14 Things You Never Knew About Your Cellphone

Do you love your cellphone?  Even when it screws up, you probably still do.  Here are 14 things you probably don’t know about it.

  1. If your cellphone is 3G, then it uses a technology originally developed by the U.S. military to transmit and receive signals so low in power that they’re nearly indistinguishable from noise.  That’s one of the reasons 3G works at longer ranges than 2G.
  2. Do you use an iPhone?  Ever wondered where the antenna is?  Look no further than the metallic ring around the camera, which handles the phone’s 3G, WiFi, and Bluetooth communications.

    Ever wondered where the iPhone's antenna is?

  3. Most phones are built to be water-resistant, since they spend a lot of time around sweat (your hands and face produce a lot of it).  Full submersion is, of course, not recommended.
  4. Nearly 20% of the cost and 30% of the weight of your phone is the battery, which contains its own microcomputer and memory to control charging and discharging.
  5. AT&T and T-Mobile use the same communications standard, so a phone for one network will work with the other given the right settings.  But that’s not true of Sprint and Verizon, because the standard used on those networks requires a special passcode only accessible by hacking the phone (not recommended!).
  6. On that note, you can take your AT&T or T-Mobile phone to Europe or Africa or Asia and it will work (assuming you pay the carrier) since those countries all use the same GSM communications standard.
  7. Cellular towers are usually installed on tall structures like water towers, radio towers, light or telephone poles.  If you’re having trouble getting a decent phone signal, try to move towards one of these structures.
  8. Ever noticed the QualComm logo on the back of your 3G phone?  QualComm licenses the CDMA technology referred to in #1, and is essentially to cellular phones what Intel is to computers (right down to the ‘QualComm Inside’-like mark on every 3G handset).
  9. WiFi and Bluetooth occupy the same frequency band, so your phone can only transmit or receive one at a time.  Using both at the same time makes both of them a little bit slower because your phone is only operating one at a time.
  10. Your phone doesn’t necessarily get the best reception near a window: cell phone signals pass through walls almost as well as they pass through glass.  The best signal is actually at the corner of a building closest to the cell tower – or outside.
  11. There are two types of touchscreens: resistive and capacitive.  Resistive screens operate by sensing your finger’s heat and don’t work when the ambient temperature is cold – and most of the United States is pretty cold most of the year, so almost all cell phones use capacitive touchscreens instead.
  12. Major roadway tunnels (like the famous Sepulveda Blvd. tunnel under LAX) usually have cellular repeaters, so try one of those if you really need some signal.
  13. Your cell phone’s download speed depends a lot on how fast you’re physically moving.  If you’re surfing the internet while riding in a car traveling at 60 mph, your connection speed will be about 1/3 of what it would be if you were standing still.
  14. If your phone gets stolen, you can only wipe it when it’s on and connected to a network.  So if the thief is smart, he’ll reprogram your phone in a shielded room, and ultimately end up accessing all of your passwords and contacts.  The best advice for avoiding this situation is not to keep sensitive information on your phone, and, well, not to let your phone get stolen in the first place.

The cell phone that ends up in your hands is the result of enormous effort from hundreds of thousands of people across the planet; hope this list has given you more appreciation for the little device you spend a lot of time with.  Now go forth and be merry with your magical phone.

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