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Jargon Buster

Mobile technology 

A handy guide to all things mobile technology


Third Generation mobile technology will allow users to get a better host of services and connectivity speeds from their service provider. That means download speeds on mobile devices will be faster as well as data and media streaming


3rd Generation Partnership Project can be construed to be a combination of all GSM, GPRS/EDGE and W-CDMA specifications


4G is the fourth generation of mobile phone technology. It follows on from 3G (third generation) and 2G (second generation) mobile technology


In telecommunications, 5G is the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, which cellular phone companies began deploying worldwide in 2019, and is the planned successor to the 4G networks which provide connectivity to most current mobile phones


In telecommunications, 6G is the sixth generation standard currently under development for wireless communications technologies supporting cellular data networks. It is the planned successor to 5G and will likely be significantly faster


Assisted Global Positioning System allows for a quicker mode of gathering required satellite information via the internet via servers. GPS enabled handsets can get information without the use of A-GPS however it would take a little longer. In order to use A-GPS you would of course require a working internet service on your mobile handset via your service provider


Developed by Google and part of the Open Handset Alliance now, Android is not just an operating system but a software platform as well. It’s based on the Linux Kernel, which is quite synonymous with free or open source software. Developers will also be able to write codes for developing new applications for the OS with Java. The first Android powered handset was HTC’s G1.

Android has become extremely popular today, with devices powered by the OS providing stiff competition to Apple's devices. Some versions are called: Donut, Éclair, FroYo, Gingerbread, Ice Cream Sandwich, Honeycomb


A wireless method of communion between devices for either data transfer or remote access and control

Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR

Bluetooth (BT) with Enhanced Data Rate offers faster rates of communication between Bluetooth enabled devices


  • A2DP - Advanced Audio Distribution Profile allows Bluetooth enabled media devices to communicate with receivers in Stereo Bluetooth headsets for better audio experiences.
  • AVRCP - Audio/Video Remote Control Profile allows BT enabled devices to communicate and control and interface with other BT enabled devices not just for data transfer but in a more in-depth sense. For example one can control your PC’s media player via Bluetooth from a mobile handset equipped with Bluetooth that also has an AVRCP profile


Code division multiple access is another form of mobile/cellular technology that allows users to use the entire spectrum of frequencies available that are capable of providing better sound and data communication. Some CDMA handsets have built in SIM cards, so specific handset models have been designed for this technology.


The range of mobile handsets available with CDMA, are a little more limited as compared to GSM. CDMA is a military technology first used during World War II by English allies to foil German attempts at jamming transmissions

CMOS Sensor

Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor are most widely used in mobile handset cameras. The reason for this is because these sensors require fewer components (perfect for space constraints) and lesser power so it also reduces the cost

Display types

  • TFT LCD - Thin Film Transistor Liquid Crystal Display. TFT LCD type screens are also used in TV’s and computer monitors.
  • QVGA – Quarter Video Graphics Array is 240 x 320 pixels, this is pretty standard for most mobile handsets
  • VGA - Video Graphics Array is 640 x 480 pixels for handsets with larger displays
  • WVGA - Wide Video Graphics Array 800 x 480.
  • OLED - Organic Light-Emitting Diode. Nokia’s N85 uses this type of display.
  • AMOLED - Active Matrix OLED. An enhanced version of OLED screens, AMOLED screens used very commonly now, in phones like Nokia's N8.
  • Super AMOLED - Super AMOLED refers to touchscreens where the layer that detects touches is integrated onto the screen rather than being a layer on top of it. This leads to increased brightness and clarity. The Samsung Galaxy S bears this type of screen.
  • Retina Display - First used in Apple's iPhone 4, the Retina Display is an IPS LCD screen that packs has a very high pixel density (number of pixels per inch), making it very hard for the naked eye to distinguish between pixels and therefore leading to seemingly higher quality

There are plenty of other resolutions and technologies that fall in between these but these terms are more frequently used when discussing mobile handset displays


Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution can also be called EGPRS or Enhanced GPRS and means exactly what it states. It’s one step above GPRS and provides for a little faster browsing and data transfer speeds


Global System for Mobile communications (originally from Groupe Spécial Mobile). To cut a long story very short is the technology that allows for mobile handsets to connect to service providers using any model phone or any service provider anywhere in the world. GSM handsets can be used with SIM cards


