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3G Glossary of Mobile Phone Technology ( Part 1 )

By Jeff Baker on 16th February 2012

The 3G Glossary of Mobile Phone Technology is produced in two parts.

  • Part One covers 0-9 e.g. 3G and letters A through to L.



2G, also known as second generation, is a mobile phone technology that came between analogue technology and 3G technology.


2.5G indicates a mobile device that is more advanced than a standard 2G, or second generation, device, and may even include support for features such as EDGE and GPRS.


3G, or third generation, is an advanced mobile phone technology that has followed 2G, or second generation, technology.  3G systems involve a high capacity for data transfer, meaning that mobile broadband and video calls are among the possibilities on many 3G mobiles, such as those available at a 3 shop or in a 3 mobile deal.


4G, or fourth generation, is a term that is used in reference to the technology developed to follow and improve upon 3G, or third generation, technology, as used in 3G phones.  The technology has not yet fully taken shape, although a number of trials are being based on an IP network in the manner of LTE or WiMAX.  A number of service providers have made commitments to 4G technology as a natural successor to 3G technology.

3-way Calling

3-way Calling is a type of conference calling that means that three or more people can join the same call on a mobile phone, such as a 3G mobile.  All three people can talk and listen at any point during the conference call, and it is usually the case that additional people can join the conference, or that existing participants can leave the conference, without disturbing the call.  This means that it is a flexible method of communication for businesses travellers or for business offices in different regions or countries.


A-GPS stands for Assisted GPS, which is a technology that enables a mobile device, such as a 3G mobile phone, to use triangulation to identify its current location.  Some 3G mobiles that include a GPS chip can make use of A-GPS.  Triangulation is a system whereby the location of a 3G phone can be found in relation to the nearby mobile phone masts.  In many cases, this can give an accuracy of within 100 metres.  Some 3G mobiles, such as some three shop 3G phones, can use A-GPS for a faster location fix than is possible using a normal GPS location fix, which might take as long as 30 seconds. 


AAC, or Advanced Audio Coding, is a format for music that is being considered as an improvement to the widely used MP3 format.  It is claimed that the AAC format can give better sound quality while using the same amount of memory space as the MP3 format, which means that it might be used to improve the music experience for users of 3G phones such as 3 store 3G phones. 


An Accelerometer is a tool within a mobile phone, such as one of the many 3G devices, which can detect motion.  Although the Accelerometer is designed to detect acceleration, it can be used to detect when the orientation of a mobile device changes, and so can be used in the auto rotate function, which rotates the display on the mobile device between landscape and portrait mode, depending on the angle at which the phone is being held. 

Adobe Flash

Adobe Flash, which is often known simply as Flash, is an Adobe product that works as a multimedia system for computers.  Users often access it by use of a web browser, but it can also be used in the creation of user interfaces and menus for a number of mobile phones, such as 3G mobiles.  A light version of Flash, with a smaller range of functions than the full version, is available specifically for mobile phones, enabling users to view multimedia web content on, for example, a 3shop 3G phone.  Other uses of Flash include support for streaming video on social networking and other multimedia websites. 


AMOLED is the short form of Active Matrix OLED, which is a type of display technology used on mobile devices.  One of the benefits for users is that displays that use this technology tend to have quicker times for pixel switching, which removes the effect of ‘ghosting’ that is sometimes apparent in quick-moving animations when they are displayed using older technology.


The name Android has been given to a Google-designed operating system that is based on Linux.  The Android operating system is open source in nature, meaning that 3G phones or other devices that are based on Android are likely to be cheaper to produce than operating systems for which a royalty fee is payable, as is the case with, for example, Windows Mobile by Microsoft.  The first commercial device based on the Android operating system was introduced to the market by T-Mobile in 2008.

Android 2.3

Android 2.3 has also gone by the name Gingerbread, and is a version of Android that was released in the latter half of 2010 to include a number of technical improvements.  These improvements included enhancements to the user interface and to the copy-paste functions, to the support for Near Field Communication support, and to the support available for larger screens.  There was also the addition of a virtual keyboard on the device screen.  Android 2.3 was later updated further with additional enhancements in the form of video calling (Google Talk) and mobile payment (Google Wallet). 

