Wireless jargon got you confused? The cell phones etc. glossary is your key to making sense of it all. Here you will find the definitions for hundreds of cellular and wireless terms.
1G (First Generation Wireless) a term used to describe the first generation of wireless technology (analog cell phones). The systems were designed only to carry voice technology.
1xRTT the name for the first phase in CDMA's evolution to third-generation (3G) technology. 1xRTT networks allow for increased network capacity (more users; fewer dropped calls), better battery life, and increased data speeds (up to 144Kbps). According to Qualcomm, the developers of the technology, 1x stands for a single radio channel, while RTT stands for radio transmission technology.
2G (also known as (PCS) Personal Communications Services) a term used to describe the second generation of wireless technology (digital cell phones). 2G technology converts voice to digital data for transmission over the air and then back to voice. 2G is the current wireless service available in North America.
2.5G second-and-a-half generation wireless technology. Most carriers will move to this wireless technology before making the upgrade to 3G. A 2.5G network with GPRS or 1xRTT will change existing wireless networks to a packet-switched service that will increase data transmission speeds.
3-Way Calling allows you to conduct a conference call between three parties. (network and subscription dependent feature - not available in all areas)
3G (Third Generation Wireless) a term used to describe the next generation of wireless technology which will provide users with high speed data transmissions (up to 2Mbps) and the ability to roam globally. Known as IMT 2000 by the ITU and implemented in Europe as UMTS and cdma2000 in North America.
3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) a cooperation of standards organizations (ARIB, CWTS, ETSI, T1, TTA and TTC) throughout the world that is developing the technical specifications for third generation wireless technology.
4G (Fourth Generation Wireless) communications systems that are characterized by high-speed data rates at 20+ Mbps, suitable for high-resolution movies and television. Initial deployments are anticipated in 2006-2010.
802.11 refers to a family of specifications for wireless local area networks (WLANs) developed by a working group of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). There are currently four specifications in the family: 802.11, 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g.
802.11a refers to a new wireless local area network technology that operates in the 5 gigahertz spectrum. 802.11a is able to transmit data at speeds up to 54 Mbps and helps eliminate interference from devices operating at 2.4 gigahertz, such as cordless phones and microwave ovens.
802.11b often called Wi-Fi, is the most widely used wireless local area network technology. 802.11b technology operates in the 2.4 GHz range offering data speeds up to 11 megabits per second. A user with a Wi-Fi product can use any brand of access point with any other brand of client hardware that is built to the Wi-Fi standard.
AC (Alternating Current) the standard electricity type found in North America.
AC Charger an accessory device that allows you to power and/or charge your phone from a wall outlet.
Access Point a base station in a wireless local area network that allows individuals to use wireless networking cards in their computers and other electronic devices. Access points are typically stand-alone devices that plug into an Ethernet hub or server. Depending on the radio environment of the specific building, one access point can provide up to 300 feet (100 meters) of wireless network coverage. Like a cellular phone network, users can roam between access points with their mobile devices and be handed off from one access point to another.
Activation the process by which a cell phone account is created, your phone number assigned, and your phone programmed so that you can make and receive calls.
Activation Fee the fee charged by service providers to create an account, assign a phone number and configure a phone with their network.
Active Flip/Keypad Cover a feature that will answer a call by opening the keypad cover and end a call by closing the keypad cover.
Active Matrix Display see TFT.
Advanced Mobile Phone Service see AMPS.
Aftermarket a term used to describe an accessory that is made by a company other than the original manufacturer of the product.
Air Interface a wireless network's operating system, enabling communication between a cellular phone and its carrier. The main interface technologies are AMPS, TDMA, CDMA, GSM, and iDEN.
Air Time the actual time spent using a cellular system. Billing begins when the SEND key is pressed and finishes when the user presses END.
Alarm Clock an alarm feature which can be set for a specific time and date or can used as a daily alarm.
Alphanumeric Display a display capable of containing both letters ("alphas") and numbers ("numeric").
Alphanumeric Memory a special type of dial-from-memory option that displays both the name of individual and that individuals phone number on the cellular phone handset. The name also can be recalled by using the letters on the phone keypad. By contrast, standard memory dial recalls numbers from number-only locations.
AMPS (Advanced Mobile Phone Service) the standard for analog cellular telephones which uses a frequency-modulated transmission and spacing to separate transmissions. Operates in the 800 megahertz (MHZ) band.
AMPS modem a wireless modem designed for analog cellular phones.
Analog a technology which utilizes a continuous "wave" of signal to carry information over radio channels. In contrast to digital technology, which allows upwards of 15 calls per channel, analog only permits 1 call per channel. Early cell phones all used analog technology. Although analog phones are still common, the majority of new handsets are digital and some carriers no longer offer analog service.
ANSI-41 a protocol standardized by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for enabling cdmaOne, cdma2000 and TDMA subscribers to roam between different wireless service operators' systems to make and receive voice calls.
ANSI-136 another name for Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA).
Antenna a part of a cell phone that receives and transmits cellular radio-frequency transmissions.
Any-Key Answer a feature which enables a user to answer incoming calls easily by pressing any button on the keypad.
Any-Time Minutes refers to minutes which can be used anytime, without regard to peak/off-peak, day/night, or weekday/weeknight restrictions. Usually a specified number of these minutes are provided with a wireless plan.
ARM one of the three types of processors that can be found in Pocket PCS. Created by ARM Ltd., the ARM processor has a unique architecture compared to its two competitors (MIPS and SH3), and therefore can only run programs created specifically for it.