General Packet Radio Service is universal as a mobile data service (packet) for 2G and 3G networks. It provides data rates from 56 up to 114 kbit/s of information when connected to the net via the mobile handset’s browser

Hot Swap Slot

A memory card slot that’s accessible without having to remove the battery or the rear panel. Some handsets do have a memory card slot just under the rear panel that but you won’t need to touch the battery. This could also be termed as a Hot Swap Slot


High-Speed Circuit-Switched Data implies four times faster data transmission for mobile for users using GSM with rates up to 38.4 kbit/s. It’s basically high speed implementation of standard GSM transfers


High-Speed Downlink Packet Access is often associated with 3G. It allows networks to provide higher data transfer speeds and capacity. Current HSDPA deployments support down-link speeds of 1.8, 3.6, 7.2 and 14.4 Mbit/s


Infra Red is slowly being phased out these days with BT taking a bigger and more active role in a mobile handset's wireless mode of data transfer and communication. IR means having to keep two handsets aligned with their IR receivers facing each other or ‘in line of sight’ whereas Bluetooth doesn’t not have such limitations and is faster as well


Jailbreaking means hacking into the core system of the iPhone so as to allow users to gain access to areas that were otherwise closed off (Unix File system)


Long Term Evolution is the name given to a project associated with 3GPP to help improve and perhaps even standardize future mobile technology. A lot of devices that supported LTE connectivity were launched at CES 2011, but were marketed as 4G-enabled

Mail for Exchange

A more up scaled version of Push Mail would be Mail for Exchange. With an application being installed on the handset itself, this service would also download your emails in a real-time environment and also sync and integrate with your Contacts list and Calendar. Much like having MS Outlook on your mobile


Cameras capture images in pixels and one megapixel is equal to one million pixels. But the higher the megapixel (MP) count doesn’t mean the better the quality of the camera. Quality is strictly subject to the user’s ability at capturing images with the appropriate settings

Memory Cards

  • MicroSD - MicroSD cards are quite standard across the bar now when it comes to mobile handsets. SD stands for ‘Secure Digital’.
  • M2 – M2 or Memory Stick Micro cards are specific to Sony Ericsson handsets though handsets like the Xperia X1 use standard microSD cards.


Multimedia Messaging Service allows users to send multimedia enabled messages from their handsets in which they can attach full color images, audio and video clips and of course text to other recipients who have the service activated on their handsets via service providers. Specific settings will be required to send and receive MMS messages


This term is applied to specific usability on touchscreen mobiles that allow for specific actions. For example – the pinch to zoom feature in the Apple iPhone. It’s a more sophisticated touchscreen feature that has hardware and software working simultaneously to recognize more than just one point of contact with the screen and responding to the same. Most touchscreen handsets' UI will not permit the use to multiple contacts with the screen to activate features and function

Nav-Pad or D-Pad

This refers to the five way navigation pad that’s usually located under the display and can be used to move through menus and settings. The centre key is for selecting options. Nokia also uses what they call a Navi-Wheel that’s similar to the iPod’s Click Wheel. It's soft touch scrolling in a circular motion for moving around a menu system


Near Field Communication allows for the wireless communication to take place between mobile devices with a very fixed radius of about four inches. This system is not unlike BT or IR but it does have the limitation of distance


Podcasts are either video or audio snippets on various topics uploaded to the net via individuals, corporations, radio stations etc. that can be downloaded for playback on a mobile handset via an active internet connection. They’re usually in the form of web feeds

Proprietary Ports

As the name implies, it's the connectivity port for a handsfree, charger or USB that is design-specific to a single company’s brand of handsets. It’s also one of the more irritating aspects in the mobile phone industry. With a standard port, users can simply use wires from other products and vice-versa instead of hunting for a very specific wire that in most cases is only available with the handset manufacturer who would probably charge a premium rate

Push Mail

This service allows a handset with an active internet connection and support for the same to always download new messages from a designated server linked to your personal email address. What this means is, a real-time download of all incoming emails to your mailbox which you can access from your mobile as well as your PC


To be Pwned is the same as street slang for ‘Owned’ i.e. to be taken for a ride (in some cases) or to be to be controlled against your will. In the world of the iPhone to have your iPhone Pwned, would mean to jailbreak it and gain access to all areas. A Pwnage tool is required to do just this

Keyboards / Keypads

  • QWERTY – A full QWERTY keypad is a mobile keypad that would allow you to visualize and use this type of mobile input system as well as you would a desktop PC’s keyboard. Each company tries to design their handsets keypad to mimic a PC’s as best as they can.
  • SureType - or Half QWERTY keypad are essential the same. SureType is more specific to BlackBerrys.
  • Virtual Keypad - is an On-Screen keypad which is specific to handsets with touchscreens. These are also available in QWERTY, SureType or Half QWERTY as well as normal alphanumeric options.


