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Ask Anything: Cell phone acronyms explainedWhat do 3G, GSM, and CDMA mean? CNET cell phone expert Kent German has the answers.
^M00:00:01 [ Music ] ^M00:00:04 >> Hi I'm Tom Merritt, Editor from CNET.com along with our Senior Editor for cell phones Kent German, and we're here to help you make your way through the alphabet soup of cell phone acronyms. You walk into a store and you see there are GSM phones and there are 3G phones and these are HSDPA capable and these are world phones; what does it all mean? We're gonna cut through all of the hype and give you a little insight into what these acronyms actually mean for you when you're shopping for a cell phone. Kent thanks for joining us. >> Kent: Sure. >> Tom: Let's start with GSM and CDMA; those are two descriptions of phones you see. What do they mean? >> Kent: Well they actually refer to the two technologies that are used to transmit calls so some carriers use CDMA--Verizon and Sprint use CDMA; T-Mobile and AT&T use GSM. Now those technologies are incompatible so you can certainly make calls to each other, but you couldn't take a phone that works on one and then use it on another. >> Tom: So these are how your calls are transmitted? >> Kent: Sure it's just a different way of doing it. >> Tom: Ok. What is Edge then? You hear a lot about the Edge network in regards to the iPhone or EVDO in regards to data transmission. What does all that mean? >> Kent: Well Edge and EVDO are ways to transmit data. So like your messages, e-mail, the web browser on your phone--things like that. So it's not really used for calls. >> Tom: So you've got two different networks on phones potentially? >> Kent: Sure. >> Tom: So the GSM and the CDMA is about calls and then the Edge and the EVDO; are there any others that I'm missing? >> Kent: There's HSDPA, there's GPRS; there's just quite a few of them. >> Tom: Ok so GPRS and HSDPA, another couple we see, those are also data carry? >> Kent: Yes. >> Tom: Those are not the phone quality carry? >> Kent: No. >> Tom: Then we see 3G and that's just a big umbrella term that seems to be thrown around a lot? What does that mean? >> Kent: Well think of 3G as wireless broadband. So basically like your cable Internet at home, it's very fast, it's on your computer, it transmits stuff really quickly, but it's just on your phone and it's wireless. So 3G is an umbrella term, you're right, but it applies to two different kinds. There's HSDPA and UMTS which are GSM technology, so those are the data networks that the GSM phones use; and then there's EVDO which is a 3G network that the CDMA phones use. >> Tom: Ok and those are data, like we've just discussed, those are data transmissions. Edge is not 3G though right? >> Kent: No. It's actually called 2.5G and basically just what that means is it's slower than 3G. >> Tom: Ok. >> Kent: So it's kind of like a--it's about the speed of a dialup network so to speak. >> Tom: So when you see GSM, that doesn't mean it is or it's not 3G? >> Kent: No. >> Tom: You have to look at what kind of data it has. >> Kent: That's true. >> Tom: And if you see HSDPA, that doesn't mean what kind of calls it has. That means it's 3G data speeds, right? It's higher speed data. >> Kent: Yes. >> Tom: So don't let people confuse you when you go in there and they say this is 3G, GSM or this is GSM and try to imply it's 3G, because you gotta keep the calls and the data separate, right? >> Kent: Yes. And you have to think about what you want. If the data network is important to you, don't get pressured into buying something 3G because it sounds really cool, because it does have something to do with your calls. >> Tom: Well then I also just read an article talking about how latency in the way a phone processor works can get rid of that advantage of bandwidth that you get with 3G. So it depends what kind of network you're on and where you are whether you're even gonna get those high speeds anyway. >> Kent: Sure. >> Tom: All right well thanks for helping us clear that up Kent. >> Kent: Sure. No problem. >> Tom: You can find more about cell phones at our website cnet.com, go to the cell phone section and look for the great work of Kent and his team. Thanks a lot. ^M00:03:25 [ Music ] ^M00:03:26