3G phones are mobile internet-enabled handsets that offer great services such as video calling, web-browsing, downloading content and streaming video and music while you're on the move.
3G phones operate on a 3G mobile network - a network designed specifically to allow phones to carry out more than just voice functions.
In 2014, it's very, very are to find a mobile phone doesn't offer 3G. If you're looking for a handset that will let you browse the web, watch TV or make video calls then you'll need a 3G mobile phone.
If you want a phone that does all those things faster and more smoothly, you may want to consider a 4G smartphone, which use newer mobile network technology to deliver super fast speeds. To find out more about 4G, check out our 4G phones comparison page.
What is a 3G mobile phone?
3G mobile phones run on the 3G, or 3rd generation, mobile phone network. In the UK, Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) is the dominant 3G standard, although 4G will replace it in years to come.
Mobile networks were originally designed for voice traffic and nothing more. But the development of the 3G mobile phone network meant that large amounts of data can be transferred quickly and cost effectively, thus clearing the way for mobiles to offer services that were previously not possible.
3G mobile phones are designed to run web-based applications as well as send and download large audio and video files. This means that they require increased bandwidth and transfer rates.
With the first two generations of mobile networks, we could talk and send messages wherever there was a signal. Now, thanks to 3G technology we are able to send data like movie clips and music around the world from our mobile phones in a matter of seconds.
3G mobile phones are becoming more and more powerful every day. In fact, carrying some of the latest 3G mobile phones around is similar to carrying a mini laptop in your handbag or pocket. You can stream TV programmes, browse the internet, and check your email, all from the comfort of your 3G mobile phone!
Can you use a 3G mobile phone anywhere?
The great thing about 3G mobile phones is that even if there is no 3G mobile phone network available, you can still use the standard calling and messaging features using the conventional GSM network.
Although the 3G mobile phone network has really widespread coverage, you may find that there are some rural areas where the 3G functions of your mobile phone are not available.
In these situations, you will still be able to use your phone, though you may not be able to access the web-based applications that require a high bandwidth and fast connection.
3G mobile phones vs 4G mobile phones: which one's right for me?
The main advantage of a 4G phone over 3G right now is that they're speedier and smoother for browsing, downloading and streaming. That means you can do a lot more on your phone, a lot faster.
The major downside is that 4G is only available in certain parts of the country (typically in towns and cities and locations with high population density), while 3G is much more widely available. The sole places 3G isn't on offer are usually far-flung remote locations.
4G is also considerably more expensive than 3G and it is much easier to find cheap 3G phones on the market. And given that 3G capably handles most web-based functions that you're going to need, you might consider it extravagant to pay extra for a faster connection and upgrade your 3G mobile phone.
It's also worth noting that while all 4G compatible smartphones can use 3G networks too, 3G mobile phones for the most part aren't compatible with 4G. If you want to use 4G, you'll have to pay out for a newer 4G mobile phone.
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