'Useful' Cell Phone Terms

You know the funny thing about cell phone terms? They don't tell you anything. It's like why do people in the industry always use other terms and acronyms to describe other terms and acronyms? I don't get that. So throughout the years, what I have done is I have made up what I called the Shonik'tionary. Basically, it is terms that I use to decribe things to my customers, probably like you, who completely could care less about what the term means or its origin and really just want to feel comfortable when using it probably in certain situations or when they need to ask for assistance or more help with stuff.

I tell you what really pees me off. You walk into the store and you ask the salesperson about some product or service and then not only do they correct you, they hold the entire conversation in technical mumbo jumbo, full of non sense cell phone terms, acronyms, synomyms, equations :) so you leave the store 10 times more confused than you came. So before we get started let me give you a few of my cell phone terms: I believe there are only 2 types of customers in the world of technology and wireless, technical and non-technical. So to make it easy for everyone, cell phone industry professionals need to 'speak in native tongue' and avoid using cell phone terms that are not suitable to their audience. One should always speak in simple no tech babble unless the consumer or person clearly starts getting technical with you and confidently states that they know what the hell you are talking about. T-Mobile Customer Care, has got this down. Thank You T-Mobile customer care, I love working with them.

In thinking about important cell phone terms that you should know, I think there are very few overall terms you NEED to know because there are so many different kinds technologies and generations of products within the industry that it then becomes confusing when the proper time to use them.

Cell Phone Terms That Everybody Should Know

You should know the following cell phone terms because they can help you when dealing with customer care or shopping for cell phones online or in person.


That is the name of the cell phone company who is sort of like the 'property manager' for the cell phone towers that you are using to make and receive calls (not the name of the company who makes your phone). i.e. ATT Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint, Orange, Vodaphone. They keep maintain the network, do the billing, handle service requests and complaints :) Note: I often use the term cell phone company or cell phone provider when referencing the carrier because that is what my customers always say. It is not necessarily an improper cell phone term and it is not used to describe other terms so it is ok to use.


is the company that makes your phone. Motorola, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Research in Motion, Nokia. This cell phone term is not used often but it is important to know when you call into customer care and they are troubleshooting your phone. Most times they will know the manufacturer of your phone based on the serial number (like a social security number for your phone) but not all serial numbers may have been entered into their billing system dependent on how long you have had your phone or you could have switched your phone (i.e. bought one through a private seller and not told them). So they look up the manufacturer name to help you fix your phone. Late model cell phone usually have the manufacturer printed on the front of the phone. All phones have the manufacturer name printed on the label under the battery along with the model name.

Model of Phone:

This is the series name of your phone, it used to be numbers but as of recently its switched to numbers and names. i.e. LG c1100, LG(tg800) Chocolate, Motorola T720, Motorola RazR V3C. Once again the model of the phone can be found printed on the label under the battery. Think of the manufacturer as like Cadbury and the Model like Cadbury Creme Eggs.

Mobile to Mobile:

Calling other people with the same carrier. When you have a mobile to mobile calling feature it means you do not use minutes when you call other people on your carrier (this is not generally based on geographic area). To naturally make it more confusing all the carriers have branded it differently i.e. 'In Minutes' but it all means mobile to mobile. So if you are in Florida and your son is in California and you both have Verizon then essentially it is a free call to one another regardless if you call during the day or night. This feature is also usually included when you purchase a family calling plan. Although with mobile to mobile minutes it does not necessarily mean the phones have to be on the same account. With some cell phone calling/talk plans it is included for others you might have to pay an extra fee to get that feature. Ask the representative.


Yes, it's kind of a funny cell phone term although it pretty much means the same as it reads. It means minutes of use (literal as in when you make a cell phone call you talk 'over the air'). Peak, non-peak, bucket of minutes it's all considered airtime. When a salesperson or customer care representative says to you, "whenever you use your phone for mobile to mobile or during unlimited nights and weekend you are not using airtime" (it means your cell phone minutes i.e. 600 minutes, that you have for the month are not being used.)

Family Plan:

This is one of those confusing cell phone terms where it is easy to interchange and confuse the words. A family plan is a special kind of plan in which you pay a set fee that includes the service for 2 or more phones. The plan is specific and inclusive of the cell phone service and not the actual cell phone itself. Meaning when you call or walk into the store and they say that 2 phones are included in the plan, it does not ALWAYS mean 2 FREE cell phones are included with the purchase of the plan. It means that for one fee of say $69 it covers the airtime for 2 lines of phone service as opposed to just 1, got it? ;-)

Business Sharing Plan:

Ditto above regardng this term, it just includes a larger number of phone lines (see 'Family Plan')

Service Credit:

A one time deduction or credit applied directly to your bill. It is not the same as a mail-in rebate although similar. This is a common practice with Sprint. When you activate service for multiple phones they sometimes offer service credits. Nothing usually needs to be done on your part. The discount usually gets deducted automatically from your second or third bill. Check with your sales representative for more details if you are offered 'service credits' at your time of purchase.

SIM Card:

This cell phone term came on the scene in the U.S. in the late 90's but had long been used in the rest of the world as they all started with GSM technology (Global System for Mobility). means Subscriber Information Module and it is a little bitty plastic chip that is like the brain of your phone. It goes in the back of your phone and holds all the phones memory. A customer once asked since it was like a little bitty brain does it mean it is like her husbands brain and I said perhaps when you first buy the phone new and nothing has been programmed on it. But once you start using it, the SIM actually holds quite a lot of information so she said, ok, then I suppose it's more like my 3 year olds brain. No further comment Your Honor :) In the U.S. especially, your phone or may not have a sim card depending on the model of your phone, the technology in your phone, the carrier of your phone and the year your phone was manufactured.


