We all know that the little blobs or bars in the top-right corner of our smartphone displays indicate the level of signal strength we have when making a phone call. But what are the cryptic letters that are seen next to them?
GPRS, E, 3G and 4G are all indicators of signal
strength for downloading and uploading data to
your smartphone – for browsing the web, sending/
receiving emails, watching videos and so on. This
is not the same as the signal strength of actual, oldfashioned
phone calls, but the speed with which you
can download or upload data.
Each generation of data network gets faster.
We saw 2G from 1999, 3G from 2001, and 4G in
2012. 5G is some way o , though. If you see nothing next to the call-strength
bars then you’re out of luck when it comes to
downloading or uploading any data. You need to
move to a location with better data signal strength or
fi nd a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Wi-Fi on your smartphone
This is potentially the best and cheapest data
delivery mode you’ll get using your smartphone.
It can be super-fast, and it can be
terribly slow, depending on the
connection and the number
of people using that Wi-Fi
source. It won’t use up any of
your smartphone's contract data
allowance, so – unless you have to
pay for it – it should be free,
and will usually be pretty fast.
One step up from no data signal at all
is GPRS, which stands for General Packet Radio
Service. Wikipedia defi nes GPRS as “a packet
oriented mobile data service on the 2G and 3G
cellular communication system's global system for
mobile communications (GSM)”.
GPRS provides data rates of 35- to 171kb/s.
2G cellular technology combined with GPRS is
sometimes described as 2.5G. It provides slowspeed
All you need to know is that GPRS means you
might eventually get a web page to load or an email
or iMessage to send, but it will probably take longer
than you have patience. What’s it like? GPRS is like asking your elderly
neighbour to deliver the mail for you.
The E stands for EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for
GSM Evolution). This is a step up from GPRS and can
reach speeds of between 120- and 384kb/s.
What’s it like? Edge is like asking your neighbour’s
child to deliver the mail for you.
3G, 4G, 5G