Top new smartphone trends and terms: how to decipher the lingo

The HTC One X quad-core smartphone

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The HTC One X quad-core smartphone

From quad-core processors to high-res displays, smartphones are getting smarter and faster but that doesn't mean the techno jargon is any easier to understand. Relaxnews pinpoints some of the emerging smartphone trends and explains the abbreviations and terms that go with them.

Quad-core processor
The most hotly anticipated smartphone trend at Mobile World Congress in 2012 was the quad-core smartphone. The LG Optimus 4X HD, HTC One X, ZTE Era, and Huawei Ascend D quad were among the quad-core smartphones introduced during MWC. While single and dual-core smartphones (and tablets) currently dominate the mobile landscape consumers will start to see quad-core smartphones arriving in stores around the globe in 2012.

Quad-core processor explained

“Quad-core” is a term used to describe a multi-core processor -- also referred to as a CPU (central processing unit) -- that features four independent processors. A smartphone with a quad-core processor typically provides quicker application speeds and a faster overall computing experience than a dual- or single-core processor. CPU processing power is measured in GHz (Gigahertz).

Bigger screens with higher resolutions
The standard 3.5” and 4.3” displays seen on yesterday’s touchscreen phones were dwarfed by some of the gargantuan smartphones unveiled at MWC including the Huawei Ascend D quad (4.5”), the HTC One X (4.7”) and the LG Optimus Vu: (5”). Since Apple unveiled the iPhone 4 and its high-definition “Retina” display, smartphone manufacturers have also been clambering to boost smartphone screen resolutions.

Screen resolution explained
While displays are usually measured in inches (“), screen resolution is measured in pixels. You will often see a device’s display resolution written as “width x height” (figures which represent the number of pixels that can be displayed in each dimension). For example the iPhone 4S’ 3.5” retina display features 960 x 640 pixels.  

Super camera smartphone snapshots

Thanks to improved smartphone camera technology, most casual shooters can now leave their digital cameras at home. Nokia has taken the smartphone camera revolution one step further with the announcement of its 808 PureView smartphone. The mobile device packs in a massive 41 megapixel sensor and Nokia’s innovative over-sampling technology.

Megapixels (MP) explained

The smartphone’s camera quality is measured in megapixels (MP). Typically, a smartphone with more MP will take better (higher resolution) photos. Most new smartphones now feature a 5MP or better camera, however, with the launch of Nokia’s 808 PureView you can expect to see higher camera resolutions becoming a priority on smartphones in the near future.

Near Field Communication

Near Field Communication or NFC is a growing trend in the smartphone market enabling device owners to wirelessly pay for goods or tap to sync Bluetooth devices in the near vicinity.
LG’s newly announced Optimus LTE Tag smartphone demonstrates how NFC and smart tags might be utilized on phones in the future: the Optimus LTE Tag has the ability to automatically change its own settings when it is swiped past special user-programmable stickers called “tags.”

NFC explained

Near Field Communication is a technology that uses radio communication to facilitate wireless data transfers between two devices in near proximity. It is commonly used to make contactless payments, pair Bluetooth devices, and share data.

Android Ice Cream Sandwich

The latest generation of Google’s Android operating system (version 4.0) is called Android Ice Cream Sandwich and is often abbreviated to ICS or Android 4.0. Other major smartphone operating systems include Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows Phone.

Additional smartphone technical specifications:

GHz (aka processor speed or the smartphone “brain”)

GHz is the abbreviation for gigahertz, the unit used to measure your phone’s processor speed. This determines how responsive your phone will be and how quickly it will swap between applications and browse the web. A typical smartphone in today’s market will usually come with a 1GHz processor or higher.

RAM (aka performance)

RAM, measured in megabytes (MB), determines the number of applications your phone can run at the same time without slowing the device down. If you’re just browsing the web or making calls, 256MB will be enough. If you like to run multiple applications (called multitasking) at the same time or play a lot of processor-intensive games, aim for a minimum of 512MB.

GB (aka storage)

Depending on the phone you buy it may have integrated storage (that can’t be added to or removed) or a device with an expansion slot for a microSD, SD or MiniSD memory card. Device storage is measured in gigabytes (GB). If you want to store lots of music, videos, photos and apps you will want more storage. Most removable memory cards will store between 2GB and 34GB.

3G, LTE and 4G (aka cellular data internet speed)

3G, LTE and 4G refer to the speed of your cellular data speed or how quick your phone’s internet connection is over your carrier’s network. Measured in Kbps and Mbps, 3G networks typically range from 144Kbps to 2.4Mbps. LTE (Long Term Evolution) is the next step up from 3G data speeds and is now grouped under the “4G” label despite being too slow to satisfy the original requirements set out by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). 4G speeds typically range between 1Mbps to 25Mbps (but differ country by country and carrier by carrier). 4G is expected to hit speeds of 100Mbps -- faster than your existing home broadband connection -- in the future.

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