Cellular Phones Product Guide

Cellular Phones

Saying 'Hello' (or 'Good-bye') to friends, acquaintances, family, and associates can't be easier. You see people doing it everywhere. They're carrying on conversations using portable, pocketsize cellular phones. In some cases, they seem to be talking to themselves but they're not crazy. They are using a portable headset for completely hands-free conversation. Though several people now call them Wireless Phones, 'Cellular Phones' and 'Cell Phones' remain the more popular terms right now. Cellular is a form of network technology. It was developed for industrial use where communication was needed in very remote regions where setting up phone service was fairly impossible. The term 'cellular' referred to the many remote antennas that were needed to transmit a wireless signal, along a route, to a main telecommunication center. Current cell phones (as they're commonly called) still use similar systems. Cellular Phone Service Carriers (i.e. AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile, and Verizon) create and maintain networks (groups) of cells (with antennas and repeaters) to allow a broad range of services to be accessed. Within these networks, cell phones communicate easily. Where there are no networks, the cell phone is virtually useless. These days, there's more to a cell phone than just a phone. It can be a game machine, a camera, a music/video player, and lots more. It's a lifestyle thing.

Using a cellular phone, you can reach virtually any phone on this planet and they can reach you. When a cell phone is activated, you're assigned a phone number that makes you accessible to anyone that uses a standard or cell phone.

You can choose cell phones that are locked into a network - exclusive to Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T Wireless, and Sprint. Or you can choose unlocked cell phones that let you connect to any service you want - around the world.

Don't feel like talking? Most cell phones let you "text" someone - leaving typed messages. Services even allow Internet access so you can contact people by email, Instant Message, Facebook, and MySpace. Most phones now have cameras so you can add pictures and videos to your communication. Tired of talking? Sit back and listen to MP3 audio files you've downloaded or view some video files. Headphones can be wireless too since most phones offer Bluetooth.

Although there are still many areas where cellular service is unavailable, there are hundred of millions of cell phones in use around the world. The numbers are climbing. Whether you use it for emergencies, for general communication, or life enhancement, you can keep in touch almost anywhere. With many different types of service plans, service can be very affordable, too. Sometimes a real bargain!

Is a cell phone an optional device? The trends indicate it as a necessity. Among adults under age 35, cell phones have completely replaced traditional phones, now referred as landlines. It's a mobile world and mobile communication is the way to go. Technologies are expanding rapidly to accelerate bandwidth to Internet and Multimedia services for the pocketable phone. And the cell phone is at the center of it all.

Mobile Cell Phone Service

Before choosing a phone, consider which mobile cellphone service carrier you plan to use. There are many service options available. A particular phone may not be available for a particular service. Not all carriers may have service available in your area.

Although there are over a dozen cell phone service providers in the United States, and hundreds more around the world, among the largest networks are Verizon, AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Subscriptions are necessary with a carrier for phone service. Most carriers offer more than mere phone service. Some offer special download menus for games, ringtones, music, and video. Many offer Internet and e-mail access, much like your computer would. There are charges for basic monthly use and for any option extensions. Each service has a selection of phones available, some are offered at no charge if you sign on to a service commitment. The most important consideration when choosing a service carrier is coverage within your home area and the areas that you travel.

Cell phones will only work in areas that have wireless network hardware that can transfer signals. While it would be nice if cell phones worked no matter where we go, the reality is the signal must be broadcast from towers that have a limited range and strength. Population-dense areas are usually well-covered, but mountainous areas and small towns can be left bare when it comes to service. In counties across United States, there may be areas with no service, one service, or a choice of services. You should aim for a service that covers your home area, business area, and all common travel points in between. Where no service is provided or available, your phone will not function at all.

AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile are GSM networks. That means they are globally friendly and are part of the Global System of Communications network. GSM is now used in over 200 countries and serves over 3 billion people. When a person uses a phone on a GSM network, there is possible access to mobile services wherever you go. GSM operates in the 900MHz and 1.8GHz bands in Europe and the 1.9GHz and 850MHz bands in the US. The 850MHz band is also used for GSM and 3G in Australia, Canada and many South American countries. By having harmonised spectrum across most of the globe, GSM's international roaming capability allows users to access the same services when travelling abroad as at home. This gives consumers seamless and same number connectivity in more than 218 countries. When getting a GSM phone, please make sure it offers the frequency that serves the area you're going to.

A nice thing about GSM is that people can reeach you at your local cell number regardless of whether your in the same town or happen to be traveling around the world. And you can reach them too. There may be some additional charges for international calls. Please check with your service provider for specific information.

Sprint and Verizon use CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) signals that are primed for USA service. CDMA and GSM names of competing cellular phone standards. They're about equal in performance and clarity in the U.S. in terms of users. GSM, however, may be used internationally. If you planned to travel to Europe, you could still use your GSM compatible cell phone. You would not be able to use a CDMA. Out of the four national carriers in the U.S., two -- Sprint and Verizon -- use CDMA, the other two -- AT&T and T-Mobile -- use GSM.

W-CDMA is a third-generation (3G) mobile wireless technology that promises much higher data speeds to mobile and portable wireless devices than commonly offered in today's market. Sprint is offering 4G service for more rapid download of data and information to your phone using W-CDMA.

Every carrier offers a selection of service plans to meet virtually every need. Most plans require a contractual agreement of a year or more. While most require credit checks, some may offer prepayment plans. A typical plan may include a certain number of minutes of service during weekday business hours and (almost) unlimited minutes for nights and weekends. Many include regional or national long distance, call waiting and voice-mail as part of your service plan.

Plans vary from basic phone service (usually around $30 monthly) to unlimited service including Internet and Texting (around $100 monthly).

Though most plans are designed for one phone, more carriers are offering family plans where the numbers of available minutes are shared among 2 or more phones within a family. When one exceeds the allotted number of minutes, there is usually a fee added for each minute used.

A key issue in obtaining service activation is having a credit card number and a home address. For those people who do not qualify for this, service companies offer "pay as you go" arrangements by purchasing prepaid service cards.

Two particular carriers, T-Mobile and AT&T, offer GSM service. It stands for Global System for Mobile Communications. One of its great strengths is the international roaming capability. This gives consumers seamless and same number access in more than 170 countries. GSM satellite roaming has extended service access to areas where terrestrial coverage is not available.

Virtually all companies offer Internet, Email, Texting and other communication services as options or more comprehensive packages.

As mobile phones start replacing land phone service among younger users, carriers like T-Mobile offer special service that includes landline use.

Types of Phones

While there was an earlier distinction between analog and digital cell mobile phones, virtually all are now digital. There are essentially two groups - Conventional phones and Smartphones. There's a lot of overlap in between.

Conventional Cell Phones

These are mobile phones that sell at prices below $300 and are often heavily discounted by phone service carriers for those signing on to 2-Year contracts. Keypads and overall operation is like a phone. You can store frequently used numbers and (where available) send and receive text messages. Many have cameras with still and video modes. Most support wireless Bluetooth headsets for hands-free communication. Additional capabilities might include a touch screen, a QWERTY keyboard, an HTML browser, a multi-megapixel camera, memory-card storage for music and pictures, and more options for custom ring tones, games, and other services. At this point, the line between conventional phones and the smartphones becomes more vague.


Long used by corporate travelers to keep up with e-mail and appointments, Smartphones are attracting a wider range of users. One of the first Smartphones to be released was the Blackberry, now available with both conventional and smartphone models. In a sense, Smartphones originally distinguished themselves from conventional phones by having built-in QWERTY type keyboards for convenient entry of text and/or touchscreens that let you "write" messages and select functions from pop-down menus. A key feature that helps this class of mobile phones be labeled Smartphones is that they work like palm-sized computers.

Smartphones allow you to create and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. They usually come with Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel or personal information management software that are easily transferrable with your PC. These generally have operating systems. Windows Mobile and Palm are popular in the USA while Symbian is popular in Europe.

