Demystifying Cell Phone Technical Terms

*SIM CARDS NOT included with any phones.

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    What is Bluetooth®?
  • Bluetooth® is a new radio technology developed to deliver short-range wireless mobility. Bluetooth® eliminates cables/wires /cords between devices, such as mobile phones and headsets, and provides services when devices are in close proximity to one another. Bluetooth® facilitates fast, secure transmissions of both voice and data, even when the devices are not in line-of-sight.
    What is a SIM card?
  • It stands for "Subscriber Identity Module"
  • A small, stamp-size "smart card" used in a GSM phone.
  • The SIM card contains a microchip that stores data that identifies the user to the carrier. The data is also used to encrypt voice and data transmissions, making it nearly impossible to listen in on calls.
  • The SIM can also store phone book information - phone numbers and associated names.
  • The SIM, typically located under the battery, can easily be removed and placed in another phone. This will cause the new phone to instantly operate using the subscriber's existing phone number and account.

Other Terms:

3G Services    
  • 3G services render a market of personal mobile multimedia services and terminals able to access the Internet, Intranets and entertainment services.
  • In simple terms 3G services combine high speed mobile access with Internet Protocol (IP)-based services.
  • This render phones and other devices capable of accessing services ranging from mobile telephony to mobile multimedia services like voice, data and video.
  • Today's networks are evolving to offer these service capabilities by introducing GPRS (a packet switching technology) or/and EDGE (for higher-speed radio connections).
Air Interface    
  • A wireless network's operating system, enabling communication between a cellular phone and its carrier.
  • The main interface technologies are AMPS, TDMA, CDMA, GSM, and iDEN.
AMPS Advanced Mobile Phone Service  
  • The standard for analog cellular telephones which uses a frequency-modulated transmission and spacing to separate transmissions.
  • Operates in the 800 megahertz (MHZ) band.
AMPS Modem    
  • A wireless modem designed for analog cellular phones.
  • A technology which utilizes a continuous "wave" of signal to carry information over radio channels.
  • Early cell phones all used analog technology.
  • Although analog phones are still common, the majority of new handsets are digital and some carriers no longer offer analog service.
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CDMA Code Division Multiple Access  
  • A type of digital wireless technology that allows large amounts of voice and data to be transmitted on the same frequency.
  • CDMA is second-generation cellular technology (or 2G) and is currently available in Canada, the United States, Pacific Asia, and Latin America.
  • Most CDMA service providers (Telus Mobility and Bell Mobility for example) will migrate to a high-speed data technology called 1xRTT.
  • Defines the third-generation (3G) version of CDMA technology. Also known as IMT-CDMA Multi-Carrier or IS-136, cdma2000 supports high-speed data transmission (144 Kbps to 2 Mbps), always-on data service, and improved voice network capacity (more people can use each tower at the same time). cdma2000 is a competitor to WCDMA and will be deployed in at least three phases - 1xRTT, 1xEV-DO, 1xEV-DV, and cdma2000 3x.
  • - 1xEV-DO the second phase of CDMA2000 following 1xRTT deployment. 1xEV-DO stands for 1x Evolution Data Only. "EV-DO" puts voice and data on separate channels in order to provide high-speed, high-capacity wireless Internet connectivity (peak data rate of 2.4 Mbps).
  • - 1x EV-DV the third phase of cdma2000 following 1xEV-DO deployment. 1xEV-DV stands for 1x Evolution Data Voice, and is characterized by a maximum data rate of 5.2 Mbps and the ability to support wireless Voice over IP (VoIP) services.
CSD Circuit Switch Data  
  • Allows a user to use their wireless handset as a modem for laptops, PDAs and other electronic devices via infrared ports or designated data cables.
  • CSD also allows a user to access Wireless Internet via their wireless handset (handset must be WAP compatible).
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DMB Digital Multimedia Broadcasting  
  • A digital radio transmission system for sending multimedia (radio, TV, and datacasting) to mobile devices such as mobile phones.
DCS Digital Cellular System  
  • A GSM network operating at 1800MHZ. Used by Orange and One 2 One in the UK.
  • A wireless phone which is able to operate on both analog and digital networks to send and receive calls.
EGSM Extended GSM  
  • A small radio frequency band used in Europe to provide added network capacity for GSM 900 networks.
  • EGSM spectrum is 880-890 MHz paired with 925-935 MHz, which is just below the original GSM 900 band.
  • Older phones with GSM 900 may not support EGSM.
  • Most newer phones with GSM 900 do support EGSM.
