Tech Glossary

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Tech Glossary

commonly known tech jargon

The name was usually given to original GSM, CDMA, and TDMA networks. It uses the spectrum more efficiently than analog (1G) systems and offers digital encryption of conversations. 2G networks introduced data services for mobiles starting with SMS.

The 3.5mm headphone jack is an industry standard audio plug. Most commonly used for connecting a pair of stereo headphones to your smartphone or ‘piping’ your audio from. Dependent on the number of connector rings, headphones can also include a microphone.your phone to an external amp either in your home or your car.The current trend is for high-end smartphone flagships to exclude the 3.5mm jack, with headphone support being provided via Bluetooth.The exclusion of the 3.5mm jack is polarising with smartphone manufactures claiming that removing the jack saves space internally, allows for thinner phones while eliminating a potential ingress point for water.

Analog cellular phones were the first generation while digital marked the second generation.

3G is loosely defined, but generally includes high data speeds, always-on data access, and greater voice capacity.

The high data speeds are possibly the most prominent feature, and certainly the most hyped. They enable such advanced features as live, streaming video.

There are several different 3G technology standards. The most prevalent is UMTS, which is based on WCDMA (the terms WCDMA and UMTS are often used interchangeably).

4G is the fourth generation of mobile phone communications standards. It is a successor of the 3G and provides ultra-broadband internet access for mobile devices. The high data transfer rates make 4G networks suitable for use in USB wireless modems for laptops and even home internet access.

Assisted GPS (A-GPS) is used to speed up start-up times of GPS-based positioning systems. GPS may have problems getting a lock when the signal is weak and in such a case A-GPS would assist in getting a lock.

This, however, is achieved by the use of an Assistance Server, so a data connection is required and charges may apply for the data transfer.

A2DP is used for streaming stereo music wirelessly to headphones or speakers over Bluetooth.

Unlike other Bluetooth profiles (Headset and Handsfree), A2DP is one-way only and streams a stereo signal.

AAC is a file format for storing digital audio. It’s commonly used for storing music on the Internet, PCs and portable music players and phones.

It is similar to MP3, but it was designed to be its successor and offers better quality and smaller file sizes. It also supports DRM, which enforces copyright.

AAC+ and AAC++ are newer versions of the standard

The accelerometer is a built-in electronic component that measures tilt and motion. It is also capable of detecting rotation and motion gestures such as swinging or shaking.

The most common use for it is to activate auto screen rotation on mobile devices when the user changes their orientation from portrait to landscape or vice-versa.

Another modern application for the accelerometer is to control the mobile device music player with gestures (Sony Ericsson Shake control or Samsung Motion play technologies).

Accelerometers are also utilized for enriching the gaming controls (navigating by tilting the device instead of by pressing keys).

Popular mobile phone feature based on an accelerometer include:

• Turn-to-mute. Allows a user to mute an incoming call, silence an alarm or pause the mobile music player simply by turning the device face down
• Raise-to-wake. When the phone is lifted the screen is turned on automatically

This mode disables all radio parts of a mobile phone but leaves other functions available. These include music player, organizer and everything that doesn’t require the radio transmitters.

This mode is required because most airlines forbid the use of wireless devices during flight. Some airlines do not allow the use of such devices even in Airplane mode.

This mode is required for several reasons. Preventing interference with the airplane equipment is the best-known one but another reason is that cell towers cannot handle phones moving at high altitudes and speeds.

AMOLED is a display technology used in portable devices like mobile phones. Active-matrix OLED displays provide the same performance as their passive-matrix OLED counterparts, but they consume significantly less power.

This advantage makes active-matrix OLEDs well suited for portable electronics where battery power consumption is critical.

A method of transmitting information using energy waves. It doesn’t have discrete levels but is a continuously variable wave. Human voice for example is transferred by directly converting the sound wave to electricity.

Analog cell phones (known also as 1G) used this technology. However virtually all modern cell phones use digital signals (2G or later)

Android is based on a modified Linux kernel which was initially developed by Android Inc., a company co-founded by Andy Rubin in October 2003, and purchased by Google in 2005 for circa $50 million.

Google released its Beta mobile phone operating system, Android, on the 5 November 2007, the same year Apple launched the iPhone, with Google releasing its first SDK one week later, on 12 November 2007.

