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Mobile phones

Read our handy guide to mobile phones to find out anything you want to know about all things mobile.

Mobile phones revolutionised the way we communicate. The arrival of the mobile meant that we could stay in touch with our friends and family all over the world. We rely on the mobile networks to keep us connected in case of emergencies, when we we're trying to arrange to meet up or even just when we fancy a chat.

However, mobile phones are increasingly no longer just a means of keeping in contact; the humble mobile handset has evolved into the ultimate multimedia gadget.

Whether you have a Apple, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, HTC, LG, Sony Ericsson or Motorola handset, your latest mobile will come with a string of features that take it far beyond being simply a mobile phone.

Mobiles now come with digital cameras, MP3 music players, they can access the internet, let you check your email and even help you find your way around using GPS. Newer models also offer tens of thousands of applications, or apps - as they are also called, which let you enhance the functionality of your handset every day.

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With advances in mobile technology happening at what seems like lightning speed, it's hard to keep up with the latest gadgets and jargon that go hand-in-hand with owning a mobile phone.

This guide should help you understand a bit more about your mobile phone and provide a guide to some of the features and facilities that are open to you with the latest mobile phones.

How do mobile phones work?

The mobile handset itself sends and receives information by radio communication. A 'base station' also sends and receives information at a slightly different frequency, allowing voices or data to be going back and forth over the radio.

This communication between the mobile phone itself and the mobile phone network's base station is the key to UK mobile phone networks and global mobile phone communication.

Every mobile phone base station covers a set area known as a cell. This is where the term 'cell phone' comes from. 'Cell phone' refers to the cellular radio technology used in the handsets. A mobile phone base station cell can vary in size, depending on things like the radio frequency and whether there are things like big hills or buildings in the way.

A central switching centre tracks calls and transfers them from base station to base station as the caller moves from cell to cell.

From the base station, the signal can be transmitted to either the main telephone network using either cables or another higher frequency radio link.

The major UK mobile phone networks are:

Sending text messages with your mobile phone:

You can send text messages with your mobile. Texts are short messages that you write on your phone and send to your friends and family, thus keeping them up to date without even needing to call them. This can be really handy because if you send someone a text message, they can store that message on their mobile phone and view it at a later time.

In fact, text messaging is so popular that a lot of mobile phone users spend more time sending texts than they do making calls on their mobile phone.

SMS stands for Short Message Service - this is the communications protocol allowing the transfer of short text messages between mobile phones. Even though SMS does not actually mean the message itself, mobile phone users often refer to an individual text message as an ‘SMS'.

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Sending picture messages with your mobile phone:

High quality digital cameras are a feature of many phones nowadays. This means that you can capture images on your handset and share them with your friends and family via the mobile phone network.

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MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging. With multimedia messaging, you can send pictures and even video clips to your family and friends. Multimedia messaging means that you can share important moments with people, no matter where in the world they are.

Mobile phones are the latest form of portable entertainment

For many people, the mobile phone has become the ultimate in multi-functional electronic gadget. Not only is it used as a way to keep in touch with friends and family, and as a digital camera, but it is also becoming the latest in handheld entertainment.

Many mobile phones now come with a built-in music player so you can listen to MP3’s on your mobile. Instead of carrying a phone, a camera and an MP3 Player separately, you can now just carry your phone and a set of headphones and you are ready to go.

Most dedicated music or MP3 phones have a large amount of on board memory and many also offer memory card slots for additional storage. This means you can walk around with the equivalent of hundreds of CD’s stored right in your phone.

Mobiles designed for listening to music will also come with a software to allow you to easily transfer your CD's onto your phone at the touch of a button.

Apps for mobile phones

Apps, or applications, is another term for software that you can download to your phone, which could be anything from fun games to useful business tools. The massive popularity of apps represents a huge change for the mobile phone sector. Not least because where once your handset's functionality was determined by its hardware, now you can change what it can do any time you like simply by downloading new apps that are always being released. Some the best phones for apps are Android handsets and Apple's iPhones.