Asynchronous mode a transmission data standard, where data information is sent at non-regular intervals. Information is sent as necessary, instead of synchronized with a time signal.
Attenuation the decrease in signal strength as a result of absorption and scattering of energy by objects such as buildings, trees, people, etc.
Authentication a process that allows cellular phones and operators to confirm the identity of any phone that registers itself on the network trough doing or receiving a call.
Automatic Answer a feature that allows a user to answer incoming calls without pressing any keys. This feature is generally used in conjunction with a hands-free device.
Automatic Lock when activated the phone will automatically lock each time it is power is turned off to help prevent unauthorized use.
Automatic Redial automatically redials a busy number simply by pressing the send button.
Back-Lit Illumination illuminates a wireless device's display and keypad for better low light viewing.
Bag Phone see Carry/Transportable Phone.
Band a specific range of frequencies in the radio frequency (RF) spectrum.
Bandwidth the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time. Usually expressed in bits per second (bps) or bytes per second for digital devices and cycles per second, or Hertz (Hz) for analog devices.
Base Station see Cell Site.
Battery Capacity the capacity of wireless devices' battery. Measured in milliampere hours (mAh).
Battery Indicators a feature which alerts you that the battery is running low with either an audible tone, or a visual indicator.
Battery Strength Meter a visual indicator of the estimated time remaining on the battery. Helps avoid dropped calls due to insufficient current voltage.
Bits Per Second see BPS.
Bluetooth a wireless personal area network (PAN) specification that connects phones, computers, appliances, etc. over short distances without wires by using low power radio frequencies.
BPS (Bits Per Second) a measure of how fast binary digits can be sent through a channel. The number of 0s and 1s that travel down the channel per second.
BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless) is an open source application development platform for wireless devices equipped for code division multiple access (CDMA) technology. Developed by Qualcomm, BREW makes it possible for developers to create portable applications that will work on any handsets equipped with CDMA chipsets. A similar and competing platform is J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition), from Sun Microsystems.
Browser a software application that allows access to the services on the Internet. WAP phones incorporate a special browser that can access mobile Internet services designed specially for the WAP market (characterized by smaller screen sizes and slower data transmission speeds).
Built-in Charger a built-in battery charger that allows you to plug the phone directly into a power source to charge any attached batteries.
Call Blocking allows you to set your phone to prohibit incoming or outgoing phone calls from specific numbers. (network and subscription dependent feature -- not available in all areas).
Call Forwarding allows users to redirect calls to an alternate telephone number. (network and subscription dependent feature -- not available in all areas).
Call-in-Absence Indicator a feature that, if a phone is left active and an incoming call is not answered, the message "Call" will be displayed to inform the user of a call attempt.
Call Log a feature which allows a user to display the numbers of the last incoming and outgoing calls.
Call Quality a measure of the total quality of a call including the ability to accurately reproduce a users voice, as well as the systems ability to limit impairments during the course of a conversation.
Call Restriction a feature which enables a user to prevent calls to certain numbers without the input of a code.
Call Timers enables the tracking of airtime usage to monitor phone expenses. The length of an individual call or a running total (cumulative) can be displayed.
Call Waiting a feature that will alert you of another incoming call and enables you to accept the call without disconnecting the first. (network and subscription dependent feature -- not available in all areas).
Caller ID see CLI.
Cancellation Fee the cost to terminate the plan prior to the end date specified in the contract
Car Charger see CLA.
Car Kit a kit that adapts a hand-held cell phone for handsfree use in the car.
Car Phone a phone which is permanently installed into a vehicle. They are considerably more powerful (3-watt output) than a handheld cell phone but considerably less flexible.
Carrier a wireless network operator is often referred to as a carrier. Carrier is also a technical radio term for the radio wave that carries voice or data.
Carry/Transportable Phone a term given to cellular phones that are capable of 3-watt output and can be used either as a portable unit or installed in a vehicle.
CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) a type of digital wireless technology that allows large amounts of voice and data to be transmitted on the same frequency. CDMA is second-generation cellular technology (or 2G) and is currently available in Canada, the United States, Pacific Asia, and Latin America. Most CDMA service providers (Telus Mobility and Bell Mobility for example) will migrate to a high-speed data technology called 1xRTT.
CDMA One the original CDMA (2G) that is in use today in all CDMA networks that have not been upgraded to cdma2000.
CDMA2000 defines the third-generation (3G) version of CDMA technology. Also known as IMT-CDMA Multi-Carrier or IS-136, cdma2000 supports high-speed data transmission (144 Kbps to 2 Mbps), always-on data service, and improved voice network capacity (more people can use each tower at the same time). cdma2000 is a competitor to WCDMA and will be deployed in at least three phases - 1xRTT, 1xEV-DO, 1xEV-DV, and cdma2000 3x.
CDMA2000 1xEV-DO the second phase of CDMA2000 following 1xRTT deployment. 1xEV-DO stands for 1x Evolution Data Only. "EV-DO" puts voice and data on separate channels in order to provide high-speed, high-capacity wireless Internet connectivity (peak data rate of 2.4 Mbps).
CDMA2000 1x EV-DV the third phase of cdma2000 following 1xEV-DO deployment. 1xEV-DV stands for 1x Evolution Data Voice, and is characterized by a maximum data rate of 5.2 Mbps and the ability to support wireless Voice over IP (VoIP) services.
CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data) an add-on technology that enables first-generation analog systems to provide packet data with a special modem. CDPD modems are available on PC Cards for laptop and handheld computers. CDPD has been implemented in Canada by Telus Mobility in Canada and in the U.S. by AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless.