ANT is a wireless protocol for exchanging data over short distances from fixed and mobile devices, creating personal area networks.

ANT is an ultra low power protocol that is able to operate off of small batteries, such as coin cells.

ANT peripherals typically operate in a broadcast mode that can be received from multiple handsets or displays simultaneously.

ANT+ (built on the base ANT protocol) defines standardized device profiles that specify data formats, channel parameters and network keys. A “profile” defines a specific use case, or data set. The most common ANT+ profile is heart rate (HR), and is used by many heart rate monitors in the market today.

Other examples of ANT+ profiles include:

  • Bicycle Speed & Cadence (S&C)
  • Bicycle Power (PWR)
  • Activity (ACT)
  • Weight Scale (WGT)
  • Blood Pressure (BP)

Also, you can have several sensors work with a single receiving display or have several receiving displays read the information from a single sensor.

ANT+ ensures trouble-free interoperability, allowing ANT+ products by different makers to work together as long as all paired devices support the same profiles (denoted by teh respective ANT+ activity icons).

The physical device used for sending/receiving radio waves. Older phones used external antennas while most current phones use an internal antenna. The size and shape of the antenna is designed according to the type of radio waves being used.

The Aperture of a lens indicates how much light the lens lets in. The larger the aperture, the more light is let in, conversely a smaller aperture lets in less light. Measured in f-stops, these are inverse value, the larger the aperture the lower the f-stop number. An aperture of f/1.4 lets in more light than an aperture of f/8.

APN is the name (web address) of an access point for GPRS/EDGE/UMTS data connection. Usually wireless carriers provide the APN to their end users.

Apple’s AirPlay is an Apple-developed protocol that enables wireless streaming of audio and video content to displays and audio systems with AirPlay.

Formerly launched as AirTunes in 2004 it allowed a Mac or Windows PC to stream music to speakers connected to Apples own Airport Express.

In 2010 it was rebranded as AirPlay and in the years in between it has been licensed by many third-party speakers and A/V manufactures including Bowers & Wilkins, Libratone, Yamaha, Bose, and Devialet.

Video content can be sent from an iOS device or macOS computer to a high-definition TV with Apple TV.

Apple announced AirPlay 2 in 2017

The aptX audio codec is a proprietary audio codec compression algorithm, which allows the real-time streaming of high quality stereo audio over a Bluetooth A2DP connection between a source device and the accessory device.

aptX technology must be incorporated in both the source and the accessory device for it to have any effect. Full backwards compatibility however allows audio streaming even when one of the devices is not aptX compatible, though in this case, the connection won’t benefit from the technology.

AVRC is a Bluetooth profile that allows remote control of media playback on other devices. Supported functions are play, pause, stop, next, and previous.

It is usually coupled with A2DP so that, for example, wireless headphones use A2DP to stream the music and AVRC to control playback.

A specific range of frequencies (for example those between 1850 MHz and 1995 MHz) are called a band.

Bandwidth is used to measure the data throughput of a channel or connection. It’s the amount of data that can be sent over a connection in a given amount of time without distortion. It should not be confused with band.

The bar form factor is the most common and simple form factor for a mobile phone. The body of a bar phone is one, single block and has no moving parts (aside from the buttons). “Locking” the keyboard is done to prevent accidental key presses when the phone is carried in a pocket, purse, etc.

A fixed station that uses radio waves to communicate with mobile devices. It serves as the link between the user’s device and the carrier’s network.

Base stations range in size and area of coverage. Some may cover a radius of several kilometers while others cover only a few city blocks. Most stations transmit in all directions but there are also directional antennas aimed at a specific direction.

Usually base stations are owned by a single carrier but may offer roaming coverage for other networks.

The BeiDou Navigation Satellite System is China’s version of GPS.

Uniquely, it’s made up of two separate satellite constellations and it’s been claimed that, with post-processing, it’s accurate to within millimeters.

We use varied software benchmark tools to gauge the various performance aspects of each device we review. You can usually find a dedicated performance article in all the review articles we publish.

To make it easier to compare the performance of phones straight from the specs pages, we are also including there two popular benchmark ratings.

Basemark OS II is a system-level all-in-one benchmarking tool designed for measuring overall performance of smartphones and tablets from all platforms, including Android, iOS and Windows phone 8.

