Buy like a pro – smartphone jargon, and what it all means

Buy like a pro – smartphone jargon, and what it all means

Mobile phones used to be simple devices for making calls – and occasionally for sending a text, if you could be bothered pressing the 7 key four times to display a letter ‘s’.

Today, these compact devices can outperform millennial desktop PCs, with powerful graphics processors and huge amounts of RAM enabling multiple applications to run at once.

If your eyes are already glazing over at the mention of smartphone jargon, actually choosing a new handset could drive you to a dictionary.

Even the supposedly straightforward process of taking a picture has become mired in a sea of triple lenses, optical image stabilisation and ISO numbers.

Making sense of smartphone jargon

To simplify the process of choosing a new phone, we’ve summarised the most common abbreviations, acronyms and smartphone jargon below – starting with a photography staple:

  • Dual camera. Two camera lenses are mounted behind the same cover. One handles zooming and the other adds clarity. Known by some manufacturers as a stereo camera.
  • Internal storage. The amount of space available for storing information like media files. Storage is measured in gigabytes, or GB – one gigabyte is a thousand megabytes (MB).
  • Megapixels. Abbreviated to MP, this is the number of individual pixels making up a photo or video file. Bigger numbers usually indicate higher quality, though not always.
  • Front camera. Camera lenses are generally mounted on the back of a phone, so the user can see what they’re capturing. Front cameras do likewise while taking selfie pictures.
  • Chipset. A technical term for the processors used to run a smartphone’s operating system and software. Don’t worry about the differences between quad-core, octa-core, etc.
  • Processor speed. Calculated in gigahertz, or GHz. Higher numbers indicate a device will be able to process information more quickly, making it smoother and easier to use.
  • Biometric security. The phone won’t unlock unless a fingerprint is held against a sensor, or the front camera recognises a face or iris. This helps to protect personal data.
  • Operating system. There are two mobile operating systems – Apple iOS (iPhones) and Google Android (every other handset). Despite being incompatible, they’re very alike.
  • Android Marshmallow/Nougat/Oreo/Pie. The two main OS are periodically revised. Newer versions of Android appear later in the alphabet; iOS updates get higher numbers.
  • Standby time. A crude laboratory-based measure of battery life, defined by how long the phone would remain on from a full charge.
  • Talk time. A more realistic benchmark of how long a full battery charge will last – the number of hours you could maintain a phone call before the battery is fully depleted.
  • 4G. The fourth and fastest generation of mobile cellular communications, used for distributing mobile data to devices when they’re not connected to a WiFi network.
  • SIM card. Today’s nano cards represent the third and latest generation of SIM. These small silicon chips store a handset’s unique identifiers and phone book contacts.
  • SD card. Another third-generation plug-in card. A microSD card can boost a device’s storage capacity, though many handsets don’t have SD expansion slots.
  • Wireless charging. The use of electromagnetic coils to transfer electricity from a baseplate into a smartphone or tablet, without needing to plug in any cables.
  • USB Type-C. A high-performance version of the traditional charging cable, which provides high-speed charging and rapid data transfers to a computer.
  • OLED. Organic Light Emitting Diode screens are increasingly replacing backlit Liquid Crystal Displays, combining greater sharpness and lower energy consumption.
  • 4K. Effectively the highest screen resolution on sale, 4K screens may be overkill on a five-inch smartphone, but they look astonishing on a 50-inch TV.

Remember, this list isn’t exhaustive, and certain devices may have unusual or unique technical specifications.

However, a large proportion of terminology not listed above involves handset manufacturers trying to impress unwitting consumers.

When Huawei talk about a “FullView display”, they simply mean the screen is almost as big as the handset, with a slim plastic bezel (or frame) wrapping around its edges.

Equally, the promise of being able to switch between two different transmission frequencies might sound exotic, but every phone sold in the UK is now dual-band.

Don’t let sales assistants blind you with science, and bear in mind key requirements when choosing a new smartphone – rather than getting carried away with unnecessary features…

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