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Glossary of Smartphone Terms

List of cell phone, phone, smartphone, and mobile phone related dictionary definitions and terms. An explanation of the various abbreviations and terms used for Smartphones.

Below is an alphabetical list of the abrreviations and terms that are frequently found in mobile phone descriptions and terminology, including terms in relation to smartphones.

The 2nd Generation of digital mobile handsets and protocols that replaced the original 1st generation of analogue systems.

2.5G is an extension of 2G to support features such as EDGE and/or GPRS.

The 3rd Generation of digital mobile handsets and protocols. 3G offers higher speed data transfer rates (measured in Mbps) than previous generations, permitting non-voice applications such as internet access and video conferencing.

The 4th Generation of digital mobile handsets and protocols, set to replace 3G and 2G. Speed requirements for 4G service set the peak download speed at 100 Mbit/s for high mobility communication (ie from trains and cars) and 1 Gbit/s for low mobility communication (stationary users and pedestrians).

5G (5th generation mobile networks or 5th generation wireless systems) also known as Tactile Internet denotes the next major phase of mobile telecommunications standards beyond the current 4G/IMT-Advanced standards.

Assisted-GPS. A mobile with A-GPS can use triangulation (it uses the signals from three mobile phone masts in the area) to calculate the phone’s location to within 100 metres. This helps it obtain a faster fix on its current location as sometimes a GPS fix can take up to 30 seconds.

Advanced Audio Coding; a music format proposed as a successor to MP3 offering higher sound quality without using more memory.

Android OS is a Linux-based platform for smartphones, Android wearables, tablets and some PCs. Android was released under the Apache v2 open source license. Android was developed by Google and the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), a coalition of hardware, software and telecommunications companies.

An APN or Access Point Name can be thought of as being like a gate or portal from the GPRS 2.5G or 3G network into the internet. Each network operator has a different APN which needs to be set up on your phone and the APNs can differ depending on whether you are on Contract or Pay As You Go and whether you wish to use WAP or Mobile Web/Email. Very often the settings are provided automatically via a text message to your phone from the network operator but occasionally the settings need to be input manually.The information required for the UK network providers can be found here.

Bluetooth; a short range (usually up to 10 metres) wireless communications protocol for data transfer between electrical devices. Bluetooth car kits and headsets enable hands-free phone operation without having to connect devices using wires.

Bits per second. It indicates the speed of data transfer.

Digital-Advanced Mobile Phone Service; the digital wireless standard widely used throughout the Americas, Asia Pacific and other areas. D-AMPS operates on the 800 and 1900 MHz bands.

A method of encoding information. On digital networks, data does not first need to be converted to an analogue signal. Digital networks include mobile systems GSM, D-AMPS, CDMA, TDMA and UMTS and offer improved sound quality and enhanced transmission security when compared to analogue networks.

Digital Zoom
A digital camera phone which uses digital technology to zoom in on an object by enhancing part of a picture rather than by moving the camera lens.

A phone that can use both 900MHz and 1800MHz networks. In the UK, Orange and T-Mobile historically used the 1800MHz frequency while O2 and Vodafone used 900MHz. As the airwaves have become more congested the networks are using both frequencies and nearly all new mobile phones are at least dual-band now. See also ‘Tri-band’ and ‘Quad-band’.

Dual SIM
A dual SIM phone is one able to hold two SIM cards. Some dual-SIM phones require you to switch between SIM cards to be able to use only one or the other and these are known as ‘standby dual-SIM’. An ‘active dual-SIM’ phone is where both SIM cards are active at the same time and it usually has two transceivers. Latest technology ‘Dual-SIM Dual-Standby’ (DSDS) phones allow two active SIMs using just one transceiver.
The advantages of having a dual-SIM phone are that it enables you to effectively have two phones within one; you can use the one phone to keep your work and your private life separate for example. It could also possibly increase your chance of network coverage if you have one SIM using Vodafone on the 900Mhz band and the other one using Orange on the 1800Mhz band say. A dual-SIM phone is also handy for travel use; simply pop in a locally purchased SIM card to keep local call costs down.

FLAC or Free Lossless Audio Codec; is an audio format that is similar to MP3 but is ‘lossless’ which means that it can be compressed without any loss to the audio quality.

Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution. EDGE increases network capacity and data transfer rates across a GSM network. It can compete with 3G offering similar data services, and can be used to offer faster transfer rates by operators in areas where there is no 3G coverage.

Gibabyte; a measurement of data storage. One Gigabyte is equivalent to 1024MB (Megabyte).

Gorilla Glass
Gorilla Glass is the name given to an environmentally friendly, lightweight, alkali-aluminosilicate thin-sheet glass produced by Corning who claim it is durable enough to resist many real-world events that commonly cause glass failure. It is often specified for the screens of tough phones.

Global Navigation Satellite System. Managed by the Russian Space Forces, it is used to calculate the phone’s location by taking a reading from up to 3 satellites.

Global Positioning System. Managed by the United States, it is used to calculate the phone’s location by taking a reading from up to 3 satellites.

General Packet Radio Service; a 2.5G enhancement to GSM networks. The first high speed data service available on digital mobile phones.

Global Standard for Mobile communications; a digital mobile phone standard and the de facto standard used in Europe. It is implemented on 800, 900, 1800 and 1900MHZ frequency bands. The most common frequency used is 900MHZ, followed by 1800MHZ.

The ability to make and receive phone calls without physically holding the mobile phone.

High Speed Circuit Switched Data; a technology for GSM which boosts the throughput of data and used to obtain faster internet access through older 2G mobile phone networks.

High Speed Download Packet Access; a high speed method of downloading data across a 3G mobile phone network. More commonly called mobile broadband.

High Speed Upload Packet Access; a complementary service to HSDPA.

IP rating
Ingress Protection rating; a measure of the degree of protection offered by the phone against the ingress of dirt and water. For more information on IP ratings, click here.

Internet Message Access Protocol; a method of sending and receiving email where only the header and sender information is initially downloaded, allowing you to choose whether to download the full email or leave it to be accessed from a PC later. Can help reduce data download charges.

International Mobile Equipment Identity; a unique serial number given to every mobile phone usually found printed under the phone battery. The networks can use the IMEI number to identify a phone reported stolen and block its use in the UK.

Infrared Data Association; the body that specifies IrDA protocols for data exchange between devices using infrared technology. Most newer devices use Bluetooth for data exchange.

An industry standard object-oriented language invented by Sun Microsystems.

Java 2 platform, Micro Edition. The edition of the Java platform for small, standalone or connectable consumer devices.

Kilobytes per second; indicates the speed data is transferred by a mobile phone across the phone network.

Liquid Crystal Display; a type of screen technology used in some mobile phones. TFT displays are considered superior.

Light Emitting Diode; a small light on a mobile phone, either used as a torch or to enhance poorly illuminated objects when taking a photo.

An abbreviation for Lithium-ion; used in the construction of high performance mobile phone batteries.

An open-source operating system modelled on UNIX.

Megabyte; a measurement of data storage.

A megapixel is one million pixels. Used to describe the resolution of a digital camera. The higher the number, the sharper the picture due to more pixels in the image.

Memory Expansion Slot
A memory expansion slot on a phone allows an increase in the memory capacity of the phone by the addition of a memory card, usually MicroSD format.

Micro-Universal Serial Bus; this is a very small USB port interface. Commonly found on cellphones and other portable devices.

Military Standard
Refers to Military Standard STD-810 which is an equipment testing standard of the United States Department of defence.

Multimedia Messaging Service; a standard for the sending of messages that include multimedia (ie images, video) content to and from mobile phones.

Moblie Network Operator;  also known as a wireless service provider, or mobile network carrier, is a provider of services wireless communications that owns or controls all the elements necessary to sell and deliver services to an end user including radio spectrum allocation, wireless network infrastructure, back haul infrastructure, billing, customer care, provisioning computer systems and marketing and repair organizations.

Moving Pictures Expert Group Layer 3; a technology standard allowing high compression of digital audio files (to reduce file size) whilst retaining an acceptable level of audio quality.