Cell a geographical area of a cellular system in which radio frequency coverage is provided. Also, the basis for the generic industry term "cellular." The cells can vary in size depending upon terrain, capacity demands, etc. but are usually hexagonal and can be anywhere from 0.4 miles up to 15 or more miles in radius.
Cell Site a fixed cellular tower and radio antenna that handles communication with subscribers in a particular area or cell. A cellular network is made up of many cell sites, all connected back to the wired phone system.
Cell Splitting a means of increasing the capacity of a cellular system by subdividing or splitting cells into two or more smaller cells.
Cellular a wireless telephone service that provides two-way voice and data communications through handheld, portable, and car-mounted phones via geographic areas called cells.
Cellular Digital Packet Data see CDPD.
Cellular Signal the radio waves that carry information between your cellular phone and the cellular system.
CHTML (Compact Hyper Text Markup Language) a subset of HTML designed for small devices, such as smart phones and PDAs. cHTML is essentially a simpler form of HTML designed for small devices with small memory, low power CPUs, limited or no storage capabilities, and small mono-color display screens.
Cigarette Lighter Adapter see CLA.
Circuit Switched a communications method which establishes a dedicated channel and occupies a fixed amount of bandwidth for the duration of the transmission, regardless of whether any data is being transferred.
CLA (Cigarette Lighter Adapter) an adapter which supplies power and/or charges a wireless device from a car's cigarette lighter or a 12 volt supply.
CLI (Calling Line Identification) a feature that allows a phone's display to show you the number and sometimes the name of an incoming caller before you answer. Some carriers allow you to "block" your number when you are sending calls.
Cloning a crime whereby criminals with special equipment capture identity codes from analog phones and create "clone" IDs allowing them to charge calls to your cell phone account. Digital phones cannot be cloned in this way and are also less vulnerable to eavesdropping than analog phones.
CLR (Clear) a key which erases the display.
Code Division Multiple Access see CDMA.
Compact HTML see CHTML.
Conference Calling a service feature that enables a user to connect with two other numbers for a three-way conversation. Also called three-way calling.
Contract see Service Agreement.
Coverage see Service Area.
Cradle an accessory which holds a wireless device. Cradles may also have the capability to charge batteries.
Crosstalk a disturbance caused by the electric or magnetic fields of one telecommunication signal affecting a signal in an adjacent circuit. On wireless networks, crosstalk can result in your hearing part of a voice conversation from another circuit.
CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) regulates Canadian telecommunications service providers.
CTIA Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.
CWTA Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.
D-AMPS see TDMA.
Data information that a wireless device can process (numbers, letters and symbols).
Data Card allows a fax and data compatible phone to connect to a laptop or a handheld computer. You can then use this combination to access the Internet or send/receive faxes.
Data Compatible a wireless feature that enables devices to transmit data either from the handset or via a data card.
Data/Fax Capability the ability for a cell phone to send and receive fax and data files, access the Internet, and send e-mail when connected to mobile office equipment.
Data Interface/Link an accessory that allows the connection of wireless devices to computers, fax machines, etc. for data transmission.
Data Services enables users to access data, transmit data and communicate with computers and networks. (e-mail, Internet, fax, etc..)
Data Transmission the transmission of data between computers or over a telecommunications network.
Date and Time Stamp a feature that records the exact time and date a message was left.
DCIM (Digital Camera Images) a directory found at the root of all digital cameras. May contain multiple subdirectories with names such as "123ABCDE", and no two directories may have the same three digit code.
DCS (Digital Cellular System) a GSM network operating at 1800MHZ. Used by Orange and One 2 One in the UK.
Dead Spot an area within a wireless network where service is not available.
Dedicated Message Key a feature which allows quick access to digital voice and text messages.
Desktop Charger a cradle-type device which allows you to charge your phone in an upright position and also lets you charge an additional battery at the same time.
Detailed Billing a bill which lists details of usage, including the airtime used, telephone numbers called, and any additional charges.
Digital a method of encoding a transmission that involves translating information (in the case of digital phones the information would be a voice conversation) into a series of 0's and 1's. Digital communications technology offers cleaner calls without the static and distortion that is common with analog phones. The majority of new handsets sold today are digital rather than analog technology.
Digital Phone a type of wireless phone which transmits and receives digital signals.
Digital Signal Processing see DSP.
Digital TTY/TDD enables those who are deaf or hard of hearing to use a special TTY device with digital service. Normally, TTY devices are only compatible with analog service.
Dimensions the size of a device
Direct Connect a term used by Telus Mobility's Mike service to describe their two-way radio feature which allows a group of users to communicate directly without dialing a phone number.
Distinctive Ringing a feature that enables a phone to ring in a special way when calls from a designated list of phone numbers are received (network and subscription dependent feature -not available in all areas).
DragonBall a series of microprocessors (the brains of a computer) developed by Motorola specifically designed for PDAs, smartphones and Internet appliances.
DSP (Digital Signal Processing) refers to manipulating analog information, such as sound or photographs that has been converted into a digital form to improve accuracy and reliability of digital communications.
DTMF (Dual Tone Multi-Frequency) are tones that your phone transmits to communicate with tone activated phone systems like voice mail or bank by-phone.
Dual-Band a wireless phone which is able to operate on both 800MHz and 1900MHz digital networks to send and receive calls; basically, the phone can operate in either digital cellular or PCS frequencies.
Dual-Battery Compatible allows you to use a main and auxiliary battery on your phone for extended talk times.
Dual-Mode a wireless phone which is able to operate on both analog and digital networks to send and receive calls.