Radio Data System is a very frequent term attached to the FM radio capabilities in a mobile handset. It’s a method of transmitting small but useful snippets of digital information via the radio’s frequencies that would include Track name, name of the artist etc


Just like you’d have an RSS feed for your PC that intimates you on the latest uploads on your favourite blogs, news sites, etc. via active web feeds, the same is now also available on your mobile handset. It essentially implies that you can select your favourite sites (that offer RSS alerts) and get instant updates on what’s the latest on the site

Series 40 and Series 60

S40 or S60 are mobile User Interfaces (UI) that work with the Symbian Operating System. S40 UIs are usually found in some of the lower end Nokia handsets and S60 can be found in some of the more advanced. Nokia has launched a touchscreen version of their Series 40 UI and of course, you’ll all be familiar by now with the 5800 XpressMusic that uses a S60 touch based UI. Nokia's N8 had a new version of their Symbian UI, named Symbian ^3

Screen Lock or Hold

Most, if not all, touchscreen handsets come equipped with a screen lock button, so settings and features aren’t activated by accident. This is the same as a keypad lock on other non-touchscreen handsets


Short Messaging Service is the full form of SMS, which is sending normal text messages from your mobile


The latest in touchscreen technology is RIM’s offering in their BlackBerry Storm 9500. While the UI works quite like any other touchscreen interface with response to touch by sliding your fingers across the screen; in order to actually activate major functions or selections, the screen itself can be pressed, not unlike a normal button on a keypad. This technology is what we call Tap-Screen and what RIM calls SurePress


TrackID is a feature found in most Sony Ericsson handsets. It allows users to record a segment of a track being played via loudspeakers or over the radio. This recording is then sent to a server in order to extract information like the name of the song and artist, album etc. to be retrieved. An active internet connection will be required on the handset via a service provider. MusicID is the exact same thing that’s evident in Motorola’s newer music oriented handsets


User Interface Quartz, is essentially a platform based on the Symbian Operating System (OS). A variant of sorts. Later versions are used in handsets that have touchscreen interfaces. The UIQ platform also allows for plenty of development and also supports Java


Universal Mobile Telecommunications System is one of the 3G mobile cellular technologies. Also understood as 3GSM in many cases, it essentially implies a sort of hybrid combination of 3G with its speed and GSM with a more globalised standard


Unlocking carrier locked phone implies you would be able to use it as an open GSM handset so that it would no longer be tied to a single carrier. You’d be free to use any service provider's SIM card and services attached to the same without disrupting the use of the handset in any way. In order to Unlock a phone, you’d first need to Jailbreak it


This can also be when you open your mobile phone 'home screen' from an idle position using a passcode/FaceID/Fingerprint lock


Universal Serial Bus is simply a wired standard used for interfacing between a mobile handset and a PC for various purposes be it media and data transfer, backing up of information or even recharging the battery. Mobile phones usually have this in mini-USB and micro-USB variants


Voice over Internet Protocol, in the simplest sense, implies the ability to make voice calls over the internet. In a mobile phone it would mean the ability to make a call using Wi-Fi, EDGE or any other internet service the handset permits


Wireless Application Protocol is simply the system used by a mobile handset to connect to the internet but it’s a little more ‘strictly’ basic when compared to GPRS or EDGE


Wideband Code Division Multiple Access is another type of 3G network


WiFi is a mode of wireless connectivity but with a stricter sense. It allows for mobile handsets to connect to WiFi routers in a certain area for quick and high speed internet connectivity


Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access is a wireless digital communications system intended for much larger areas as compared to WiFi. It can provide broadband wireless up to 50 km for fixed stations, and 5 - 15 km for mobile stations. Wi-Fi on a much larger scale like EDGE/GPRS with broadband speeds