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Understanding mobile phone jargon

With the rapid advancement of mobile technology, it may seem like you need to learn a whole new language to be able to understand even the simplest mobile phone descriptions.

Mobile phone jargon

We try to make everything on uSwitch mobile phones easy to understand, but if you're struggling with any of the jargon you've come across, this mobile phone glossary should provide you with everything you need to become an expert in mobile-speak.

1G
First-generation mobiles or mobile systems – these are the first-ever mobiles, they are no longer developed but provide the basis for all of today's mobiles.

2G
Second-generation mobiles or mobile systems – 2G mobiles offer data, fax and SMS mobile services. 2G mobiles also offer limited data communications.

2.5G
2.5G or "second-and-a-half generation" – this was the next step from 2G and provides enhanced data communications services, including Multimedia Messaging service (MMS) as well as Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) access for emails and web browsing.

3G
Third-generation mobiles or mobile systems – 3G is the current generation of mobile technology. It supports much higher data rates, full motion video and allows mobile users to access high-speed Internet on 3G-enabled networks.

4G
The new standard in mobile phone technology. Although this is yet to be released in the UK, it has been massively successful in Europe, offering huge speeds (up to 300Mbps) and allowing many more network users.

Air time
This is the number of minutes spent talking on the phone, or the allowance of minutes from your provider (see Talk Time).

Air time provider
This is simply the mobile phone network, for example Vodafone. (See Talk Time Provider)

Bluetooth
Wireless technology that allows connections and exchange of data between devices over short distances.

Caller display
The screen of your mobile that shows the name and number, and sometimes a picture of the caller on a call.

Camera phone
This is a mobile phone with a built-in camera device so you can take pictures with your phone and newer phones, record videos too.

Cell broadcast
Your mobile network may occasionally provide you with useful information via SMS text messaging.

Coverage
This is the area in which you get mobile phone signal from your network. If you have coverage then you can make and receive calls on your mobile phone, send and receive messages and access the Internet.

Desktop charger
A handy accessory - also referred to as a charging dock or cradle - that holds the handset upright on a surface on your desk while it is charging so you can easily view the caller display.

Dual band
This term refers to mobiles that can switch between two frequencies. All new UK mobiles are dual band.

Email
This is a shortened term for electronic mail. Emails are mostly composed on a computer and sent via the Internet but with new developments in mobile phone technology, you can now send and receive emails using a mobile phone just like you can with a computer.

GPRS
General Packet Radio Service – This is a way to enhance 2G phones' capabilities so they can send and receive data at a much faster rate. A GPRS connection means the phone is "always on" and can transfer data immediately. This is the standard digital service used throughout Europe.

Hands-Free
This is a safety feature that allows you to talk without holding the handset to your head and often involves using an extra hands-free accessory such as a Bluetooth earpiece. This is particularly popular with drivers because holding a handset while driving is illegal in the UK.

MP3 Player
This can be a hardware or software built into a mobile phone that allows the playback of music and audio files.

Multimedia messaging
This term refers to sending messages between mobile phones that include images and video clips.

Off-Peak
This refers to the period of time after business hours have ended and during which mobile networks tend to offer reduced rates for calls.

Oftel
The office of telecommunications – This is the independent watchdog for the UK telephone industry. It also covers mobile phones.

Pay As You Go (PAYG)
This is a prepaid mobile phone service. It works by allowing customers to purchase credit in advance to make calls and send messages at rates set by the network.

PC card
This device allows you to wirelessly connect your mobile phone to your computer.

Peak
This is the time of day when the phone network is busiest – This usually occurs during normal business hours. Networks normally make calls more expensive during this time period.

Polyphonic ringtones
This is a form of ringtone which uses up to 40 different notes playing at one time. Previously mobile phone ringtones used 16 notes – these were called monophonic tones.

Roaming
This is sometimes referred to as International Roaming. It means using your phone on a different network, usually in another country, to the one you are signed up to. Your network and talk plan will determine how many countries you can roam in and what charges you will incur from using this service.

SIM
This stands for Subscriber Identity Module. It is the chip that identifies the mobile number and mobile account to the network. It stores essential data and is required to make or receive calls on your network.

SMS
This stands for Short Message Service. It is the service that allows short text messages to be sent and received on all mobile phone networks.

Standby time
This refers to the number of hours that a mobile phone battery will last without receiving or making any calls. If you use the phone to make calls or send messages then the standby time will be diminished.

T9
This is a dictionary that predicts your words as you type text messages into your phone. It helps you to type out text messages quickly and with as few mistakes as possible.

Talk time
This is the same as Air time and refers to the actual amount of time spent talking on the phone, or in some cases the allowance of time available on your talk plan.

Talk time provider
This is the same as Air Time Provider, and refers to the mobile phone network.

Tri-Band
Tri band or Triple band phones can operate across three GSM bands, which means they can be used in more than 100 countries.

Voice activated dialing
This is a way of making a call on your phone with your voice. You speak the name of a contact and it will automatically dial their number. This is a function most commonly used with hands-free sets by drivers.

Voicemail
This is a mobile phone service provided by your network. Voicemail records audio messages from callers when you are unable to answer the phone.

WAP
This stands for Wireless Application Protocol. WAP enables mobile phones to access the internet, send and receive emails and download files.

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