Basemark X is a popular benchmarking tool for evaluation and cross-platform comparison of gaming and graphics performance between Android, iOS and Windows Phone 8 smartphone and tablets.

Both benchmarks are made by the well-known maker Right-ware and we’ve chosen them for their reliable scoring, consistency and most of all, wide platform support.

The term biometrics relates to metrics related to human characteristics.

Specifically for mobile phones the common biometrics utilized for security are fingerprints, Iris (eye) recognition and full facial recognition.

Additionally, heart rate and SpO2 (the estimate of arterial oxygen saturation) information can be collected to support ‘health’ related applications.

The term biometrics relates to metrics related to human characteristics.

Specifically for mobile phones the common biometrics utilized for security are fingerprints, Iris (eye) recognition and full facial recognition.

Additionally, heart rate and SpO2 (the estimate of arterial oxygen saturation) information can be collected to support ‘health’ related applications.

BlackBerry OS is a proprietary mobile operating system developed by Research In Motion (RIM) for its BlackBerry line of smartphones.

The BlackBerry platform is perhaps best known for its native support for the corporate communication environment, which allows complete wireless activation and synchronization of email, calendar, tasks, notes, and contacts.

Currently deployed versions include the BlackBerry Device Software v5.0, the BlackBerry 6 OS, and the BlackBerry 7 OS.

BlackBerry 10 OS is a QNX-based operating system, similar to the one found on RIM’s Playbook tablet. It will replace the BlackBerry OS on smartphones and tablets in 2013. Details are yet to be disclosed.

A measure of data transmission speeds, the amount of bits transferred in a single second. Typically, speeds are measured in kbps (1000 bits per second).

Note: kBps (with a capital B) denotes bytes per second.

In data communications, a “broadband connection” is a connection with a high speed of data transfer (greater than 56 kbps). Generally, it is fast enough to support streaming video.

A string of 8 bits.

Typically, one byte equals one character of text but in some cases (especially with non-Latin alphabets), two or more bytes are used. Because of this, an SMS written in Cyrillic or Chinese alphabets has shorter maximum length than one written in the Latin alphabet.

Capacitive touch sensors are used either as buttons or on touchscreens. They work by sensing the electrical properties of the human body instead of pressure and generally they don’t work with a stylus so they don’t allow handwriting recognition. However, capacitive touchscreens feel more sensitive than their resistive counterparts.

Capacitive touch screens are also considered more durable than resistive touch screens.

Carriers (sometimes service providers, operators) are the companies that sell the use of a wireless network. Usually they own the network though some (called MVNO) do not.

The network consists of base stations (cell towers) and the infrastructure linking them.

The service allows the user to access the network and they are billed by the minute (for calls) or by kilobytes (for data transfers). Such services are sold as packages known as “calling plans”.

CDMA is a digital technology for transmitting data. It is a general technology utilized through various standards.

CDMA has no limit on capacity but the base station will only connect users upon determining that the call quality would fall bellow a predetermined limit.

The term is often used to refer to one specific family of technologies – IS-95 (often referred to cdmaOne) and CDMA2000. Networks using this technology operate in the 800 and 1900 MHz frequency bands and are primarily used in the Americas and Asia.

Mobile phones run on so-called embedded chipsets, which are designed to perform one or a few dedicated functions, often with real-time computing constraints. They are embedded as part of the complete device including hardware and mechanical parts.

The ever popular smartphones are equipped with more advanced embedded chipsets that can do many different tasks depending on their programming.

Thus their CPU (Central Processing Unit) performance is vital for the daily user experience and people tend to use the clock rate of the main CPU that’s in the heart of the chipset to compare the performance of competing end products.

As we already pointed out, the clock rate of a processor is only useful for providing performance comparisons between computer chips in the same processor family and generation.

Also, as mobile gaming is increasingly gaining popularity, users have become more aware of the various types of GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) chips that come as part of the mobile chipsets and sometimes even consider their performance when making buying decisions.

cHTML is a simplified version of HTML with features such as the accesskey attribute for numpad-optimized web navigation, phone number shortcuts for links, and emoji pictorial characters.

cHTML is used exclusively for iMode, a service that is offered only in Japan and several European countries.

Most phones use the older WML format or the newer XHTML Mobile Profile