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CDMA vs. GSM: What’s the Difference?

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CDMA vs. GSM: What

Two basic technologies in mobile phones, CDMA and GSM represent a gap you can’t cross. They’re the reason you can’t use AT&T phones on Verizon’s network and vice versa. But what does CDMA vs. GSM really mean for you? 

CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global System for Mobiles) are shorthand for the two major radio systems used in cell phones. Both acronyms tend to group together a bunch of technologies run by the same entities. In this story, I’ll try to explain who uses which technology and what the real differences are.

Which Carries are CDMA? Which are GSM?
Five of the top seven carriers in the U.S. use CDMA: Verizon Wireless, Sprint, MetroPCS, Cricket, and U.S. Cellular. AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM.

That means we’re mostly a CDMA country. It also means we’re not part of the norm, because most of the world is GSM. The global spread of GSM came about because in 1987, Europe mandated the technology by law, and because GSM comes from an industry consortium. What we call CDMA, by and large, is owned by chipmaker Qualcomm. This made it less expensive for third parties to build GSM equipment.

There are several variants and options carriers can choose, like toppings on their technological ice cream. In this story we’ll be talking about U.S. networks.

What CDMA vs. GSM Means to You
For call quality, the technology you use is much less important than the way your carrier has built its network. There are good and bad CDMA and GSM networks, but there are key differences between the technologies. Here’s what you, as a consumer, need to know.

It’s much easier to swap phones on GSM networks, because GSM carriers put customer information on a removable SIM card. Take the card out, put it in a different phone, and the new phone now has your number. What’s more, to be considered GSM, a carrier must accept any GSM-compliant phone. So the GSM carriers don’t have total control of the phone you’re using.

That’s not the case with CDMA. In the U.S., CDMA carriers use network-based white lists to verify their subscribers. That means you can only switch phones with your carrier’s permission, and a carrier doesn’t have to accept any particular phone onto its network. It could, but typically, U.S. carriers choose not to.

In other words, you can take an unlocked AT&T phone over to T-Mobile (although its 3G may not work well because the frequency bands are different). You can’t take a Verizon phone over to Sprint, because Sprint’s network rejects non-Sprint phones.

3G CDMA networks (known as “EV-DO” or “Evolution Data Optimized”) also, generally, can’t make voice calls and transmit data at the same time. Once more, that’s an available option (known as “SV-DO” for “Simultaneous Voice and Data Optimization”), but one that U.S. carriers haven’t adopted for their networks and phones. 

On the other hand, all 3G GSM networks have simultaneous voice and data, because it’s a required part of the spec. (3G GSM is also actually a type of CDMA. I’ll explain that later.)

So why did so many U.S. carriers go with CDMA? Timing. When Verizon’s predecessors and Sprint switched from analog to digital in 1995 and 1996, CDMA was the newest, hottest, fastest technology. It offered more capacity, better call quality and more potential than the GSM of the day. GSM caught up, but by then those carriers’ paths were set.

It’s possible to switch from CDMA to GSM. Two carriers in Canada have done it, to get access to the wider variety of off-the-shelf GSM phones. But Verizon and Sprint are big enough that they can get custom phones built for them, so they don’t see the need to waste money switching 3G technologies when they could be building out their 4G networks.


iPhone 5: 16 Features Missing in iPhone 4S to Challenge Android Devices


Market research analysts and investors are closely watching every bit of rumor and announcement made by Apple on its next generation iPhone. The currently selling iPhone 4S has no doubt emerged triumphant. But, it is already a year old now and might be frail to stand up to the competition thrown by the latest Android smartphones. There are several features that are missing from iPhone 4S. Nevertheless, here is a look at some of the features that the upcoming iPhone 5 should inherit to become an unbeatable device in the market.

Resizing Widgets:
Ice Cream Sandwich has the option to easily resize widgets. Users can resize the widgets just by pressing and holding the icon and then drag any one of the corners to resize. Although iPhone 5 may come with a 5th row for apps, resizing of widgets will be a welcome addition. Unless iPhone 4S is jail-broken (the warranty will be void if jailbreak is done), resizing of apps is not possible.