EDGE Enhanced Data for Global Evolution  
  • An upgrade for GSM/GPRS networks that triples data speeds over standard GPRS.
  • Because it is based on existing GSM technology, EDGE is a smooth upgrade for GSM network operators.
  • It also works within existing spectrum, making it ideal for countries without dedicated 3G spectrum, such as the US.
EMS Enhanced Message Service  
  • An extension of SMS that enables the sending of a combination of simple melodies, images, sounds, animations and formatted text as a message to another EMS-compatible phone.
GHz Gigahertz  
  • A unit of frequency equal to one billion cycles per second (Hertz).
  • Wireless mobile phone communications in the United States occur in the 0.8 GHz and 1.9 GHz bands (better known as 800 and 1900 MHz, respectively).
  • 1 GHz = 1,000 MHz = 1,000,000 KHz
GPRS General Packet Radio Service  
  • A packet-switched technology that enables high-speed wireless Internet and other data communications.
  • GPRS offers a tenfold increase in data speed over previous technologies, up to 115kbit/s (in theory).
  • Typical real-world speeds are around 30-40 Kbps. Using a packet switching, subscribers are always connected and always on-line, so services will be easy and quick to access.
  • GPRS is considered a "2.5G" technology, meaning it is more advanced than standard 2G digital technology, but does not meet the requirements of a full-feldged 3G technology.
GSM Global System for Mobile Communication  
  • GSM is currently the dominant 2G digital mobile phone standard for most of the world.
  • It determines the way in which mobile phones communicate with the land-based network of towers.
  • The most visible feature of GSM are SIM cards.
  • SIM cards are removable, thumbnail-sized smart cards which identify the user on the network, and can also store information such as phone book entries.
  • SIM cards allows users to switch phones by simply moving their SIM card from one phone to the other.
GSM 900    
  • GSM networks operating at 900 MHZ.
GSM 1800    
  • GSM networks operating at 1.8 GHz.
GSM 1900    
  • GSM networks operating at 1.9 GHz (primarily in North America).
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HSCSD High-Speed Circuit Switched Data  
  • A high-speed data technology for GSM networks. An alternative to GPRS. Adopted mostly in Europe. No GSM networks in North America support HSCSD.
  • HSCSD is a high-speed version of CSD, the standard method of data connections before packet-based technologies such as GPRS.
  • A CSD connection is considered a data "call". A CSD data call is very similar to a voice call, except with the voice codecs disabled. A CSD call therefore occupies the came bandwidth as a voice call.
  • Unlike packet-based technologies, a CSD or HSCSD data call uses the same amount of bandwidth at all times, regardless of whether data is being transmitted at any given moment.
  • HSCSD achieves higher speeds than CSD by aggregating several simultaneous CSD data connections.
iDEN Integrated Digital Enhanced Network  
  • A wireless technology by Motorola which combines two-way radio, telephone, text messaging and data. Used by Telus Mobility's Mike service and Nextel.
  • Operates in the 800MHz and 1,500MHz bands using TDMA networks.
ITU International Telecommunication Union  
  • An organization in Geneva, Switzerland established to promote standardized telecommunications on a worldwide basis.
J2ME Java 2 Micro Edition  
  • Is a technology that allows programmers to use the Java programming language and related tools to develop programs for wireless and mobile devices such as cellular phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs).
  • The J2ME platform can be used to implement a wide variety of applications, from wireless games to data portals into the Internet or corporate enterprise databases.
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LCD Liquid crystal display  
  • A type of display used on most cell phones, capable of displaying monochrome characters and some pictures.
  • The LCD has low energy requirements and uses dark segments against a lighter background for easy viewing in all lighting conditions.
  • Color LCD displays use two basic techniques for producing color
  • Passive matrix is the less expensive of the two technologies.
  • The other technology, called thin film transistor (TFT) or active-matrix, produces color images that are as sharp as traditional CRT displays, but the technology is expensive.
Lithium Ion LiIon  
  • A type of rechargeable battery for cell phones which is generally lighter weight than earlier battery types, has a relatively longer cycle life, and generally does not suffer from "memory" effect.
Lithium Polymer    
  • A battery technology similar to lithium ion but allows the battery to be molded to any shape allowing greater flexibility for mobile phone designers.
MHz Megahertz  
  • A unit of frequency equal to one million cycles per second (Hertz).
  • Wireless phone communications in Canada and the United States occur in the 800 MHZ and 1900 MHZ bands.
