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Cell Phone Glossary: What is 1G vs. 2G vs. 2.5G vs. 3G vs. 4G?

This article details the differences between the major cell phone technologies


While an acronym sometimes is techno babble the layperson needn’t master, others are important for everyday cell phone understanding.

Though the jargon 1G, 2G, 2.5 and 4G might not have ever popped into your head, 3G very likely has given today’s emphasis on high-speed data usage from your mobile phone.

But what’s different between these technologies and how do they impact you? This article will help you understand the differences between 1G vs. 2G vs. 2.5G vs. 3G vs. 4G.

1. What is 1G?

What is 1G?
Image © Chad Baker, Getty Images
Remember analog “brick phones” and “bag phones” way, way back in the day? Cell phones began with 1G.

2. What is 2G?

What is 2G?
Image © Chad Baker, Getty Images
Cell phones received their first major upgrade when they went from 1G to 2G. This leap effectively took cell phones from analog to digital.

3. What is 2.5G?

What is 2.5G
Image © Chad Baker, Getty Images
Before making the major leap from 2G to 3G wireless networks, the lesser-known 2.5G was an interim standard that bridged the gap.

4. What is 3G?

What is 3G?
Image © Chad Baker, Getty Images
Following 2.5G, 3G ushered in faster data-transmission speeds so you could use your cell phone in more data-demanding ways.

This has meant streaming video (i.e. movie trailers and television), audio and much more. Cell phone companies today are spending a lot of money to brand to you the importance of their 3G network. But what is 3G really and where did it come from?

5. What is 4G?

What is 4G?
Image © Chad Baker, Getty Images
No technology would be complete without a looming upgrade for tomorrow. What’s on the horizon for 4G, what improvements will it bring “beyond 3G” and when might we expect 4G to go live?
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