Dual-NAM a feature which enables a wireless phone to operate on two separate phone numbers.
Dual-Tone Multi Frequency see DTMF.
Ear-to-Mouth Ratio the relative positions of the mouth and ear on an adult head. Manufacturers pay particular attention to this ergonomic factor when designing all phones.
Early Termination Fee see Cancellation Fee.
EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution) a technology being promoted by the TDMA and GSM communities that is capable of both voice and 3G data rates up to 384 Kbps. The standard is based on GSM standard and uses TDMA multiplexing technology.
EFR (Enhanced Full Rate) a feature that allows users with EFR compatible handsets to benefit from significantly better call quality through enhanced digital coding. (network and subscription dependent feature -not available in all areas).
EL (Electro Luminicent) a technology used to produce a very thin display screen, called a flat-panel display, used in some handheld computers.
Electronic Lock see Lock.
Electronic Serial Number see ESN.
E-Mail the electronic transfer and storage of written messages.
E-mail Capability the ability for a mobile phone or PDA to send and receive e-mail. With a modem and installed or optional third party software, you can send and receive e-mail with most mobile phone and PDAs. E-mail capability, however, is limited by the service or method you use to access the e-mail.
Emergency One-Touch Dialing a memory location reserved for storing an important number. The number can be accessed and called even if the phone is locked.
EMS (Enhanced Message Service) an extension of SMS that enables the sending of a combination of simple melodies, images, sounds, animations and formatted text as a message to another EMS-compatible phone.
END a key on a wireless phone which terminates a call.
Enhanced Full Rate see EFR.
Enhanced Message Service see EMS.
ERI (Enhanced Roaming Indicator) a feature to indicate whether a mobile phone is on its home system, a partner network, or a foreign (roaming) network. ERI capable handsets, when loaded with the proper software and PRL, will illustrate the home or roam condition using a banner with text on the handset display. While many phones can indicate home vs. roaming via an icon, ERI phones can clearly indicate the third "partner network" status, which may carry a different rate schedule.
Enhanced Roaming Indicator see ERI.
Enhanced Services services available from wireless carriers that provide consumers with value-added telephone services, such as voicemail and call waiting.
ESN (Electronic Serial Number) a unique unchangeable number that is embedded into the phone and is transmitted by the phone as a means of identifying itself within the system.
ETSI European Telecommunications Standards Institute.
Evenings/Weekends a designated time when calling rates are low or free. These times are generally from 7pm to 7am on weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday.
Face Plate a front housing or casing on some models of phones that can be detached and replaced with coloured designs.
Fascias see Face Plate.
FCC (Federal Communications Commission) an independent United States government agency charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.
FCN (Function Key) a non-numeric key used on certain wireless phones to navigate menus and features.
File Transfer profile see FTP.
FOMA (Freedom Of Mobile multimedia Access) the name of NTT DoCoMo's WCDMA service.
Free First Minute the first minute of airtime on incoming calls which is not billed.
Freedom Of Mobile Multimedia Access see FOMA.
Frequency the rate at which a wave alternates, usually measured in Hertz (Hz).
Fringe Area the outermost area of a cellular system where signals are weaker.
FTP a Bluetooth profile that provides access to the file system / folder listings on another device. It uses OBEX as a transport and is based on GOEP.
Full Duplex incoming and outgoing audio can occur simultaneously, so user can speak and listen at the same time.
Function Key see FCN.
GAIT (GSM ANSI-136 Interoperability Team) a technology that enables GSM and TDMA networks to interoperate.
General Packet Radio Service see GPRS.
GHz (Gigahertz) 1 billion hertz in the frequency spectrum.
Gigahertz see GHz.
Glass Mount a type of antenna which can be mounted on a window without drilling holes.
Global Positioning System see GPS.
Global Roaming the ability to make and receive calls and send and receive SMS while you travel overseas with your regular cell phone number.
Global System for Mobile Communications see GSM.
GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) a next generation (2.5G) technology standard for high-speed data transmission over GSM networks. GPRS sends data over packets rather than via circuit switch connections on cellular networks which allows for "always on" wireless data connections and speeds up to 115Kbps.
GPS (Global Positioning System) a system of 24 satellites, computers, and receivers that is able to determine the latitude and longitude of a receiver on Earth. By triangulation of signals from three of the satellites, a receiving unit can pinpoint its current location anywhere on earth to within a few meters.
GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) a type of digital wireless network which has been widely deployed throughout the world. There are 4 primary frequencies in use today: 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz and 1900MHz. In Canada and the United States, you will find support for the 850, 1800 and 1900MHz bands, while most countries in Europe and Asia support either 900, 1800 or 1900MHz.
GSM 900 GSM networks operating at 900 MHZ.
GSM 1800 GSM networks operating at 1.8 GHz.
GSM 1900 GSM networks operating at 1.9 GHz (primarily in North America).
Handheld Device Markup Language see HDML.
Handheld Computer a portable, handheld computing device that acts as an electronic organizer. Handheld computers are typically used for managing addresses, appointments, to-do lists and notes, but some newer models support wireless Internet access, e-mail, and other interactive applications. Also referred to as PDAs, Handhelds come in two major flavors - Palm and Pocket PC.
Hand-Off the transfer of a cellular phone conversation from one cell to another as a phone moves through the service area. It is performed so quickly that callers don't notice.
Handset a mobile or cell phone is often referred to as a handset.
Hands-Free a feature that allows users to conduct a conversation without holding the phone.
HDML (Handheld Device Markup Language) a language that allows certain web pages to be presented on cellular telephones and personal digital assistants (PDA) via wireless access.