Many models have touchscreens for accessing the phone's many features. Other smart phones are geared toward personal use. They're fine for playing music and other multimedia, reading e-mail messages, and opening Office-type attachments, but they don't allow you to create or edit documents and spreadsheets. This is where some smartphones overlap with conventional. While both smartphones and convention phones now have Internet access and email capabilities, it's the operating system that is a key distinguishing feature.

Locked Cellular Phones

A locked cell phone is restricted to working with one service provider only. That's why a T-Mobile customer, for example, can't just stroll into an AT&T store and walk out with a brand-new phone without also switching carriers. To many customers, this predicament isn't a big deal, as all they want from a phone is reliable service and a few synchronized functions. Then there are those who believe that once they own a phone they should have the freedom to decide how to use it. If you're in the latter group, there is the unlocked cellular phone.

The key is in the SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card. This is a chip that the phone carrier installs that ties your phone to the network. When you "buy" a phone at a T-Mobile, ATT, or Sprint dealer, you're actually buying a phone that's designed specifically for a configured SIM card from that carrier. So, even if your contract has expired and you want to take that phone to another carrier, you can't. It's incompatible.

That means the phone you bought from the service carrier locks you with that carrier for as long as you have that phone. If you want to change to a different phone, you need to buy one that is sold by that carrier. You can't buy one from a competing carrier. Your SIM card is bound to phones sold by that carrier only. That's why carriers can offer specials and bonus free phones for friends and family. Each phone becomes a customer and, hopefully, a customer for life.

Now that SIM card holds all your phone memories, text clients, games, and other carrier-specific assets. It is your identity. Once you go to another carrier (while you may maintain your phone number), you technically can lose all the content that you had on that card unless you backed it up beforehand.

ATT and T-Mobile offer GSM phones that may be internationally compatible. No matter where you are, however, you will always be locked to the carrier from whom the phone was purchased.

The Unlocked Phone

Unlocked phones are GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications). That means, with GSM, the phone can be used internationally. An unlocked GSM phone is a phone that's not locked into a single carrier's network. In other words, you can choose your carrier and phone independently. But GSM cell phones only work on GSM-based networks. In the United States, ATT and T-Mobile are the GSM carriers.

Like locked phones, the GSM phones contain a small, removable card, known as a SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card, programmed with your subscription information and phonebook. If your phone is unlocked, you're free to remove your SIM card and insert it into another unlocked phone without losing your contacts or carrier data. You have access to virtually any unlocked cell phone available all around the world - past, present, and future. While you may choose to stick with T-Mobile or ATT as your carrier, you're free to use any available GSM phone model available around the world.

Better yet, suppose you move to Europe, Asia, or Africa, anywhere that cell phones are used. You can use that phone. If the service carrier in your area of residence is less expensive than the carrier you've been using in the USA, you can use a SIM from the new carrier.

GSM cell phones operate within certain frequencies. Each range of frequencies is known as a band. That's sort of like AM or FM on a radio. A GSM phone can have up to 4 bands of frequencies and these adapt to different regions around the world.

GSM carriers in the United States, Canada, and many parts of Latin America rely on the 1900 and 850 bands for transmitting cellular phone calls and data. In the United States, the 1900 band is used extensively in urban and developed areas, while 850 has largely been used to boost signal strength in rural areas. At the minimum you'll want a phone that supports the 1900 band if you live in North America. Europe and many other parts of the world employ two other bands: 900 and 1800. If you plan on traveling a lot from USA and elsewhere around the world (but want to own only one phone) consider purchasing a quad-band phone, which will give you coverage all over the world. If you aren't a frequent international traveler but do make occasional trips, a less expensive tri-band phone will probably suffice. A phone that supports the 1900, 850, and 1800 bands will provide great service in the United States and decent service in major areas of Europe.

Depending on you base of operations, you can use your unlocked phone with any GSM carrier whose service best meets your needs (whatever those may be).