  • Motorola Internet Browser
MMS Multimedia Messaging Service  
  • A further extension of SMS and EMS. MMS is designed to make use of newer and quicker mobile transmission methods such as GPRS, HSCSD, EDGE and UMTS, involving the attachment of multimedia extensions to messages, such as video and sound.
  • An e-mail function is also planned.
MP3 Playback    
  • Some cell phones feature a MP3 player (built-in or add-on accessory) that allow you to listen to music stored in the MP3 digital format. These files are much smaller than other formats such as wave files, yet can deliver CD quality sound.
  • Generally, music can be downloaded into the phone from a computer and played back later through a headset attached to the phone.
  • Newer phones with High-Speed Data may support downloading music directly over the Wireless Internet.
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NAMPS Narrowband Advanced Mobile Phone Service  
  • Is the next generation of AMPS systems.
  • NAMPS is a cellular call-handling system that uses digital signaling techniques to split the existing channels into three narrowband channels.
  • The result is three times more voice channel capacity than the traditional AMPS system provides.
OTA Over The Air  
  • The downloading of ring tones, picture messages, and other content to your mobile phone wirelessly.
Passive Matrix Display    
  • An LCD technology that uses a grid to supply the charge to each particular pixel on the display.
  • An STN screen has a slower refresh rate than a TFT screen, but it's cheaper.
  • Also called a SuperTwist Nematic of STN display.
PC Sync    
  • Allows a user to connect a cell phone to a computer with a cable and transfer data.
  • An example of this would be synchronizing a cell phone's contact and calendar information with a computer application like Outlook.
  • Also known as DCS 1800 or GSM 1800, PCN is a term used to describe a wireless communication technology in Europe and Asia.
PCS Personal Communications Services  
  • A term used to describe two-way, 1900MHz digital wireless technology.
  • PCS, a second-generation technology, arrived in 1990 and is the most widely deployed wireless service in North America today.
  • It is based on circuit-switched technology where each call requires its own cell channel, which makes transmission of data quite slow.
  • 2G PCS services include Code Division Multiple Access(CDMA), Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA), and GSM.
PDA Personal Digital Assistant  
  • A portable, handheld computing device that acts as an electronic organizer.
  • PDAs are typically used for managing addresses, appointments, to-do lists and notes, but some newer models support wireless Internet access, e-mail, and other interactive applications.
  • Also referred to as Handheld Computers. PDAs come in two major flavors - Palm and Pocket PC.
PDC Personal Digital Communications  
  • The digital cell phone system in Japan.
Picture Messaging    
  • A technology that allows you to send and receive picture messages as well as text on a mobile phone.
PIM Personal Information Manager  
  • A type of software application that allows the user to input and organize various types of information.
  • Common features of a PIM application include a notepad, calculator, to-do list, calendar and scheduling tool.
Polyphonic Ring Tones    
  • Are ring tones very much like regular ring tones except that they are capable of playing multiple notes at a time.
  • This results in vastly improved sound quality with richer, more realistic sounds.
  • Phones equipped with polyphonic ring tones generally have better sounding speakers.
Predictive Text    
  • Input software built into some cell phones and mobile devices that makes typing words on a keypad easier.
  • Instead of pressing each key one, two or three times, just to press it once and a built-in vocabulary will attempt to guess the word that you are spelling.
  • Using this system, SMS messages and sometimes e-mails are quicker and easier to write. Often referred to as T9, the most popular type of predictive text entry.
  • The competitor to T9 is iTAP by Motorola.
PTT Push-To-Talk  
  • A two-way communication service that works like a "walkie talkie".
  • This feature, found on Motorola iDEN phones from Nextel and Telus Mobility's Mike, allow communication in only direction at a time unlike a cell phone that allows for simultaneous conversations.
  • New PTT systems are now being introduced that use VoIP technology to provide PTT service digitally over 3G data networks. See VoIP.
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Satellite Phone    
  • A phone that connect callers via satellite.
  • Satellite phones give users a worldwide alternative to sometimes un-reliable digital and analog connections but the systems are costly.
SDMA Space Division Multiple Access  
  • A variation of TDMA and CDMA that potentially will be used in high-bandwidth, third-generation wireless products.
  • A term typically used to describe a next-generation device that combines the functionality of a mobile phone with the enhanced features found in a PDA.
  • Functions such as calendar, telephone book, e-mail, to-do lists, spreadsheets, word processors, and wireless Internet access are typical.
SMR Specialized Mobile Radio  
  • A dispatch radio and interconnect service for businesses.
  • Covers frequencies in the 220 MHZ, 800 MHZ and 900 MHZ bands.
