Understanding Mobile Phones – A Quick Guide

Mobile phones are portable telephones that can make and receive calls wirelessly while users move about within service coverage area. The key words are wireless and movement. Things have never been the same again since the development of the Dynatac by Motorola in 1973. It was on the DynaTac that the first mobile phone call was made.

the ancestor of mobile phones - Motorola DynaTac

1G (First generation) Systems

The first commercial automated cellular network was launched in Japan in 1979 (The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X). This was followed in 1981 by the simultaneous launch of the Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) system in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. These first-generation (1G) systems could support far more simultaneous calls, but still used analogue technology.

2G (Second Generation) Systems

In 1991, the second-generation (2G) digital cellular technology was launched in Finland. This sparked competition in the sector as the new operators challenged the incumbent 1G network operators.

3G (3rd Generation) Systems

Ten years later, in 2001, the third generation (3G) was launched in Japan on the WCDMA standard. This was followed by 3.5G, 3G+ or turbo 3G enhancements based on the high-speed packet access (HSPA) family, allowing UMTS networks to have higher data transfer speeds and capacity.

4G (Fourth generation) Systems

The first two commercially available technologies billed as 4G were the WiMAX standard, offered in North America by Sprint, and the LTE standard, first offered in Scandinavia.

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Mobile Phones In 6 Points

All mobile phones have a variety of features in common:

  1. A battery, providing the power source for the phone functions.
    mobile phone battery
  2. An input mechanism to allow the user to interact with the phone. The most common input mechanism is a keypad, but touch screens are also found in most smartphones.
  3. A screen which echoes the user’s typing, displays text messages, contacts and more.
  4. Basic mobile phone services to allow users to make calls and send text messages.
  5. All GSM phones use a SIM card to allow an account to be swapped among devices. Some CDMA devices also have a similar card called a R-UIM. Pictured below from left to right: Standard SIM, micro SIM, and nano SIM
    SIM types
  6. Individual GSM, WCDMA, iDEN and some satellite phone devices are uniquely identified by an International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.

Feature Phones

nokia 230

Low-end mobile phones are often referred to as feature phones, and offer basic telephony. Some of them have internet, email and instant messaging applications built in as well.

Smartphones

smartphones

Handsets with more advanced computing ability through the use of native software applications became known as smartphones. Like PCs, smartphones run one of the numerous operating systems. Some of these smartphone operating systems include:

  1. Symbian – discontinued
  2. Android
  3. Apple iOS
  4. Blackberry OS – discontinued
  5. Windows Mobile
  6. BADA – discontinued
  7. Palm OS – discontinued
  8. WebOS – discontinued
  9. Maemo – discontinued
  10. Meego – discontinued

Smartphones have evolved into very powerful personal computing devices for work and play. Feature phones still outsell smartphones globally, though smartphone usage is catching up gradually.

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