HDR see CDMA2000.
Headset Jack allows an external headset/microphone accessory to be used with a phone so hands-free conversations can take place.
Hearing Aid Compatible enables hearing impaired persons to use a wireless device through their t-coil compatible hearing aids. (T-coil must be activated, not compatible with all hearing aids)
Hertz see Hz.
High Speed Circuit Switched Data System see HSCSD.
High-Speed Data support for one of the wireless high-speed data protocols (GPRS, 1xRTT).
Home Area the geographic area within which a wireless subscriber can call without incurring roaming or long distance charges.
Home Only a mode that can be selected on a cell phone so that it will only operate within range of your home cellular system.
Horn Alert when activated, incoming calls will cause a vehicle's horn to sound or headlights to flash to alert the user to return to the vehicle.
HSCSD (High Speed Circuit Switched Data System) enables the transmission of data over current GSM networks at speeds up to 43.2 kbps. HSCSD enables such high speeds by using multiple channels.
Hyperlink a phrase or word on a WAP page which, once highlighted and selected, links the user to another WAP page.
Hz (Hertz) the unit for measuring frequency equal to one cycle per second.
Incoming Call a call received by a wireless phone.
Incomplete Call a call that is not answered or the line is busy. Carriers usually do not charge for incomplete calls.
Icons simple pictures which can be transmitted from one mobile phone to another, along with text using SMS text messaging.
iDEN (Integrated Digital Enhanced Network) a wireless technology by Motorola which combines two-way radio, telephone, text messaging and data. Used by Telus Mobility's Mike service and Nextel. Operates in the 800MHz and 1,500MHz bands using TDMA networks.
Illuminated Keypad allows you to view a keypad in low lighting.
i-Mode a packet based information service for mobile phones and business model developed by Japan's NTT DoCoMo for delivery of Web-type content to wireless handsets.
IM (Instant Messaging) a live chat and e-mail service that enables you to find your friends when they are online and send messages or talk via a private chat room.
IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identifier) a 15-digit number given to every single mobile phone, typically found behind the battery.
IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) a unique number for every SIM, used with a key for authentication.
IMT 2000 see 3G.
Individual Call Timer a timer which displays the duration of the last or current call.
Industry Canada the Canadian federal Department responsible for the regulation, management and allocation of radio spectrum. Establishes technical requirements for various wireless systems.
Infrared see IrDA.
Instant Messaging see IM.
Integrated Digital Enhanced Network see iDEN.
Integrated PDA a phone with built-in PDA functionality. Such phones are also referred to as "smart phones" and contain features such as handwriting recognition, large screens, and contact management software.
International Mobile Equipment Identifier see IMEI.
International Mobile Subscriber Identity see IMSI.
International Telecommunication Union see ITU.
IrDA (Infared) allows cell phones, PDAs, and other devices to connect to each other for various purposes. For example, a laptop or PDA can exchange data with a desktop computer or use a printer without a cable connection. IrDA requires line-of-sight transmission like a TV remote control.
IrDA Port a transmitter/receiver for infrared signals
IS-54 first generation TDMA in 1991.
IS-95 first generation CDMA (cdmaONE).
IS-136 second generation TDMA in 1994. Also called "Digital AMPS" or "D AMPS."
ISM band Industrial, Scientific and Medical band. Unlicensed spectrum typically in the 900MHz, 2.4GHz and 5.7GHz bands. Requires spread spectrum techniques at 1 watt.
iTAP software developed by Motorola and built into some wireless phones and PDAs that makes typing words on a keypad easier. The competitor to iTAP is T9. See Predictive Text Entry.
ITU (International Telecommunication Union) an organization in Geneva, Switzerland established to promote standardized telecommunications on a worldwide basis.
KBps (Kilobytes Per Second) a measure of bandwidth (the amount of data that can flow in a given time) on a data transmission medium. One thousand bytes per second. About the size of one average e-mail message.
Kbps (Kilobits Per Second) a measure of bandwidth (the amount of data that can flow in a given time) on a data transmission medium. One thousand bits per second.
Key a button on a keyboard.
Keypad the set of buttons on a phone.
Keypad Lock/Key Guard a feature that allows a user to lock the keypad so that it will not respond if pressed.
Kilobits see Kbps.
Kilobytes see KBps.
J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) is a technology that allows programmers to use the Java programming language and related tools to develop programs for wireless and mobile devices such as cellular phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). The J2ME platform can be used to implement a wide variety of applications, from wireless games to data portals into the Internet or corporate enterprise databases.
Java 2 Micro Edition see J2ME.
Jog-dial a single multi-function dial which allows single thumb scrolling up and down through menus and selection of items (by pressing the dial inwards).
LCD (Liquid crystal display) a type of display used on most cell phones, capable of displayingmonochrome characters and some pictures. The LCD has low energy requirements and uses dark segments against a lighter background for easy viewing in all lighting conditions. Color LCD displays use two basic techniques for producing color: Passive matrix is the less expensive of the two technologies. The other technology, called thin film transistor (TFT) or active-matrix, produces color images that are as sharp as traditional CRT displays, but the technology is expensive.
LED (Light emitting diode) a semiconductor device that illuminates when electricity passes through it. Often used as an indicator light, or to spell out words and numbers. LEDs come in many colors, and some LEDs contain multiple elements and are therefore capable of multiple colors. Provides good visibility in direct sunlight and in darkness.
Licensing Fee a previously mandatory (2 decades ago) government charge collected on behalf of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. The fee is no longer mandatory but is still being collected by many cell phones companies.