Facebook Integration:
It is being rumored that Apple will introduce Facebook integration for iPhone 5. Even iOS 6 divulges information on the same. Actually Facebook is thoroughly integrated into Ice Cream Sandwich. Users can share almost anything to Facebook in the OS. Photos, status, messages, events, birthdays, emails and notifications are automatically updated in Android OS. With the introduction of Jelly Bean, users can experience smooth functioning of Facebook throughout the phone.

Paid App Trail and Refund Policy:
Android rules allow users to try any paid app for 15 minutes before buying them. Users can uninstall the app for a full refund. But Apple App Store has a non-return policy and no apps can be tried before using. Once an app is bought, a user is forced to stick with it even if it is less advantageous.

Changing Themes:
Apple iOS users have to stick with the themes allotted to them. Although Android OS and manufacturers alike have restricted themes usage, certain apps will allow changing themes in Android devices but iPhone must be jail-broken for the same.

Buy Apps from Other Places:
A big advantage of using an Android device is that users can buy apps from Google Play as well as Amazon, eBay or any other competing markets. iPhone users have no other option but to stick with Apple App Store. Using apps from other markets allow consumers to buy discounted items and get access to free offers.

Music Freedom:
Apple’s App store limits users to buy music only from their own store whereas Google’s Android gives the freedom of buying music from any market. There are competing markets like Amazon which charges 20 to 40 per cent less compared to iTunes. Also there is “MP3 Music Download” app through which users can download almost any song for free.

Video Calls on 3G and 4G:
Based on previous beta version screenshots, Apple may be planning to include 3G data support for FaceTime on iOS devices. Presently, FaceTime only works with Wi-Fi. Also many users are hoping to see their desired FaceTime on a mobile broadband network instead of Wi-Fi. In fact if FaceTime calls don’t work well with broken audio or drop due to limited coverage, then Apple runs the risk of negative feedback. Hence, integrating this feature should be done smartly to avoid consumers’ ire. Speaking of Android, users have options similar to Skype where one can get their hands on unlimited video calls over Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G.

Choice Apart From Eco-system:
Apple has quite many policy restrictions to make their products only support the company’s devices. For example, iPhone 4S’ display can be mirrored only with Apple TV via AirPlay. Considering Android devices, DLNA comes into play where users can connect to any device that supports internet connection like TV, Blueray player, gaming consoles etc and the feature allows to connect with Apple TV as well. Moreover, HDMI output found in Android devices let users watch videos and images on TV meanwhile the AirPlay system which acts like HDMI adaptor system sure lets you watch media on TV screen but users have to shell out hefty amount.

Media Subscription For Free:
The Newstand feature found in iOS 5 versions is priced for $1 to $5 each month while Android OS offers options to include many media apps for free in a user specified folder.

Virtual Keyboard Choices:
Getting to keyboards, iOS doesn’t offer options like Swype or predictive keyboards. Users have to stick with what Apple offers while Android provides multiple optional choices allowing users to access any type of keyboard. The biggest advantage of predictive keyboards is that once a user types in a word, next time they can see the same word predicted, making typing easy and fast.

Big Screen:
Apple iPhone 4S having 3.5-inch display was an agreeable standard few years back. But now the norm has changed as many users are replacing their favourite gadgets with smartphones. The smartphones are the most portable option for users as they can use it as a phone as well as personal assistant for many purposes like taking photos, browsing the web, listening to music, watching a video, playing games etc. Smartphones can almost function as a camera, net-book, music player, among others. Hence the demand for a phone to deliver more features is peaking with each passing day. Featuring a bigger screen would go a long way in determining the range of usage it can deliver. Moreover, many surveys conducted by various websites and research agencies since last one year have revealed how users prefer a device that is close to 4-inch, perhaps not too big nor too small but somewhere in the middle. In fact most Android devices comes with varied choices ranging from 4-inch to over 5-inch display.