Optical Imaging Stabilization or ‘OIS’; is a family of techniques used to reduce blurring associated with the motion of a camera or other imaging device during exposure. Generally this is used to help reduce the degree of motion along the pan and tilt planes of the devices imaging sensor, helping to reduce ‘ghosting’ in photographs and ‘camera shake’ in videos.

Operating System; the basic software that runs and manages the mobile phone.

PAC Code
Porting Authorisation Code or ‘PAC’; used by most mobile network operators to facilitate mobile number portability (MNP) Usually 9 characters long and in the format “ABC123456” to generate a unique user identifier. This allows users to retain their mobile telephone number when switching operators.

Personal Identification Number; usually a four digit code used to protect against unauthorised use of the mobile phone.

Post Office Protocol 3; a protocol for data transmission, used for sending emails across the internet.

Push To Talk; a technology enabling a mobile phone to be used like a walkie-talkie. Uses data packets over 2G or 3G networks. Users need to be with the same network provider.

Pin Unblocking Key; a security code used by networks to protect unauthorised use of a sim card if the wrong PIN is entered three times.

A phone that can use all four of the GSM transmission frequencies; 850, 900, 1800 and 1900MHZ meaning that it can operate worldwide, including the USA. (GSM 900/1800 MHz bands are used in most parts of the world: Europe, Asia, Australia, Middle East, Africa, whereas GSM 850/1900 MHz bands are used in the United States, Canada, Mexico and most countries of S. America.) See also ‘Dual-band’ and ‘Tri-band’.

Quarter Video Graphic Array; the common screen resolution size for mobile phones is 320 x 240 pixels (76,800 pixel count). It is one quarter in size of a standard VGA display of 640 x 480 which has 307,200 pixels.

The ability to use a mobile phone when abroad.

Specific Absorption Rate; the measurement of how much radio frequency energy/ electromagnetic radiation is absorbed by the body. Mobile phones, like televisions, computers, etc emit low levels of electromagnetic radiation. All mobile phones on sale throughout the EU should comply with the recommendations of the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection of a SAR limit of 2w/kg (watts per kilogram). The SAR rating of a mobile phone can be found in the phone’s instruction manual or on the manufacturer’s website.

There is no clear definition of a Smartphone but we generally recognise this to be a mobile phone built on an operating system which enables the downloading of additional applications, and having a touchscreen interface as well as camera, video, GPS and fast web browser capabilities.

Short Message Service; available on digital GSM networks allowing text messages of up to 160 characters to be sent and received.

Subscriber Information Module; an integrated circuit held on a removable SIM card. It holds a unique serial number (ICCID), the unique number of the mobile user (IMSI), security authentication and ciphering information, temporary information related to the local network, a list of the services the user has access to and two passcodes (PIN and PUK).

Thin Film Transistor; used in screens commonly found on mobile phones. TFT displays are considered superior to LCD screens.

A phone that can use three of the four GSM transmission frequencies; usually 900, 1800 and 1900MHZ. The 1900MHZ band is used in parts of the USA, Canada and South America. The American continent also uses the 850MHZ band so if you take a phone from the UK to the USA you would really need a Quad-band for it to fully function there. See also ‘Dual-band’ and ‘Quad-band’.

Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service; a 3G standard permitting a theoretical data throughput of up to 2 Mbps.

An operating system analogous to DOS and Windows, supporting multiple concurrent users.

Universal Serial Bus; a connection method for electronic devices usually used for data transfer. Most phones use either mini or micro USB ports and can be sometimes be used as the connection for charging the phone.

Universal Subscriber Information Module; a later generation of a SIM card with a higher capacity of 64Kb. Also referred to as a 3G SIM card because 3G phones generally need a USIM rather than the older SIM cards. Visually USIMs are no different to SIMs.

Video Graphics Array; a standard screen size of 640 x 480 pixels.

WAP browser
A Wireless Access Protocol browser – allows you to view and navigate various internet services, shown on the phone’s screen.

Wideband Code Division Multiplexing Access – part of the newer 3G group of technologies offering much faster data speeds than GSM.

Wi-Fi or ‘Wireless Fidelity’; is a wireless networking technology that allows computers and other devices to communicate over a wireless signal. It describes network components that are based on one of the 802.11 standards developed by the IEEE and adopted by the Wi-Fi Alliance.

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