Lithium Ion (LiIon) a type of rechargeable battery for cell phones which is generally lighter weight than earlier battery types, has a relatively longer cycle life, and generally does not suffer from "memory" effect.
Lithium Polymer a battery technology similar to lithium ion but allows the battery to be molded to any shape allowing greater flexibility for mobile phone designers.
Location Services services that deliver information about the geographic location of mobile telecommunications devices.
Lock a feature that prevents unauthorized use of a phone. When activated the phone will automatically lock each time it is turned off. When turned back on, the phone will prompt the user to enter a unlock code before it will allow a call to be placed. Calls, such as emergency or other specially-programmed numbers, may be placed without entering a lock code.
Long-distance a charge incurred when calling to a telephone number outside your local calling area.
Long-distance Saver a feature offered by some carriers designed to help reduce your long-distance charges.
Low Battery Warning a visual and/or audible indication that the battery is approaching discharge.
Macrocell describes a physically large communications coverage area (5-20 km in diameter). Macrocells can hold 60-120 channels (capacity) and can have either high or low power. Macrocells are used primarily to cover large areas that have high traffic.
MAh (Milliampere Hours) a measurement used to describe the energy charge that a battery will hold and how long a device will run before the battery needs recharging. The higher the mAh's, the longer the battery will hold a charge. A milliampere hour (mAh) is 1000th of an ampere hour (Ah).
Master Clear changes all non-standard user settings in a mobile phone to standard plus clears all memory locations.
Master Reset same as a master clear, but it does not clear all a phone's memory locations and call timers.
Megahertz see MHZ.
Melody Composer see Ringtone Composer.
Memory Dialing a feature of a cell phone that allows frequently called numbers to be stored for quick dialing by pressing one or two buttons.
Memory Effect a battery problem caused by repeated charging before a battery is fully drained. This results in deterioration and prevents batteries from accepting a full charge. It occurs most often in NiCd batteries, is less of a problem with Nickel Hydride batteries and even less with Lithium Ion batteries.
Memory Locations a space in an internal phone book where you can store frequently dialed telephone numbers.
Memory Pause a pause command that can be entered at the end of a stored number to allow for a system response when using credit card numbers or alternate long distance system ID numbers.
Memory Protect prevents accidental overwriting and erasure of existing names and/or numbers in memory.
Memory Scroll allows sequential viewing of numbers and/or names stored in memory, starting at a chosen point. A fast and easy means of scanning memory locations.
Menu the list of options that allows you to navigate through a cell phone or handheld computer's functions.
Message Alert an indicator that notifies a user of missed voice mail or calls.
Message Key a dedicated key on a mobile phone that allows a user to retrieve voicemail or digital messages with the touch of a button.
Message Waiting Indicator an indicator that notifies a user if he/she has any new unread messages to view. (network and subscription dependent feature - not available in all areas).
Messaging synonymous with text paging, e-mail or short messages received on alphanumeric pagers and other wireless devices. See SMS or IM.
MHz (Megahertz) a unit of frequency equal to one million cycles per second (Hertz). Wireless phone communications in Canada and the United States occur in the 800 MHZ and 1900 MHZ bands.
Micro-browser a web browser specialized for a cell phone or a PDA and optimized to run in the low-memory and small-screen environment of a handheld device. This allows a user to access and display specially-formatted Internet content (WAP pages) on the Internet in the wireless markup language (WML). Examples of specially-formatted content include stock reports, news, and sports scores.
Microcell describes a physically small communications coverage area (0.5 + 5 km in diameter) used in densely populated areas where wireless traffic volume is high. The microcell, which is linked to a host macrocell, has low power and a low channel count, making it ideal for high traffic city neighborhoods.
MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) a standard that allows digital musical instruments to communicate with one another. In cell phone terms, MIDI is what gives you polyphonic sounds; which means your ring tones can sound like real music instead of beeps.
MIN (Mobile Identification Number) a 24-bit number assigned by a wireless service provider (carrier) to each phone it sells or includes in a service plan that uniquely identifies a mobile device within a carrier's network. Unlike an Electronic Serial Number (ESN), a MIN is changeable because wireless phones may change hands or phone owners may move to another coverage region, requiring a different service plan.
Mini-Browser see Micro-browser.
Minutes Included the number of free air time or usage included each month in a cell phone rate plan.
MIPS one of the three types of processors that can be found in Pocket PCS. Created by MIPS Technologies, the MIPS processor has a unique architecture compared to its two competitors (ARM and SH3), and therefore can only run programs created specifically for it.
Missed Call Indicator a feature which notifies a caller that a call was received but not answered.
MMM (Mobile Media Mode) an icon that identifies web content optimized for smart phones and handhelds.
MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) a further extension of SMS and EMS. MMS is designed to make use of newer and quicker mobile transmission methods such as GPRS, HSCSD, EDGE and UMTS, involving the attachment of multimedia extensions to messages, such as video and sound. An e-mail function is also planned.
MO-SMS (Mobile-Originated Short Message Service) the ability to send short text messages from a phone. Both the phone and the carrier's network must support this feature for it to work. Messages can be sent to other phones by phone number. Many phones also allow sending messages directly to e-mail addresses.
Mobile Commerce the use of radio-based wireless devices such as cell phones and personal digital assistants to conduct business-to-business and business-to-consumer transactions over wired, Web-based e-commerce systems.
Mobile Data a service which enables users to access data, transmit data and communicate with computers and networks. (e-mail, Internet, fax, etc..)
Mobile Identification Number see MIN.
Mobile Internet access to specially designed Internet sites offering services such as news, travel, weather and entertainment using a WAP phone.