Some Cell Phone Features

Most phones and carriers provide similar basic features that are found on most cell phones. These may include voice-mail, speakerphone, camera, caller-id, call-waiting/holding, and call forwarding. All have some degree of phonebook and schedule functions. In choosing a phone see the size, ease of use, and certain lifestyle features like camera, media player, and GPS functions. The key criteria may be size, appearance (bar, slider, folding), color, screen size, touchscreen capability, keypad style, camera, memory (and possible expansions), and price.

LCD Screens

All cell phones have LCD screens. All display color and are backlit. Some have LED or OLED backlighting for exceptionally bright images. Depending on phone styles, displays vary in size. The common range is from 2-inches up to 4-inches (measured diagonally). Some phones have displays that are touch-sensitive. This enables the phone to have a larger screen size and displaying buttons, menus, and controls on screen to facilitate simpler phone use.


Many cell phone models, particularly conventional phones, have standard phone keypads. An increasing number of models have are following the lead from Smartphones. They're adding QWERTY keyboards. This is more prevalent as people use phones for texting, Internet use, and more business applications.


Most have camera functions to capture stills and video images. Camera resolutions may vary from less than 1 megapixel to as many as 10 megapixels.


Almost all cell phones have some memory capacity. When you consider download capabilities provided by carriers and through the Internet of music, video, pictures, and television - many phones don't have enough memory built-in.

That's why many phones have an expansion slot for optional memory cards. The most common formats used for phones are MicroSD and MicroSDHC. The latter offers a higher capacity of storage. An added advantage to using this slot is that you can download media from your computer to this card and 'play' it on your phone. Some trade cards among friends and family.


The key thing about Bluetooth is wireless-connectivity. This technology lets your phone work with Bluetooth-compatible wireless headsets and most hands-free car systems for tangle-free calls. Some phones support stereo Bluetooth headsets for music and other multimedia. There are other Bluetooth accessories that wirelessly exchange pictures, contacts, and other files with other compatible Bluetooth devices, such as a computer, another cell phone, or other compatible portable device.


GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It uses satellite information to help people determine where they are and it helps show people how to get where they want to go. GPS devices are becoming common in cars.

Many advanced cell phones support GPS Navigation services. They integrate GPS with maps and search engines to give you real-time, spoken, turn-by-turn directions to an entered address, or to help you find nearby businesses, recreation areas, or hospitals as you search by name or category. There may be variances among cello phones and carriers regarding specific feature capabilities. If GPS is important for you, consult your carrier or phone manufacturer for specifics.


Texting is the common term used for text messaging from one cell phone to another. It provides a quiet means of communicating without disturbing others. Some phones come with preset messages of common phrases. While many are proficient at texting with standard phone keypads, this feature helps promote phone sales with QWERTY keyboards. Depending on you service carrier, you can also send pictures along with text messages

Downloading and WiFi

Cell phone data networks are much slower than the broadband Internet connections many people have at home. This effects wireless downloads of music and video as well as other assets through cell carriers and those third-party associations used by service carriers. When it comes to Internet access, many cell phone users even find 3G to be slow.

Some phones are now including WiFi capabilities. Wi-Fi uses radio waves to create reliable high-speed connections between computers, printers, gaming devices, cameras, cell phones and home entertainment systems. You can use Wi-Fi in your home, at work or on the go at hotspots worldwide. Phones with WiFi may access Internet and e-mail features a little faster as it emulates the service and protocols that computers use, when a hotspot is present.


This common computer connector was once available exclusively to Smartphones. Now several conventional cell phone models have a USB or mini-USB connector to directly transfer music, video, and other data directly with a USB-equipped cell phone.

Clock, Alarm, Calculator

Assorted features found on most phones for added convenience.

What optional accessories are very popular?

Batteries and Power Supplies

All portable cell phones require power. There are wide varieties of powering your cell phone. While each cell phone is sold with a battery that provides several hours of talk against several days of standby, extra batteries may be available. Cell phones often come with AC powered chargers. But when you're traveling, there are other chargers that use common alkaline batteries, your car's battery, and even the sun to recharge your phone's battery. In an emergency, having one of these chargers available is the difference between remaining in touch or not being in touch with people you need.