This cell phone term is the acronym for Global System for Mobility and is used to describe a technology which should allow you to use your cell phone globally. But in the U.S. we are 'special'. So without getting to complicated, let's just say that just because you have a GSM phone doesn't mean that it will work out the states. It depends on the year it was manufactured the carrier and the model. I am looking for one of my old charts which spells all the models out. I found it on one of the carrier review sites. I will get it and post it here for you. If you are traveling overseas look up your model phone to make sure it has international ROAMING capability. For more support see my section on Global Cell Phones.

Cell Phone Towers:

The big thingamajigs that provide the service and reception that allows you to make and receive calls and browse the internet and send/retrieve email from your cell phone.

Cell Phone Coverage:

The place where your phone will work 'more or less'. Let's emphasize more or less here :) As you well know, there are a lot of things that can affect your coverage or lack thereof. Think of cell phone towers sort of like the Olympic Rings. As you physically move from place to place and get further away from a cell phone tower, you are passed off to a tower in the neighboring ring and sometimes for whatever reason, too many folks on that specific tower at one time or no tower close by to you, you get a dropped call. Cell phones weren't made to replace the phone in your house nor were they made for for conversations that you should make face to face. So if you don't get cell phone coverage where you primarily work and play you should consider another provider, but if you have a lot of dropped calls 'everywhere' then you might want to review your cell phone calling habits...Keeping your cell phone conversations to 20 minutes MAX would help decrease that dropped call rate a geat deal!

Smartphone, Pocket PC and PDA (Personal Digital Assistant):

They used to sort of mean something different, but now for branding purposes and simplification they are often used interchangeably. Although it is important to note (while some of the handhelds work on a wireless network i.e. with Wi-Fi, NOT ALL of them can work on a CELLULAR network, meaning has the ability to make phone calls i.e. many of the handheld devices made my HP and Dell.

Be advised though, the Pocket PC is literally that, a pocket personal computer, often with the ability to run applications and have programs crash for no reason the same as your regular pc, lol. As for the term 'Smartphone', (it does work on a cellular network), I always thought of it as the child that was born out of wedlock and irradiated and ejected with hormones when the cell phone slept with the PDA. It was not quite a cell phone but not quite a PDA. I used to think of those phones as so ugly.

2G, 3G, 4G:

This cell phone term is good to know, but not necessarily relevant. The reason why is it means something different dependent on what geographic area you are in and what technology you are using. G is for 'Generation'. So 2G means the 2nd generation. The generation of technology is not spelled out anywhere on the phone. Certain models and technologies fall within a generation but it is really not a reason you have to know it.

For now all you need to know is in the U.S. as of 2007 we are preparing for 4G which is Wi-Max (which is a long range wi-fi network). Sprint and Clearwire are currently building out a nationwide Wi-Max network. Say you worked at some place like AOL or Google where they have multiple buildings connected to each other. With Wi-Fi you might be able to use your laptop wireless only in your cube and a few of your neighbors cube that is close by the the wireless router (little wireless box). But say if you had Wi-Max, (depending on the geographic layout) then you could technically go to the next building over and use the same "wi-max box" that is set up at your cubicle. I have a county in my geographic area that notified me in 2004 when they were beginning the process to set up all the public buildings in the county on the Wi-Max network. Talk about ahead of the curve. I used to support their account for several years at my former company and talk about leveraging technology in some amazing ways. I used to spend hours with them talking tech and all the great ways to use technology in the workplace. Kudos to the wireless masterminds Dick and Fred for their leading edge concepts.

Cell Phone Terms You Just Need to Get of Your Vocabulary

Some cell phone terms, I have no idea of the origin and why people everyone uses it, but it is one of those it's better for the rep to use. Let them use it freely and be LOUD and WRONG, lol, because when you use it incorrectly, BIG PROBLEMS. So let the representative use it, but don't you repeat it ok :) I know lots more cell phone terms but I just can't think of them right now. I will update the list as I remember them.


As in I need to have my my phone programmed. I know you got it from the girl or guy who worked at the store for all of 6 weeks. But chances are they don't know what the hell that meant? So don't use that term. It's like do you need to move your phone number or phonebook over from another phone? Do you need to activate or enable a service plan on it? Do you need to make your email work on it. I don't know, help me out here.

Cell Phone Booster:

I need a cell phone booster, lol. Don't ask me where this funny cell phone terms came from. Definitely don't ask for it over the phone, the person will understands what you mean, but it's a touchy situation and all the 'manual programming', lol, they are going to walk you through is in all likelihood not going to work. Go to Spotwave if you are a consumer or very small or home based business or look at a company like Wilson Electrics if you need an antenna for your car or something while you are on the road. Contact me if you need more options for larger scale systems in your company or government agency, there are tons to choose from, multi-carrier, carrier neutral or carrier specific.

Cell Phone Terms, for all those smarty pants wanting to read all the other acronyms and technical mumbo jumbo that describes all the other acronyms and technical mumbo jumbo. I hope you find the doggone word you are looking for, lol.

Got terms?

Struggling with the meaning of a term or know the definiton but can't find the term. Send me the cell phone term you need forward or reverse 'translated' to non tech babble by filling out the form below.

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