Cell Phones Key Terms

Learn terms to communicate about cell phones

A cell phone provides flexibility in communication, as it is a mobile device and can handle both voice and data capabilities. With the evolution of cell phone features, it is important to know some key terms to find the right cell phone for you. Cell phones vary in function, price and style. They also vary in service plans, which can determine the number of minutes you can use, where you can use it and whether you have email or text messaging.

Wireless service provider

All cell phones need a wireless service provider to provide actual service to the phone. These carriers provide the network on which your cell phone runs as well as any service and support issues with your phone. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint PCS and T-Mobile are all examples of wireless service providers.

Bluetooth technology

Many cell phones have Bluetooth technology now, which uses a standard communications protocol that enables cell phones to use a link to connect Bluetooth devices wirelessly. For example, cell phones that have Bluetooth technology enabled can use a Bluetooth hands-free headset or can print information to a printer that also uses Bluetooth.


Tethering refers to the use of the cell phone as a modem for a personal computer or laptop. The cell phone is "tethered" to the computer by a USB cable or by Bluetooth technology. Tethering capability is a cell phone feature that some cell phones have, and it is a function that some service carriers provide.

Data services

Some cell phones have the capacity to handle data services. These data services include text messaging, instant messaging, picture and video messaging, music, email and games. Costs for these services vary by provider. The capability to access these data services also varies by cell phone.


Smartphones are a type of cellular phone that incorporates important features from a personal digital assistant, such as calendars, planners, and address books. They can store data and receive email and often have multimedia capabilities such as taking photos and videos and playing MP3s.

GSM/CDMA network technology

Two network technologies for cell phones are GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access). Wireless service providers use either of these networks for cell phone coverage. The differences between these competing technologies lie in how they handle data as well as their coverage areas.

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