update on the handset.

‘Universal Subscriver Information Module’ is the second generation SIM card. They look just like a stand SIM card but they have a larger capacity (normaly 64kb). Sometimes these are referred to as a “3G SIM” as most smart phones require one instead of the standard SIM.

VGA means ‘Video Graphics Array’, which is a type of screen which was developed by IBM. The screen has a resolution of 640 x 480 which in mobile phone terms is a high resolution. This is a technology which was invented in 1987 as isn’t very popular with mobile phone manufacturers despite the fact the resolution is four times better than your standard mobile phone.

Widget (from a technology point of view) was named by combining the words Window and Gadget. A widget is a visible control which allows you to interact with a website, system or other application. Visually a widget can vary from a button, list, or slider, etc.

Derived from its Sunday name ‘Wireless Fidelity’, this is the industry standard technology used in the wireless connectivity of local area networks.

Windows Mobile
Is the mobile phone operating system developed my Microsoft™ for use in smartphones. Windows Mobile offers similar features and user interface that you would expect to find on a PC running a normal windows operating system.

“Wireless Local Area Network’ is two or more computers (or similar devices; printers, scanners etc) which are connected using a wireless network using WiFi standard technology.

Xenon Flash
Xenon Flash is a very bright camera light which you would normally find on a digital camera as well as a select few mobile phone handsets. This is ideal for taking photos in areas with poor light.




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