Whether you're phone was free or you paid for it, the phone's performance and its operation are crucial. Placing a phone in your pocket may damage some parts. Cases help protect your phone against weather conditions and potential knocks and drops that could result in breakage.

When designed for your specific phone model, glove tight fitness lets you reach all your phone's functions while it's encased. Some cases have belt attachments to help prevent loss.


Some say it may be impossible to walk and chew at the same time. State and City officials have determined, based on traffic jams and accidents, that holding and talking on a cellphone while driving, may be hazardous. In many areas holding a cell phone and talking while driving is illegal and punishable by fine or imprisonment.

Wired and Bluetooth speakerphones are available for car use. This lets you talk while driving while keeping both hands on the wheel. While it's generally not recommended to speak while driving (or doing anything else to avert your attention from road conditions), the Bluetooth speakerphone is suggested and frequently used.

Screen Protectors

We mentioned that there are increasing numbers of cell phone models that have touch-sensitive screens. Screen Protectors are thin films that do not reduce sensitivity while preserving the clarity and integrity of the phone's screen.


Virtually all cell phones have a connector for a wired headset for hands-free conversations. Most cell phones are also Bluetooth compatible for use with compatible wireless headsets.

Some headsets fit on one ear and are used for conversations only. There are also stereo bluetooth headsets that let you listen to music and video soundtracks, as well as having conversations.

Glossary of Cell Phone Terms


General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) is an extension of GSM and is found on many phones and services that are GSM compatible. It helps accelerate certain data related services. It's more common in Europe and Asian markets where wireless information is sent in packets instead of linear sequences along a circuit. It is believed that packets offer extended range and signal integrity. This increases the maximum speed potential of GSM.


Enhanced Data Rate for Global Evolution is an extension of GSM and is found as an included feature in most GSM cell phones. EDGE is the new name for GSM-384 that nearly doubles the original data transfer rate of GSM from 200,000 bits per second to 384,000 bits per second. EDGE is a technology that gives GSM the capacity to handle services for the third generation (3G) of mobile telephony. Using EDGE, operators can handle three-times more subscribers than GPRS, by either tripling their data rate per subscriber, or adding extra capacity to their voice communications. EDGE uses the same TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) frame structure, logic channel and 200kHz carrier bandwidth as today's GSM networks, which allows existing cell plans to remain intact for wide-range compatibility.


Short Messaging Service (SMS) is the ability to send and receive short alphanumeric messages to and from mobile cell phones. SMS was created as part of the GSM Phase 1 standard.


An Enhanced Messaging Service enabled mobile phone can send and receive messages that have special text formatting (such as bold or italic), animations, pictures, icons, sound effects and special ring tones.


Short Message Peer to Peer (SMPP) is an open industry standard messaging protocol designed to simplify integration of data applications with wireless mobile networks such as GSM, TDMA, and CDMA.


Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is a standard for sending messages that include multimedia objects including images, audio, video, graphics, and rich text as an extension of SMS text messaging protocol .

Glossary for Cellular Phones


Email Management Services used on wireless devices including cell phones


GPRS - Short for General Packet Radio Service, a standard for wireless communications which runs at speeds up to 115 kilobits per second, compared with current GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) systems' 9.6 kilobits. It supports a wide range of bandwidths, is an efficient use of limited bandwidth and is particularly suited for sending and receiving small bursts of data, such as e-mail and Web browsing, as well as large volumes of data


Multimedia Message Service, a store-and-forward method of transmitting graphics, video clips, sound files and short text messages over wireless networks using the WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) via WiFi and Cell-Phone technologies


The Short Message Service (SMS) is the ability to send and receive text messages to and from mobile telephones - or Texting. The text can comprise of words or numbers or an alphanumeric combination. SMS was created as part of the GSM Phase 1 standard. Each short message is up to 160 characters is length when Latin alphabets are used, and 70 characters in length when non-Latin alphabets such as Arabic and Chinese are used

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