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Functions of Mobile Phones Today

These days you are likely to find that your mobile can do a lot more than make and receive telephone calls. In this section we will look at the most important basic functions plus those additional features that may have you forking out a little more for a really snazzy handset!

  • SMS. Via Short Message Service (known popularly as texts with the adjective texting) you can send short messages to other mobile phones. It is relatively cheap, easy and extremely popular, with 500 billion texts sent in 2004 alone. Ringtones and logos can be sent by SMS and it can even be used to pay for things in a real world environment - by sending a message to a vending machine for example, the product is dispensed and your bill debited accordingly. Paypal uses SMS messaging to allow the transfer of funds between individuals and/ or vendors who have subscribed to their service PayPal Mobile.
  • MMS. Multimedia messaging service is the 3G enhancement building on 2G SMS Texts. By utilising the fast data transfer speeds of the 3G network it is possible to send much bigger messages including not just text but pictures, voice recordings and even video. This does not means that SMS has been abandoned - far from it, it is still much cheaper and more practical to send a plain SMS text message.
  • Internet. 2G phones allowed access to the Internet and email via the GPRS and WAP systems, however data transfer was too slow to make it anything but a big turn-off for consumers. As a result it is taking a while for people to realise that they can access Internet and email at very reasonable speeds on the new 3G network. Mobile games, news flashes, mobile video clips and all kinds of other mobile video content can be downloaded to a 3G handset. As a taster, many of these third party content providers are offering a lot of content for free or at promotional rates.
  • Colour Screens. If you wish to watch video content, play games or look at pictures on your mobile you can easily find a model with a large colour screen.
  • PDA. Personal data assistant functions come with specific mobile phones, some have large touch-pad screens where you can select icons with an attached pointer or your finger. Address books, diaries, notepads, word processing and spreadsheet facilities are invaluable functions to the travelling businessperson. Although these phones come at a higher price, many find their combination of functionality and small size a real bonus. Even so, most phones these days come with a calender, calculator and notepad functions and all have an address book.
  • Fax. Believe it or not you can send and receive faxes on some of the higher end PDA phones. Via blue-tooth or infrared you can even send the received fax to a compatible printer to be printed out on paper.
  • Camera Phones. These days it is probably harder to find a mobile phone that does not have a camera than one that does. You can leave your ordinary camera at home, as some of the latest phones even have a decent camera built in with the additional capacity to film short videos (at low quality). You will find detachable or rotating cameras - or even two cameras to allow video calling.
  • Blue-tooth This is a type of short-range radio signal - in effect a wireless connection that allows the transfer of information between compatible devices such as laptops, cameras and mobile phones. It's a great way to send messages for free over short distances and share photos, videos, ringtones and music between phones without the need for any cables. Beware! Having your blue-tooth switched on (enabled) all the time means that hackers can see where your equipment is kept, access and change your personal information (Blue snarfing) and send malicious programs (viruses) or unsolicited messages (Blue jacking) to your phone. Never accept a message from someone you don't know, see this short video on blue snarfing from The Real Hustle to see how they do it.
  • Infra-red. Again this allows the sharing of information between compatible devices but it is trickier to use (you have to align the devices correctly) than Blue-tooth which is fast replacing it in most cases.
  • MP3 Players. Unmitigated mobile phone music wars have replaced bubble gum and conquer battles as the new scourge of the school run. Many phones today double as personal music players and unfortunately most come with poor quality external speaker built in. You can download music from the Internet, upload it from your computer or swap it between phones with blue-tooth. Just remember to use your included headphones!
  • FM Radio. Listen to radio on the move, many mobile phones today include this feature. The advent of higher speed connections is likely to make mobile Internet radio the next logical step.
  • Video Games. 2G mobiles often included simple black and white games like snake and tetris. With 3G transfer speeds and modern handsets new, full-colour titles are released every week and arcade classics such as Double Dragon and Street Fighter II are rendered in all their former glory, albeit on a considerable smaller screen. A new generation of large screen 3G handsets can play special 3-D titles too. This is all available for download to your phone at very reasonable prices.
  • Expandable memory If you are going to be taking a lot of pictures, downloading games and music (or uploading it from your computer) you can buy plenty of storage space in the form of small memory chips that can be transferred via the correct converter into a compatible computer, printer or camera.
  • Video calling. Once featured on tomorrow's world as the next great step in the world of human communication, it is now a feature, albeit a largely ignored one, of many modern handsets. The combination of an in built camera and fast data transfer speeds of the latest 3G handset leave land-line phones in the wake of mobiles. Star Trek fans, needless to say are incredulous at the underwhelming reception of real time peer to peer video calling!

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