Android 4.0

Android 4.0 has also gone by the name Ice Cream Sandwich, and is a version of Android that was first released onto the market in the latter half of 2011 and that combines, in one operating system, the smartphone features of Android 2.3 and the tablet features of Android 3, which has also gone by the name Honeycomb.  Android 4.0 includes additions and features such as a new font, which has been given the name Roboto, and a number of other improvements to the user interface.

Audio Output Jack

The audio output jack is a connector on a mobile phone, such as one of the 3 shop 3G phones, that enables the user to use the phone with a regular headset in order to listen to music on the phone.  The audio output jack is a standard connector, usually with a dimension of 3.5mm, which means that there is no need for connectors that are specific to each type of mobile phone on the market. 

Auto Focus

The auto focus feature is part of the camera lens on a mobile phone such as a 3G phone that automatically adjusts the focus of the lens onto a particular object in the viewfinder.  Although auto focus has been a standard feature on cameras for many years, many camera phones have featured cameras with a fixed focus lens, which can lead to a lack of clarity in images, and the introduction of auto focus in camera phones such as 3G phones is intended to solve that difficulty.

Bar Phone

The term bar phone refers to the shape of one of the more popular types of mobile phones, including 3G phones.  The word bar is derived from the idea of a candy bar or chocolate bar, and the simple shape makes the buttons and the screen easy to see and easy to access, which has been an important factor in making the design popular.

BlackBerry - Research In Motion

Research In Motion is sometimes abbreviated to RIM or is known by the BlackBerry brand, and is a company based in Waterloo, Canada, that makes mobile phones and the related server software that is necessary for the use of email on mobile devices such as 3G mobiles.  The server software is known as BlackBerry Enterprise Server.


Bluetooth is a type of technology that enables wireless connections to be created so that electrical devices, including mobile phones such as 3G phones, can communicate with each other without the need for wires.  Bluetooth technology works over short distances, usually up to about 10 metres, and is a common solution when it comes to the car kits and headsets that operate with, for example, three shop 3G phones.


Bps is an abbreviation of the measurement bits per second, which denotes the speed at which data transfer occurs, for example when sending or receiving data from 3G phones.

Capacitive Touchscreen

A capacitive touchscreen is one of the categories of touchscreen that is most commonly used for mobile devices that use displays that can be operated by touch.  Capacitive touchscreens make use of the electrical properties that are inherent to the human body so that they can detect when and where a user touches the screen.  Capacitive displays respond to quite light touches by the user when the finger is in direct contact with the screen, but cannot usually detect a touch by a stylus or by a hand that is in a glove.  The other type of touchscreen that is commonly used is a resistive touchscreen.


The term cellular is widely used to describe mobile phone communications, particularly in the USA, and is derived from the fact that mobile phones, including 3G phones, operate within a series of transmitter areas known as cells.


A contract for a mobile phone such as a 3G phone is an agreement with a service provider.  Contracts are available at different prices and for different lengths of time and usually involve periodic billing, such as monthly bills for the services used.  Sometimes phones, including 3G phones, are made available for free with certain types of contract.  For a 3 mobile deal or for other information on a contract for a 3 mobile phone, information is available from the nearest 3shop.


Coverage refers to the area within which it is possible to make or receive calls on a mobile phone.

Digital Zoom

On the camera of a mobile phone, the digital zoom is a feature that can digitally enhance part of an image so that it appears that the lens has zoomed in on the subject of the image.  However, as the digital zoom actually crops and enhances the image, there is generally lower image quality than with optical zoom.

Dual Band

Dual band refers to the ability that a phone has to work on networks of both 900MHz and 1800MHz.  Following the growth in popularity of mobile phones, including 3G mobiles, the available frequencies for mobile phones have been in great demand.  With dual band, 3G phones can make use of the full range of frequencies that are available, easing the congestion of mobile phone frequencies.