Mobile IP a protocol developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force to enable users to roam to parts of the network associated with a different IP address than what's loaded in the user's appliance.
Mobile Media Mode see MMM.
Mobile Phone a wireless phone or cell phone is often referred to as a mobile phone. Initially, a mobile phone referred to a phone attached to a vehicle, which used the vehicle's battery and had an external antenna.
Mobile Telephone Switching Office see MTSO.
Mobile Virtual Network Operator see MVNO.
Modem a device which converts digital data to analog data (tones) so that it can be sent over regular phone lines and wireless networks. The modem also converts data back from analog to digital.
MP3 Playback some cell phones feature a MP3 player (built-in or add-on accessory) that allow you to listen to music stored in the MP3 digital format. These files are much smaller than other formats such as wave files, yet can deliver CD quality sound. Generally, music can be downloaded into the phone from a computer and played back later through a headset attached to the phone. Newer phones with High-Speed Data may support downloading music directly over the Wireless Internet.
MTSO (Mobile Telephone Switching Office) the central switch that controls the entire operation of a cellular system. It is a sophisticated computer that monitors all cellular calls, keeps track of the location of all cellular equipped vehicles traveling in the system, interconnects calls with the local and long distance land line telephone companies, arranges hand-offs, keeps track of billing information etc. Every cellular system has one or more MTSOs or switches.
Multi-Language Display a feature that allows you to select in which language (English, French, or Spanish) the phone will display messages and prompts.
Multi-mode a wireless device that can operate on either an analog or digital wireless network, allowing you to maintain a connection whether you're in a digital service area or analog only service area.
Multimedia Messaging Service see MMS.
Multiple Key Answer a feature that allows you to answer an incoming call by pressing any key. A faster, more convenient way to answer than searching for a specific key.
Multiple NAM a feature which allows a wireless phone to operate on multiple phone numbers and establish accounts with service providers in more than one service area.
Multiple Numbers per Name allows a user to enter more than one phone number (Home, Cell, Office, Fax) in a single phone book entry.
Mute mutes the handset or speaker to allow private conversations without the called party overhearing.
MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) functions as a wireless service operator in the marketplace though it does not own an actual wireless network. An examples of a MVNOs is Virgin Mobile.
NAM (Number Assignment Module) a circuit chip located inside a phone which stores your telephone number, lock code, timer reset code, network information and other operational data. The NAM is programmed by the service provider when a device is activated. Today's phones have EPROM type NAM and are keypad programmable.
NAMPS (Narrowband Advanced Mobile Phone Service) is the next generation of AMPS systems. NAMPS is a cellular call-handling system that uses digital signaling techniques to split the existing channels into three narrowband channels. The result is three times more voice channel capacity than the traditional AMPS system provides.
Narrowband Advanced Mobile Phone Service see NAMPS.
Net Mode represents the Internet browser mode.
Network(s) the companies that supply the transmitters and framework allowing calls to be made in. There are four major nation-wide networks in Canada: Bell Mobility, Microcell (Fido), Rogers AT&T, and Telus Mobility.
NiCd (Nickel Cadmium) an older type and the most basic type of rechargeable battery technology for cell phones which can be damaged if it is not fully drained before recharging (referred to as memory effect).
Nickel Cadmium see NiCd.
Nickel Metal Hydride see NiMH.
NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) a newer type and common from of rechargeable battery for cell phones which will is less sensitive to the memory effect.
No Answer/Busy Transfer forwards incoming calls to another number when your line is busy or cannot be answered.
No SVC an indicator on a cell phone which notifies you when you are out of a service or coverage area.
Noise Canceling Microphone a type of microphone technology that screens out unwanted background noise to allow clearer conversations.
NTT DoCoMo DoCoMo (meaning "anywhere" in Japanese) is an NTT subsidiary and Japan's biggest mobile service provider. NTT DoCoMo is the chief developer of I-Mode.
Number Assignment Module see NAM.
Numeric Messaging/Paging allows you to receive numerical messages.
Off Peak a designated time of the day or week when calling rates are cheaper or free. These times are usually in the evenings from 7pm to 7am on weekdays or on weekends.
OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) a next-generation display technology that consists of small dots of organic polymer that emit light when charged with electricity. OLED is beginning to replace LCD technology in handheld devices such as PDAs and cell phones because the technology is thinner, lighter, brighter, cheaper to manufacture and consumes less power than LED's.
On-Hook Call Processing allows the user to leave a cellphone in its mounting cradle until the called party answers for safer operation.
One-Touch Emergency Dialing a memory location reserved for storing an emergency number. This feature allows you to connect to an emergency number by pressing a single button and can be accessed and called even if the phone is locked.
Operating Frequency the rate at which an electrical current alternates, usually measured in Hertz (Hz).
Organic Light-Emitting Diode see OLED.
OTA (Over The Air) the downloading of ring tones, picture messages, and other content to your mobile phone wirelessly.
P-Java (Personal Java) a Java API and specification for running Java applications on small devices.
Packet a piece of data transmitted over a packet-switching network such as the Internet or wireless Internet; a packet includes not just data but also its destination.
Packet Switching a type of communication that splits information into "packets" of data for transmission. This is efficient, as it only uses radio spectrum when it's actually sending something, rather than keeping an open channel at all times (as is done in circuit switching). Packet switching is a core component to 3G technology.
Packet-switched network networks that transfer packets of data (see Packet). These networks are a more reliable method of transferring wireless data than a circuit-switched network. Packet-switched networks eliminate the need to dial in to send or receive information because they are "always on," transferring data without the need to dial.
