Smartphones for Dummies

Posted by · December 17, 2012 4:30 pm

smartphonesOh the joy of finally being at the end of your two-year wireless contract. It’s time to get a shiny new device!

Half of adults in the US own smartphones, and more of us are getting them every year. But with ads, peer pressure, and timing anxiety, it’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed about what to buy. Lots of smartphones are now free with a new contract, but if you’re spending $100-$200 on a new device, you’ll want to be sure you get what you personally need. Here’s a helpful guide to smartphone tech jargon to help you weed out what’s necessary for you in a phone- and what’s just a smooth sales pitch.

AMOLED/Retina Display

Stands for active-matrix organic light-emitting diode. These types of screens don’t require light to produce black, so it is somewhat of a battery-saver compared to LCD, which always needs a backlight. They age faster, so you might see some color balance shifting the longer you have your device. You’ll find these on Samsung devices, namely with the “Super” label, which is just a proprietary Samsung name. HD Super-AMOLED has a high density of pixels for ultra high resolution (1280×720).
Retina Display is what you’re going to find on the iPhone 5. It is also a proprietary feature, this owned by Apple. Apple uses it to describe the LCD screen that is so high resolution that it is undetectable by the human eye. The resolution is 1136×640.
Having a gorgeous display is essential if you want to use your device for watching videos on YouTube or Netflix.

Data- Mobile vs. WiFi

Data refers to most of the communication your smartphone will be capable of other than talking on a phone call. From texting pictures to streaming videos, your phone needs that data connection to make the transfer of info. Mobile data means your phone is connected to cellular communication- which you pay for. Mobile carriers Verizon and AT&T have started limiting the amount of data each person can use without paying loads of money for it. Wifi is when your phone connects to a wireless internet connection (like your laptop does at your house), so it doesn’t have to use the mobile network to share data. Smartphones have settings so you can tell it to use the wifi when you have access to it, so you limit the amount of mobile network data you are using (and paying for).


The first part simply stands for 4th Generation, as in the version of standard in mobile communication standard. Since 3G we’ve been able to have broadband data over mobile service. With 4G, you have a highly capable digital network, i.e. really fast internet on you smartphone. LTE, Long Term Evolution, is a version of 4G; a brand. Verizon and AT&T use LTE, whereas Sprint has a version of 4G called WiMax.


Phone+Tablet= Phablet. Handles like a tablet, makes calls like a cell phone, usually 5-inch screen or larger. Examples include the Samsung Galaxy Note II and LG Intuition.

Global Ready

If you travel internationally often and especially for business, you’ll want a phone with this feature. However, this still usually means you will incur different charges on your billing plan for using a global service. If you don’t travel, don’t bother thinking of it as a beneficial feature.


Near-field communication” is a function that allows you to transfer information by tapping another device. Allows for quick in-person sharing and is another way to avoid mobile data usage.


Using your smart phone as an internet source. Carriers have some plans that allow you to accomplish this, but it costs more money, of course.


The amount of space on your phone to store data such as programs (apps), music, and videos. Be careful about your expectations. The capacity of your phone’s open storage once you turn it on may be less than advertised because some space it taken up by pre-loaded info. Not sure how many gee-bees you need? One GB is approximately 250 songs.


Operating system is the type of software that runs your phone. Windows, Blackberry, Android, and iOS are all operating systems. Android currently labels their versions with names of sweets- Ice Cream Sandwich is the name you’ll hear of the version that is being pushed out to upgrade phones that have been out for awhile. Jelly Bean is the newest. iOS is Apple’s name, tagged with a number for the version. iOS 6 was released along with the new iPhone 5.

We could go on for pages and pages about smartphone specs that get thrown around these days. This list should help you determine what’s worth it TO YOU to pay for, and what is not.

Have more questions about which smartphone to get? You could always ask the Experts.