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The 411: Demystifying 3G

Every week, CNET editor Nicole Lee answers your questions about cell phones and their accessories.

Welcome to the 411, my new Q&A column answering all your questions about cell phones and cell phone accessories. I receive plenty of questions about these subjects via e-mail, so I figured many of you might have the same questions, too. At times, I might solicit answers from readers if I'm stumped. Send your questions and comments to me at If you prefer to remain anonymous, let me know in the e-mail.

Will you please explain to me the difference between 2G and 3G phones? Thank you ever so much in advance.--Michael, via e-mail

The short answer is that 3G's data service is faster than 2G's. The longer answer is that 3G brings wireless broadband data services to your phone, while 2G phones are far slower. There are also 2.5G phones that are somewhere in between. If a phone has 3G, that means it has a potential speed from 144Kbps to 2.4Mbps, which puts it close to cable-modem speed. A compatible phone on a 3G network lets you download Web pages faster, stream music and video, and more. Examples of 3G standards are EV-DO for CDMA phones and UMTS for GSM phones. There are some phones that support an even faster 3.5G standard -- HSDPA for GSM phones and EV-DO Rev. A for CDMA phones--that boast up to 7.2 Mbps. Do note that 3G networks aren't available everywhere; they're typically in major metropolitan areas but your mileage may vary if you live outside certain zones. We advise you to check with your carrier to see if there is 3G coverage in your neighborhood.

The LG Neon is good for texting. Corinne Schulze/CNET

I can't decide between the LG Vu or the LG Neon. I text a lot and they both seem to be good. Can you tell me (since you're an expert) which one is better for me?--Camil, via e-mail

They're very different phones, Camil. The LG Vu is a touch screen only device that was one of the first phones to support AT&T Mobile TV, AT&T's live mobile TV service. It's a nice-looking phone with a full HTML browser and 3G speeds, but you won't get a physical keyboard. If you're a frequent texter, the LG Neon is probably more your taste. The Neon has a good slide-out QWERTY keyboard for easy thumb typing. We don't really like it that the display on the Neon can only be used as a touch-screen for the number dial pad, but that's a relatively small gripe. The Neon doesn't have the features of the Vu--there's no 3G, for example--but for simple texting, the Neon is better.

I bought a headset (plug in type) for my LG Dare phone. It says it fits LG phones, but when I plug it in, my phone says it has no microphone and it just doesn't work. I did have to adapt the plug from 2.5 millimeter to 3.5 millimeter to fit my phone. Please help.--John, via e-mail

The Klipsch S2m headphones has microphone input Corinne Schulze/CNET

It sounds to me as if your plug adapter jack does not have a microphone input. The easiest way to find out if a jack (be it 2.5 millimeter or 3.5 millimeter) supports microphones, is to count the number of lines on the plug--if there are only 2 lines, the jack does not support microphone input; if there are 3 lines, it does. I would suggest either getting an adapter that does support microphone input, or just finding a new wired headset that plugs into a 3.5-millimeter jack. A couple of the ones we like are the Klipsch Image S2m and the Etymotic hf2.