Pager a one-way or two-way radio receiver device that allows reception and display of a numeric or alphanumeric message. Most new cell phones have similar functionality built-in.
Palm a handheld computer or PDA that runs the Palm operating system. The Palm operating system which was originally created for Palm PDAs, has since become the OS of choice on PDAs from many different companies like Sony, Kyocera, and Handspring. It features a wide range of organizer functions such as telephone book, e-mail, to-do lists, spreadsheets, word processors, and wireless Internet capabilities. Palm PDAs can usually synchronize with PCS or Apple computers using infrared, Bluetooth or wire connections. Many mobile phones can connect to PDAs using a special connector and an infrared connection to send and receive e-mails. The latest smartphones combine many of these features in a single unit. The main alternative to the Palm is the Pocket PC by Microsoft.
Passive Matrix Display an LCD technology that uses a grid to supply the charge to each particular pixel on the display. An STN screen has a slower refresh rate than a TFT screen, but it's cheaper. Also called a SuperTwist Nematic of STN display.
Pause Dialing a command that can be entered into stored numbers. By including pauses between memory locations the phone can dial a telephone number and then wait for a response before continuing to transmit. This feature is useful for accessing voice mail system, banking via phone, accessing credit card information, etc..
PC Card (PCMCIA) a removable, credit-card sized devices that may be plugged into slots in PCS and wireless communication devices to provide fax or modem functions or network cards.
PC Sync allows a user to connect a cell phone to a computer with a cable and transfer data. An example of this would be synchronizing a cell phone's contact and calendar information with a computer application like Outlook.
PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) a group of hardware manufacturers and vendors responsible for developing standards for PC Cards (also called PCMCIA cards.)
PCN also known as DCS 1800 or GSM 1800, PCN is a term used to describe a wireless communication technology in Europe and Asia.
PCS (Personal Communications Services) a term used to describe two-way, 1900MHz digital wireless technology. PCS, a second-generation technology, arrived in 1990 and is the most widely deployed wireless service in North America today. It is based on circuit-switched technology where each call requires its own cell channel, which makes transmission of data quite slow. 2G PCS services include Code Division Multiple Access(CDMA), Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA), and GSM.
PDA (personal digital assistant) a portable, handheld computing device that acts as an electronic organizer. PDAs are typically used for managing addresses, appointments, to-do lists and notes, but some newer models support wireless Internet access, e-mail, and other interactive applications. Also referred to as Handheld Computers. PDAs come in two major flavors - Palm and Pocket PC.
PDC (Personal Digital Communications) the digital cell phone system in Japan.
Peak Minutes / Period a designated time of the day or week when cellular calling rates are highest. These times are generally between 7am and 7pm on weekdays.
Personal Communications Service see PCS.
Personal Hands-Free Kit a device that allows you to use your phone hands-free by wearing a headset and microphone, rather than holding the phone to your ear.
Personal Identification Number see PIN.
Personal Information Manager see PIM.
PHS (Personal Handyphone System) a digital cell phone technology based on TDMA and used in Japan.
Phone Book a feature that enables you to store a collection of telephone numbers and names into your phone's internal memory or on its SIM card. Storing numbers in the phone book makes frequent calls easier.
Phone Lock a feature which prevents unauthorized use of a phone.
Phone Only Mode a feature on multi-service phones like iDEN that allow a user to disable the two-way radio mode to increase stand-by time.
Photo ID allows a user to set custom graphics (can be pictures) with a phone book entry. When the person who is associated with that phone book entry calls, the corresponding graphic is shown. Graphics can be downloaded into the phone from a computer, or via the wireless Internet.
Picocell describes a physically small communications coverage area (less than 0.5 km in diameter).
Piconet a network of devices connected using Bluetooth wireless technology. A piconet may consist of two to eight devices. In a piconet, there will always be one master while the others are slaves.
Picture Messaging a technology that allows you to send and receive picture messages as well as text on a mobile phone.
PIM (Personal Information Manager) a type of software application that allows the user to input and organize various types of information. Common features of a PIM application include a notepad, calculator, to-do list, calendar and scheduling tool.
PIN (Personal Identification Number) a numeric code or password that may be required by a service provider in order to make outgoing calls or obtain access to certain applications and data. This code is always associated to a SIM card, not a phone and is designed to help guard against cellular fraud.
Plan see Service Plan.
Pocket PC a handheld Windows-based computer or PDA that runs the Pocket PC operating system (formerly Windows CE) by Microsoft. The Pocket PC operating system features Pocket Office applications (Internet Explorer, Word and Excel), handwriting recognition, an e-book reader, and wireless Internet capability. The main alternative to the Pocket PC is the Palm OS.
Polyphonic Ring Tones ring tones very much like regular ring tones except that they are capable of playing multiple notes at a time. This results in vastly improved sound quality with richer, more realistic sounds. Phones equipped with polyphonic ring tones generally have better sounding speakers.
Predictive Text Input software built into some cell phones and mobile devices that makes typing words on a keypad easier. Instead of pressing each key one, two or three times, just to press it once and a built-in vocabulary will attempt to guess the word that you are spelling. Using this system, SMS messages and sometimes e-mails are quicker and easier to write. Often referred to as T9, the most popular type of predictive text entry. The competitor to T9 is iTAP by Motorola.
Preferred System a cell phone's home system.
Pre-Paid Card a card or voucher that represents advanced payment for wireless service.
Pre-Pay/Pay As You Go a system allowing subscribers to pay for wireless service usage in advance. There is no activation charge and instead of being billed for your calls, you simply bu