Mobile phone buying guide

Whether you're buying an iPhone or a BlackBerry, Samsung, Nokia, LG, Motorola, or Sony Ericsson phone, we show you what to look for

FAQs: Mobile phones

What is 3G?

3G is a third-generation mobile phone network. The benefits of a 3G network as opposed to a 2G network include the ability to support greater number of both voice and data customers, and higher data rates (such as mobile Internet access). 3G networks are also capable of video calling. Telstra's Next G, Optus and Vodafone are current Australian examples of service providers with 3G networks.

Am I better off with a pre-paid account or a monthly billing system?

This depends on intended usage. For minimal usage, a pre-paid account is ideal as you can easily keep track of your expenditure and pay only when you need credit. If you intend to make a lot of calls, then a monthly billing system would be more appropriate, as they generally offer cheaper call rates than a pre-paid account.

What is a capped plan?

A capped plan means you only pay a certain amount per month if your usage doesn't exceed a maximum value.

What is SMS?

SMS stands for Short Message Service and is the sending of short (160 characters or less) text messages to and from mobile phones. SMS messaging is a standard feature on all mobile phones. Receiving SMS messages is free of charge, but sending them costs 25 cents across all networks in Australia. Some networks may offer discounted rates for SMS messages sent across their own network.

Can I make video calls?

Video calls can be made on a 3G network, provided your phone has a front-mounted camera for video calls and your service provider supports this feature. Video calls are usually charged at a higher rate than a regular voice call.

How do I know who is calling me?

Caller ID is a service that transmits the caller's telephone number to your mobile phone while it is ringing. Further, if the number is saved in your address book, the caller's name will display instead of just the number.

What is MMS?

MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service and is the sending of messages that include multimedia such as images, audio, video and text. MMS is standard on most, but not all mobile phones, and costs more than an SMS.

Can I listen to music or watch videos?

If your mobile phone includes a music and/or video player, yes. Many phones include these, and they allow you to store and then playback a number of multimedia files on your phone's screen.

What else can my phone do besides make phone calls?

Depending on the phone's features, it may be capable of browsing the Internet, listening to FM radio and MP3 music, recording video and voice, taking photos, and even making VoIP (Voice over IP) calls. Most smartphones also allow you to download apps.

Do I need a hands-free kit?

In all Australian states it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle while talking on a mobile phone without a hands-free kit. There are many types of hands-free kits, from earpieces to portable Bluetooth devices and even dedicated kits that are built into your car. What is Bluetooth and when would I use it?

Bluetooth is a wireless technology that provides a way to connect and exchange information between devices such as mobile phones. It uses a short-range (1-10 metre) radio frequency, so the devices don't have to be in line of sight of each other and can even be in other rooms. Bluetooth is mainly used for hands-free devices such as Bluetooth headsets and hands-free kits, as well as for transferring files from a phone to a PC or vice versa.

How do I use e-mail on my phone?

Many phones support standard e-mail accounts such as Yahoo!, Windows Live Mail and Gmail, as well as being able to connect your work or corporate e-mail account. If you phone supports e-mail, using it is usually a simple matter of entering your account details and any settings required. Most phones also allow you to download and edit e-mail attachments like Word and Excel documents.

What is a smartphone?

A smartphone is a mobile phone with computer-like features which may include e-mail capabilities, a personal organiser, a touchscreen or a keyboard. Smartphones usually offer more data capabilities and connectivity options than a regular mobile phone, and most can have applications “installed” on them, just like a computer. Examples of popular smartphones include Apple's iPhone, HTC's Desire and Desire HD phones, and RIM's BlackBerry series.

What is a SIM card?

A SIM card is a removable “smart card” that must be inserted into a mobile phone. SIM cards securely identify a mobile phone to the mobile phone network. You need a SIM card to make phone calls. A SIM card also allows you to change phones but keep your mobile number by simply removing the card from one mobile phone and inserting it into another. SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module.

Can I browse the Internet on my phone?

Most mobile phones allow Internet browsing, although low-end models may only display Web sites that have been optimised for viewing on mobile phones.

What is Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi is a wireless technology that allows connection to a data network when in range of an “access point”. A Wi-Fi enabled mobile phone can connect to the Internet when close to an access point or “wireless hotspot” (the region covered by one or several access points). Wi-Fi also allows devices to connect directly with each other.

What is HSDPA?

HSDPA stands for High-Speed Downlink Packet Access and is a 3G mobile standard that provides higher data transfer speeds and capacity. HSDPA in Australia is still in its relative infancy but current HSDPA networks have the capacity to provide each customer with up to 30 gigabytes of data per month.

What are the different shapes mobile phones come in?

There are three main shapes (form factors) of mobile phones: candy bar, clamshell (also called flip) and slider phones. There are also a few variations of these, such as a flip phone that may also swivel.

What is A2DP?

A2DP is a Bluetooth technology that allows you to wirelessly stream music from your mobile phone to a compatible Bluetooth accessory, such as a pair of Bluetooth headphones. A2DP is becoming more common on mobile phones as more music features are offered.

Can I connect my phone to a computer?

Generally, yes. Most mobile phones can connect to a computer via a USB cable or Bluetooth technology. The main reason for connecting to a computer is to synchronise e-mails and calendar entries, but you can also transfer files from your computer to your mobile phone.

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World
Topics: Motorola, android phones, lg, Android, iPhone, Android smartphones, RIM BlackBerry, Blackberry, samsung, Sony Ericsson, mobile phones, Nokia, smartphones
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