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Smartphones: a guide to the terminology

business Updated: Feb 25, 2013 13:42 IST

As smartphones become more and more advanced, so does the language used to describe them -- not a problem for the most committed of technophiles, but for everyone else, trying to understand just what exactly something like NFC is and whether or not it is actually something they would need is another matter entirely. As Mobile World Congress kicks off in Barcelona and the launches of new products with new features come thick and fast, here is a short guide.

Memory Card or SD Slot
Smartphones have a built-in amount of internal storage, usually 8GB, 16BG or 32GB. Handsets that come at a huge premium might offer a 64GB option. Smartphones that work on the Android operating system offer users the chance to insert a memory card (usually SD memory or Micro SD memory) in order to increase storage capacity and therefore room for photos, films, video clips and albums. Apps can't be stored on memory cards, they have to be stored on the phone's internal memory.

Retina Display
A term unique to Apple's phones and tablet used to describe the quality of image on the screen. The Retina display on an iPhone 5 offers 326 pixels per inch meaning that it has the same quality of image as an HD TV. Other companies such as BlackBerry list the resolution of their displays by giving the number of pixels horizontally and vertically - eg: 768 x 1280 pixels for the BBZ. As a rule, the bigger the two numbers the better the sharpness and quality of the screen.

Dual-core or quad-core processor
The processor is the beating heart of a smartphone. It's what gives it the speed and the power to run multiple apps, play video smoothly or render webpages and play games instantaneously. More cores mean more performance but, unless the phone is going to be used for constant gaming while simultaneously listening to music, a dual-core processor is more than enough.

GPRS (General Packet Radio Service)
A very simple form of technology for connecting to mobile internet services from mobile phones and smartphones; it is very slow compared with 3G or 4G (see below) but unlike other services, it works as long as there is a signal and is good enough for sending a multimedia message or for receiving an email notification.

A form of mobile wireless technology that provides a smartphone or tablet with an internet connection when there is no wi-fi available. It is not as fast as broadband or a wi-fi network but it performs well and is the standard mobile internet connection around the world.

As the name suggests, one step up from 3G; and fast and powerful enough to make it seem as if the phone is connected to a broadband rather an a mobile feed. Unfortunately 4G network access is expensive and unlike 3G there is no standard. A smartphone that can access 4G in the UK cannot access 4G in the US and vice versa.

All modern smartphones have an integrated Global Positioning System so that the device can be pinpointed anywhere in the world. The built-in GPS will work in conjunction with the smartphone's native navigation software or with apps like Google Maps or Nokia Here so that users can plan journeys and navigate new cities and towns.

This is a device built into a smartphone that enables it to know in which direction it is pointing or whether it is being held in portrait or landscape mode; As well as making games more interactive, an accelerometer ensures that the image or webpage on the screen is always the right way up.

Proximity sensor
This deactivates the display of a smartphone when the device is brought near to the user's face during a call. This saves battery power. It also cuts the power if a smartphone is placed in a hip pocket for example.

Near Field Communication
NFC is a technology that sends data a smartphone touches another device that supports the technology; When the two devices come together a connection is made and that connection can be used to swap data or send a command. As a result many experts believe NFC-enabled smartphones will soon replace credit cards as a way of making payments in stores.

A portmanteau of the words ‘phone' and ‘tablet,' the term was created to describe the most recent trend in smartphones for devices with screen sizes ranging between 4.8 and 6+ inches.