EDGE is term derived from the words ‘enhanced speed for data transfer across a GSM network’, and the technology of EDGE is sometimes viewed as an alternative technology to third generation, or 3G.  If a 3G network is not available, many 3G phones can use EDGE to maintain fast rates of data transfer.

Evolved HSPA

Evolved HSPA is sometimes referred to by the alternative terms HSPA Evolution, HSPA+, or eHSPA, and involves a developing set of technologies that use existing HSPA standards.  These standards deal with data transmission across 3G networks that are based on UMTS.  Evolved HSPA has been predicted to be able to provide 3G phones with a downlink rate of 42Mbps and an uplink rate of 22Mbps. 

Face Recognition

Face recognition is a type of technology that is used in a digital camera to identify human faces and to provide an automatic focus on these faces, meaning that images of faces are produced with greater clarity and sharpness. 


A femtocell is used in a domestic or small business environment as a small cell tower that expands the network range of a service provider.  Each femtocell can connect to the service provider’s network using the domestic or business broadband internet, so that it then provides a strong signal for devices in the area, such as 3G phones from 3shop.


Firmware is a term that is used to describe the software that controls how a mobile devices such as 3G mobiles work.  The word firmware indicates that, unlike other software, the functions are closely linked to the specific hardware to be found in mobile devices.  Most often, firmware is stored in the flash memory of the ROM on a mobile device, to help to prevent accidental erasure or loss.  Sometimes the firmware of mobile devices such as 3G phones can be updated to add extra functions to the devices.

Flash Lite

Flash Lite offers mobile devices such as the 3G phones from 3shop the possibility to make run a selection of the features that are to be found in a full version of Adobe Flash.  Flash Lite can be used, for example, to view embedded videos on social networking websites.

Frame Rate

Frame rate is measured in, for example, frames per second, and it indicates how many still images are used to create one second of video or animation.  When there are more frames per second, the video or animation appears to be smoother with less flicker.  A good frame rate for smooth quality video is 30fps (frames per second) or more, but with a rate of 15fps or less, the video becomes obviously less smooth.

Frequency Band

A frequency bands is a group of radio frequencies, such as those used by mobile phones when communicating with a mobile network such as a 3G network.  A mobile device needs to be able to work on a particular frequency band to be able to communicate with a particular mobile network.  For example, the frequency bands used by mobile networks in the USA tend to be at 1900MHz and 850MHz, while the frequency bands of mobile networks in Europe and elsewhere tend to be 900MHz and 1800MHz.  If a mobile device such as a 3G phone needs to work in both the USA and Europe, it must be able to work at 1900MHz and either 900MHz or 1800MHz.  It is possible to get devices from 3shop that are tri-band, covering three frequency bands, or quad-band, covering four frequency bands.


GB is an abbreviation of Gigabyte, which is a unit of memory storage, for example in a 3G phone.  One Gigabyte is the same as 1024 MB, or Megabytes.


GPS stands for Global Positioning System, which is a technology that uses satellites to work out the location of a device with GPS technology, such as some 3G mobiles. 


GPRS is an abbreviation of General Packet Radio Service, which historically was a high-speed data service that preceded 3G for mobile devices.


GSM now stands for Global Standard for Mobile communications, which is a worldwide standard for digital mobile phone networks.  Such networks operate on different frequency bands.  Mobile devices such as 3G mobiles need to operate on the correct frequency bands for the local networks.  For example, a quad band phone from three mobile is capable of operating on all four of the main frequency bands used globally, which makes it good for international travel. 


Hands-free refers to the possibility to use a device to make or receive a phone call without actually holding the device.  A typical situation would be a hands-free car kit, which enables a driver to use the phone and drive at the same time.  This is done through the use of a microphone for the driver's voice and a loudspeaker through which the caller can be heard.   In other applications, the loudspeaker might be replaced by earphones or a device for conference calls.  A wireless Bluetooth headset is another example of a hands-free device. 


