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Buyers' guide: The ultimate guide to smartphone specs

What you need to know to buy a smartphone

Ever wonder what 'capacitive touchscreen', 'MicroSD' and 'HSPA+' mean? We provide real definitions for the specifications most commonly used to describe what's under the hood in today's smartphones.

Smartphone specifications explained: 4G and HSPA+ service

The major mobile networks are all currently laying down future plans to upgrade 4G or Long Term Evolution networks, which uses the radio spectrum currently used to broadcast terrestrial TV programmes but will be freed up thanks to the digital switchover. O2 has already launched a trial of the technology, along with communication Arqiva.

Whether a specific smartphone supports these new network technologies (and their faster speeds) should be stated in the device's specifications.

Smartphone specifications explained: Noise Cancellation/suppression

'Noise cancellation' in smartphones might be better termed 'noise suppression'. The phrase refers to isolating the sound of the speaker's voice while suppressing background sounds; noise suppression depends on having the design of a phone's voice microphone (or microphones) work in concert with sound-shaping technology in the phone's chip set.

Earlier phones employed various methods to achieve noise suppression, but newer smartphones like the iPhone 4 use two microphones - one to listen to the speaker's voice and another to listen to ambient sounds like street noise. The first microphone is situated at the bottom front of the phone near the speaker's mouth; the second is located on the top edge of the phone. Software in the phone's audio chip set creates a profile of the ambient sounds detected by the second mic, and then subtracts that aural profile from the sound picked up by the mic near the speaker's mouth. The result is a phone call that, at the other end of the line, sounds as though the caller were calling from a land line in a quiet room.

Since people rarely use mobile phones in quiet rooms, noise suppression technology is an important feature.

Smartphone specifications explained: Removable Storage: MicroSD Cards

SD (Secure Digital) cards and their smaller MicroSD and MiniSD memory-card cousins are the types of removable storage commonly used in portable and wireless devices to store data such as video, music, and image files. The main difference between standard SD, MicroSD, and MiniSD cards is their size. According to iSupply, most mobile phones that shipped during 2010 used the smallest of the three card types, MicroSD.

If you're planning to store a large quantity of large media files (such as video) you may want to choose the largest-capacity card that your device will accommodate. The capacities of the MicroSD cards used in most cell phones range from 2GB to 32GB. The 2GB cards retail for less than £4; 16GB (Class 4) cards commonly sell for around £20; and 32GB cards can run as high as £80.

The SD Association has established various speed classes for SD cards. These classes represent the minimum speeds required to write various types of data to the card. Following are the most common speeds, together with the types of content they support, according to the SD Association.

  • Class 2 : H.264 video recording, MPEG-4, MPEG-2 video recording
  • Class 4: MEPG-2 (HDTV) video recording, DSC consecutive shooting
  • Class 6: Megapixel DSC consecutive shooting, professional video camera
  • Class 10: Full HD video recording, HD still consecutive shooting

NEXT PAGE: Gyroscope vs Accelerometer

  1. What you need to know
  2. RAM
  3. Touchscreens
  4. 4G and HSPA+ service
  5. Gyroscope vs Accelerometer

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