Mobile Phone Glossary
The following terms relate to common abbreviations used when talking about phones. Read on you might just learn something.
Bluetooth is a handy technology that allows devices to talk to one another when close. As and example, you may have Bluetooth on your phone, and when in the car use this to talk to the carphone without having to plug in your phone.
EMS standard for Enhanced Messaging Service. It is system that has evolved from the standard SMS messaging you my be used to, and allows standard ringtones and graphics to be sent to and between phones.
General Packed Radio Service. GPRS is a data upgrade for GSM networks, allowing a data transfer rate of up to 115kps and always on availablity. Now being used for MMS multimedia messaging by some networks.
MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Servoce. MMS allows you to send colour images, graphics and audio files like polyphonic ringtones along with your text messages.
Polyphonic comes from the word polyphony, meaning "many sounds". Music that has many notes sounding together, either in a chordal, or countrapuntal setting.
Polyphonic ringtones vary in specification from phone to phone, but all polyphonic phones support the playing of more than one note together, so your ringtone is generally more musical.
On the downside, because the ringtones are played 'musically' they usually difficult to here in noisy environments. Some manufacturers like Samsung have taken steps to improve this by making their ringtones especially loud, whilst others like Sony Ericsson have retained the 'beep' ringtones in their T300 handset in addition to the polyphonic tones so you can choose.
Ring Tone Text Transfer Language.
A text format designed to allow people to save standard (non-polyphonic) ringtones. Used by most internet sites for Nokia ringtones and by the Ringtone Converter so you can use RTTTL ringtones with almost any make or model of phone.
Synthetic Mobile Music Application Format.
Used in some cell phones including phones from Samsung and Sharp for polyphonic ringtone support. Filenames usually end in .mmf and are downloaded to the handset using a cable, IrDA or download by wap.
Wireless Application Protocol. Wap is an agreed standard that allows your phone to access the Internet. Supported by almost every modern phone.
Some terms are specific to the way the mobile phone network you are on works. These include:
Advanced Mobile Phone Standard. Analogue format used widely in the USA.
Code Division Multiple Access. CDMA is a a digital standard used in the USA, the Far East and Japan. CDMA uses coding of the digital segments of calls, allowing networks to use space on channels over a wide range of frequencies.
Global System for Mobile Communications. A digital cellular standard used throughout Europe and now popular in most parts of the world. The standard uses three frequency bands, 900Mhz, 1800Mhz and 1900Mhz. In the UK GSM usually relates to the GSM900 band as this came first with Vodaphone and Cellnet (now O2), see GSM1800 below.
GSM1800 / PCN / DCS1800
Various names for the same technology. GSM1800 is a digital standard using the 1800MHz band. In Europe the GSM1800 band was added in most countries after the GSM900 slots very sold, and is used by the newer providers like Orange and T-Mobile. Coverage used to be limited to major cities, however now coverage is usually just as good, or in some cases better than the GSM900 networks.
Personal Communications System operating on the 1900Mh frequency. Yet another name for GSM1900, used in the USA and Canada.
Time Division Multiple Access. TDMA is a digital processing system that allows several phones to use the same frequency. Each conversation is allocated a time slot so you only hear the conversation for a fraction of each second, but as the gaps are very small you cannot usually notice.
Other popular jargon...
The traditional way to send calls through the air to cell phones. Still used widely in areas where coverage over large areas is required, however in most densely populated countries and locations analog has generally replaced by digital phone networks which generally offer better clarity.
Caller Display (CLI)
Also know as CLI, or Calling Line Identification. Anyone with a digital mobile will know what caller display is immediately, it used to be groundbreaking, but now it is commonplace. The CLI system allows the user of a phone to see who is calling before choosing if they should accept or decline the call.
Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunication. DECT is a standard for cordless phones. We list it here as some Sagem phones used a combined GSM and DECT setup to allow you to use your mobile phone at home on your landline. It was a good idea, but unfortunately it dones look like it took off as recent Sagem models do not seem to have the facility.
DECT uses 120 channels over 10 frequencies, and gives better quality calls than traditional analogue home phones. Typically most DECT phones have a range of about 30 metres from their base station.
Digital is often banded about as a better alternative to Analogue. With a digital handset speech is sampled to create a binary series of ones and noughts which can be transmitted, and then decoded at the other end. The advantages of this to the network operator are immediate as more calls can be compressed into the same amount of free air space, but their are advantages to the user as well. As less data is flying, and the data can be corrected for errors, quality is improved, and additional services like caller id and text messaging can also tag onto the messages.
Picture messaging is now starting to take off, and the next generation of digital mobile phones, known as 3G, should feature innovations like streaming video from one handset to another.
Dual Band / Triple Band
Dual and triple band phones started to appear in the late 90's when roaming started to become a realistic proposition. Dual band phones usually allow your phone to work on networks in the GSM900 and GSM1800 bands, allowing you to use your phone in most countries worldwide.
The exception is the USA, where you need a Triple band phone to roam as the GSM standard in the states is GSM1900. Even then in remote areas you may find GSM1900 is not yet supported as the USA is a big place, and GSM networks are better suited to densely populated areas, so if you are planning to roam throughout the States you may be better buying a pre-pay package such as Virgin Mobile on a CDMA network for more coverage than a triple band phone can offer at the time of writing.
EFR standard for Enhanced Full Rate. It is a voice coding system designed to improve the voice quality on cell phones. For EFR to work it must be supported by the phone networkand your handset.
The European Telecommunications Standard Institute. The ETSI wrote the specifications for GSM and DECT.
High Speed Circuit Switched Data is an enhancement to standard GSM networks allowing higher data speeds by combining data slots. Requires support by the network and phone, such as the Nokia card phone.
International Mobile Equipment Identity. A unique serial number for your phone.
J2ME is a micro edition of Java 2 used for smaller devices with limited memory, such as mobile phones and PDAs. It allows developers to write software for mobiles, expect to see great games on a mobile near you very soon!
Roaming allows you to use your mobile phone on other networks other than the one you pay. Usually quite expensive, but very handy when you are on your holidays and want to make someone a little jealous!
Subscriber Identity Module. The name for the small smart card used in your
phone. Sim cards used to be the same size as credit cards, but with shrinking
phone sizes, the Sim was re-worked to a small card about the size of a penny
or cent. The Sim card stored your phone number.
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Compatible Networks: O2 / BT Cellnet, T-Mobile / One2One, Orange, Virgin, Vodafone
Nokia - Motorola - Ericsson / Sony Ericsson - Sagem - Samsung - Siemens - Panasonic - Sharp