Haptics, or haptic feedback, refers to the way in which the sense of touch is used in the user interface of, for example, a mobile phone, to give the user of the phone information.  For example, in mobile devices such as 3G devices, haptics can include a vibration to acknowledge a user pressing a touchscreen button, which replaces the tactile sense of pressing and releasing a traditional physical key or button.  The concept of haptics is also used in so-called force feedback that is provided through joysticks and steering wheels during some types of games.


HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface, which is a connection similar to USB that uses a single cable to connect to an audio or video device, such as a DVD player or TV monitor.


HDMI-Ready refers to the capability of a device to use HDMI, or High-Definition Multimedia Interface, to connect to a high-definition digital audio or video signal. 


HDTV stands for High-Definition Television, which is a type of digital television that has a higher resolution than analogue television.  Most television broadcasts are now digital.


HSCSD stands for High Speed Circuit-Switched Data, which is a method of using 2G, or second generation, mobile networks to provide fast internet access.  The introduction of 3G networks and 3G mobiles, such as those from three shop, means that HSCSD is no longer in common use.


HSPA stands for High Speed Packet Access, which refers to 3G networks that are based on UMTS and that can utilise both HSDPA and HSUPA data for higher download and upload rates.  HSPA is sometimes used as a term to cover the whole family of similar systems, including HSPA+.


HSDPA stands for High Speed Download Packet Access, which is usually referred to as mobile broadband.  HSDPA provides high data rates when downloading data on a 3G mobile network. 


HSUPA stands for High Speed Upload Packet Access, which is a service that works with HSDPA to provide upload data rates at mobile broadband quality, to complement the similarly faster download data rates that are available on a 3G network. 


IM stands for Instant Messaging, which is a commonly used communication service that is available on a wide range of 3G phones, such as those from 3store.  Some devices enable users to use IM with established applications such as Windows Live and Yahoo Messenger.

Image Stabiliser

Image stabiliser is a technology that is used on a camera phone so that the effect of shake, as caused by a hand tremor, is reduced and so that an image is less blurred as a result. 


IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol, is a way of sending and receiving email by use of an internet server online.  With IMAP, email headers and sender data are downloaded so that the user can then decide whether to download a full email message, for example onto a 3G device, or to keep the email message on the server online, where it can later be accessed from a computer, for example. 


IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity, which is a unique serial number that is required for every mobile device.  The IMEI is usually printed in a place under the device battery.  The IMEI can be used if a device is stolen, so that the device can be identified and blocked by the mobile network, thus making it unusable as a phone. 

Internal Memory

The internal memory of a phone such as a 3G phone is the capacity on the device that can be used to save images, messages, and music, for example. 


IrDA refers to a set of protocols that manage the exchange of data using infrared technology.  Infrared is common on devices such as 3G mobiles, but the operating range is limited compared to Bluetooth.


Java is the name of a programming language that used in the creation of a large number of games and applications that can be used on devices such as 3G phones. 


Kbps is an abbreviation of the unit of measurement kilobytes per second, which indicates the speed at which data is transferred, for example on a mobile network such as 3G network.


LCD stands for liquid crystal display, which is a technology that has made flat screens and flat displays possible.  The technology makes use of electrodes and polarizing filters so that individual pixels of light can be activated or deactivated, meaning that they appear lit or unlit to the user.  In a colour LCD, red, green, and blue colour filters are combined to create the colours that are visible on the display. 


LED stands for Light Emitting Diode, which is a small light that is used, for example on a camera phone, to enhance the quality of images shot in poor light by illuminating objects that are in the shot.  LEDs provide less light than a xenon flash, but also require less energy to operate, thus saving battery power. 

Lithium Ion

Lithium ion is a chemical technology that is used in the manufacture of a large number of types of mobile device batteries


LTE stands for Long Term Evolution, which is thought to be a likely evolution from the technology of UMTS 3G.  The concept behind LTE is to update the UMTS 3G technology, and therefore provide higher data transmission rates in both the upload and download directions.  As 3G develops into 4G, LTE is one of the options available to service providers when upgrading their mobile networks.


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