SMS Short Message Service  
  • The transmission of short alphanumeric text-messages to and from a mobile phone, fax machine and/or IP address.
  • Messages must be no longer than 160 alphanumeric characters and contain no images or graphics.
  • Once a message is sent, it is received by a Short Message Service Center (SMSC), which must then get it to the appropriate mobile device.
SMS Chat    
  • A feature available on some newer phones that allow a user to "chat" with other users via the sms protocol.
  • An open data synchronization protocol enabling data synchronization between mobile devices and networked services.
  • SyncML is a transport, data type, and platform independent technology that is based on Extensible Markup Language (XML).
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T-DMB Terrestrial Digital Media Broadcasting  
  • software built into some wireless phones and PDAs that makes typing words on a keypad easier.
  • The competitor to T9 is iTAP. See Predictive Text Entry.
TACS Total Access Communications System  
  • A cell phone system in Europe based on analog (AMPS).
TDMA Time Division Multiple Access  
  • Time Division Multiple Accessding to time. This allows large amounts of voice and data to be transmitted on the same frequency.
  • TDMA runs on two bands: 800MHz and 1,900MHz. TDMA networks are used in North, Central, and South America.
  • TDMA and GSM networks are similar in that they can both share the same migration path to high-speed data: GPRS (2.5G), then EDGE (3G). Also referred to as D-AMPS.
TFD Thin Film Diode  
  • A type of LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) flat-panel display technology.
  • TFD technology combines the excellent image quality and fast response times of TFT, with the low power consumption and low cost of STN.
TFT Thin Film Transistor  
  • An LCD technology that uses transistors to precisely control the voltage to each liquid crystal cell.
  • This is also referred to as an "active matrix" display.
  • TFT screens offer the best image quality and refresh rates, but at a higher cost.
  • A phone capable of operating on three different digital frequencies (example: 900MHz, 1800MHz and 1900MHz).
  • A wireless phone that can operate on both the 1900 and 800MHz digital networks, and on the 800MHz analog network.
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UMTS Universal Mobile Telecommunications System  
  • A third-generation wireless communications technology and the next generation of GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications).
  • UMTS is a wireless standard approved by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and is intended for advanced wireless communications.
  • UMTS promises high-speed mobile data (up to 2 Mbps) and advanced multimedia capabilities such as streaming video.
USB Universal Serial Bus  
  • A plug-and-play interface between a computer and add-on devices (such as keyboards, phones and PDAs).
  • With USB, a new device can be added to a computer without having to add an adapter card or even having to turn the computer off.
  • USB supports a data speed of 12 megabits per second and is now being incorporated in some cell phones which is useful for synchronizing information with a computer or downloading ringtones.
VoIP Voice over Internet Protocol  
  • A technology for transmitting voice, such as ordinary telephone calls, over the Internet using packet-switched networks. Also called IP telephony.
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WCDMA Wideband Code Division Multiple Access  
  • Wideband CDMA is a third-generation (3G) wireless standard which utilizes one 5 MHz channel for both voice and data, initially offering data speeds up to 384 Kbps
  • WCDMA is also referred to as UMTS - the two terms have become interchangeable.
  • WCDMA is the 3G standard that most GSM carriers are moving to.
  •  Parts of the WCDMA standard are based on GSM technology.
  •  WCDMA networks are designed to integrate with GSM networks at certain levels. Most WCDMA phones include GSM as well, for backward compatibility.
  • WCDMA borrows certain technology ideas from CDMA, as the name implies, but is in fact very different and incompatible with phones and networks using "CDMA" technology.
  • In Europe and Asia, WCDMA is being deployed in the all-new 2100 MHz frequency band.
  • In North America, WCDMA is being deployed in the existing 1900 MHz (PCS) and 850 MHz (cellular) bands.
WAN Wide Area Network  
  • A physical or logical network that provides data communications to a larger number of users than are usually served by a local area network (LAN) and is usually spread over a larger geographic area than that of a LAN.
WAP Wireless Application Protocol  
  • A set of standards that enables a wireless phone or other mobile device to browse Internet content optimized for wireless phones.
  • The competitive technology to WAP is I-Mode by Japan's NTT DoCoMo.
Wi-Fi Wireless Fidelity  
  • The popular term for the 802.11b wireless Ethernet standard. See 802.11b.
Wireless Internet    
  • A technology that enables a cell phone or other wireless device to access specially formatted Internet content via wireless networks.
  • Several different standards exists: HDML, WML, cHTML, and xHTML.
  • Also known as "Wireless Web" or "WAP".