Notification LED:
Most Android smartphones have Notification LED which is not found in iPhone 4S. And Android devices can be customized with different colors and provides different notification types. Apart from LED notification there are other tweaks which can enable the camera LED to function as notification LED.

More Storage Options:
Having microSD card in a phone is a necessity because certain phones come with less internal memory. Apple always brings out the 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB variants when they release an iPhone. However for those who decide on a 16 GB device, more memory space is required in order to store substantial data. If not, the only option that remains is to replace the entire device with a 32 GB or 64 GB version. Even though there are cloud storage options, not everyone can access Internet hotspots or facilities to upload data on the go. Also, users have to pay more to use the iCloud option. In addition to that, the recent hacking case of iCloud has not gone too well among consumers. As for Android devices, users enjoy the privilege of Dropbox to not just store but to also share data. Moreover, Google Docs will let users edit files on any device whereas iCloud restricts users to edit only on Apple devices.

4G LTE:
In this fast-moving world with endless chores and full of uncertainties, time is limited and therefore precious. Every second counts. Hence it is certainly important to have access to data at a faster rate. And implementing 4G LTE or Wimax features is an essential commodity these days. Android devices, including the latest sensation Galaxy S3 comes with a 4G option. In order to catch up with the technology, Apple surely must deliver 4G LTE access when they launch iPhone 5 this year.

HD Displays:
The HD display which was introduced in Samsung Galaxy Nexus in 2011 stole the spotlight from Apple, benefitting smartphones having an Android platform. Apple iPhone 4S has 640 x 960 pixels and latest reports on iOS 6 revealed that iPhone 5 will have 640 x 1136 pixels. Having bigger display with HD options reduces the need to resize the webpages to fit the screen size. Android devices resizes large web pages to fit the screen which is not the case with iPhone 4S. Also Android OS highlights URL within contents which is missing in iOS powered iPhone 4S.

NFC:
Near Field communication is not just a mobile payment option. Even data can be exchanged via this feature. It is a helpful feature for social networking as users can share a contact, photo, song, application, video or website link. Two NFC devices when placed near each other can perform the functions of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in terms of exchanging data without much effort of waiting or entering codes. Best examples of NFC related devices include Nexus S and Samsung Galaxy S2.

Now that we shared a list of missing features in iPhone 4S, it is fitting to note here how removable battery and the open source platform makes Android devices more flexible in terms of longevity and customization. Few other features like Flash, real live wallpaper, charging through USB cable and turn-by-turn navigation for maps can make iPhone 5 an astonishing device. Does that mean iPhone 5 will not sell without these features? Certainly not! Apple products always comes with great design and strong marketing, what more does it need to record huge sales? With the release of iPhone 5 close, we just have to keep our fingers crossed to see how consumers would rate the device. What worked on its favor – whether features, design or marketing – we would only know after the release.

New Android TV spot mocks the iPhone’s customer base

Samsung has certainly stepped up its marketing game in advance of the 2011 holiday selling season.

Last week it was a TV ad for the new Galaxy Nexus — due to arrive in the U.S. in December — that had the look and feel of an iPhone spot. (See: What Google learned from Apple.)

This week it’s an ad for the six-month-old Galaxy S II that takes aim at Apple’s (AAPL) most devoted customer base: the people who line up to buy the latest iPhone.

Best line: “I could never get a Samsung. I’m creative.”

Gentle mockery can be a devastatingly effective weapon. Just ask Microsoft (MSFT) how it liked the Get a Mac campaign that made fun of Windows PCs on prime time TV for nearly three and a half years.

One subtlety here is that mockery works best in advertising when you are coming from behind, as Avis was to Hertz and the Mac was to Windows. Although Android’s share of the smartphone market now dwarfs the iPhone’s, the message here is that Samsung — and Google (GOOG) — are still playing catch-up.

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