Mobile Phone jargon has become so confusing that choosing a handset feels like trying to translate the Rosetta Stone catalogue. What does it all mean? How much is useful info, and how much is just noise? If terms such as AMOLED and Nougat (no, not the sweet kind) leave you scratching your head then reading on is advised.
The tech that powers contactless mobile phone payments is called near-field communication – or NFC for short – because nothing’s ever straightforward. Essentially, it allows two devices within a few centimetres of each other to exchange data. Once you’re set up with a payment service, such as Android Pay, you can hold your unlocked phone above a payment terminal and magically buy that fidget spinner without ever reaching for your wallet.
Or “active-matrix organic light-emitting diode” to give it its full name. It’s an advanced type of phone display where pixels – the building blocks of a screen – can be controlled individually. This means that blacks are deeper (as pixels can literally be turned off, so there’s no light coming through at all), and less battery power is used because only the bits that are needed are powered up. Also, it looks awesome.
Thankfully, this doesn’t mean the phone costs four grand. It’s another name for ultra-HD, which itself means “ultra high-definition” or “image quality so good our puny human eyes can’t comprehend it”. Some phones have 4K screens, but it’s more common in cameras: if your phone can record video in 4K UHD, you can make movies that even look good on that giant TV you’ve been hankering after. Which is as good an excuse to upgrade as any.
Take a photo of someone standing in front of a bright window and you’ll see why you need HDR: they become a person-shaped black hole. HDR (high dynamic range) is a handy camera mode that automatically levels out the bright and dark bits, so you can see that it’s actually your gran standing by the window rather than a shadowy figure of doom. If you’re taking a shot with a bright background, it really helps to turn it on.
There are far too many names for this, but it basically means the wall charger has extra magic built in that charges up your phone extra-fast. No one likes waiting for their phone to recharge, but if you’re a particularly impatient sort, pick a phone with this feature and stay sane.
As you might have guessed, dual camera phones have two cameras. However, the term doesn’t refer to the back and front snappers – it means two on the back, so it’s really three cameras if you include the selfie one.
When you make a video, your hand shakes like a washing machine on spin cycle. You may not notice as you’re filming, but you will when you watch it back – especially if you’ve zoomed in. Phones with image stabilisation fix it, a bit like the way your car’s suspension stops you being bounced all over the place. The two main types are optical (OIS), which moves the lens to counteract camera shake, and electronic (EIS), which does the same thing with software.
This embarrassing portmanteau of “phone” and “tablet” is pronounced fab-let, and describes a phone with a screen of 5.5 inches or above (diagonally). Some manufacturers have a smaller and larger version of their flagship phones, with the larger one usually having “plus” in the title, but they’re still phablets.
See also: lollipop and marshmallow. Yes, this really is smartphone jargon. Most phones run software called Android, and improved versions come out every year or so. Clearly the Google engineers making them are a sweet-toothed bunch, because the versions are named after treats beginning with successive letters of the alphabet. We started with Cupcake and are now at Nougat, with the next version (O) rumoured to be “Oreo”. It wouldn’t be the first time it’s been named after a brand: Android K was KitKat. Luckily it didn’t break.
For something so modern, the word “Bluetooth” has surprisingly old roots: it’s named after Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson, the 10th-century king of Denmark and Norway. It is a universal technology used to get different devices to talk to one another easily and wirelessly – phones and speakers, for instance. King Bluetooth (who, presumably, had a winning smile) united his kingdom, and Bluetooth unites tech. Its logo is a combination of the runes for H and B.
How many minutes of your life have you spent trying to insert the USB charging cable the right way round on the first go? How much did your blood pressure rise when it turned out you were right the first time? USB-C is here to save us all from combusting with frustration, because it’s a newer type of smartphone charging cable that can go either way up. You can’t get it wrong. Well, unless you try to stick it in the headphone socket. Don’t do that.
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