Tech terms: a glossary
Words and phrases you need to know before buying a new smartphone.
Don't be flummoxed by terminology when you buy or upgrade to a new smartphone. Here, we've grouped the most commonly asked questions about the least-understood tech terms into three categories – those that relate to the internet, to your network, and to smartphones themselves – so that you can empower yourself and become a smart smartphone shopper.
Terms about the internet
- What's the difference between 3G and EDGE?
3G stands for 'Third generation data speed'. EDGE stands for 'Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution'. They both refer to the speed of data that your phone receives. 3G-enabled smartphones can stream video, for example, while EDGE, which receives data that's slightly slower, will generally fail to stream video smoothly. This is why EDGE is also commonly called a '2.75G' network: it doesn't offer the true speed of a 3G network. The first iPhones, for example, only supported EDGE technology and could not offer 3G connectivity. Nowadays, having only an EDGE connection to the internet means you can expect a slower data speed than what you're used to.
- What is 4G/LTE?
Stands for: Long Term Evolution
LTE is the next generation of wireless broadband technology, allowing you to enjoy lightning-fast internet browsing. LTE is also commonly referred to as 4G. You may use data more quickly than you're used to when you use an LTE-enabled device because the speed of data your phone receives is much quicker than others. Most new phones available through Vodacom, including the Huawei Mate 8 and iPhone SE, are LTE-capable.
Terms that are network- or Vodacom-specific
- What is Free Change?
This is a service that allows Vodacom Prepaid customers to migrate between different Prepaid price plans (Vodacom Daily Free Calls, Anytime Per Second and Vodacom4Less) once per day. This means you'll be able to get the most out of your airtime.
- What is MAH?
Stands for: Master Account Holder
This is assigned by default to the phone number of your first Vodacom contract. The MAH is responsible for payment of the Vodacom contract/account linked to that phone number. If you open one or more lines under the same account, they become non-MAH numbers, which belong under your initial number.
- What is RICA?
Stands for: Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-related information Act
RICA registration is a legislative requirement from the South African government. All users of SIM cards are required to comply with this law, which requires you to provide proof of identity and proof of residence when purchasing a SIM card.
- What is a USSD code?
Stands for: Unstructured Supplementary Services Data
A short number you dial on your phone that brings up an interactive menu, such *135#, which you can use to buy data bundles, among other services.
Terms relating to smartphones
- What is firmware?
You might hear that the firmware has been updated on your smartphone. This means that the software that runs the hardware inside your phone has been added to or changed. Firmware is a kind of permanent software that is installed at the time of manufacturing.
- What are GBs?
GB stands for gigabytes, the storage space on your smartphone. If you like to take, and store, high-quality videos and high-resolution images and have loads of music on your phone, an 8GB smartphone may be too small for you. Both the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge come in a 64GB version, for example, but they both support microSD, which means you can expand your storage, no matter how big the storage space on the phone itself is.
- What does mAh stand for?
This is the unit used to measure the amount of charge a battery can provide. It stands for milli-Ampere-hours. Most new smartphones have a 3 000-4 000 mAh battery, such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, which is comparatively large. The Huawei Mate 8, meanwhile, has a fast-charging 4 000mAh battery, which offers up to two days of use without needing to be charged.
- What are megapixels?
You’ll see this when referring to your smartphone’s camera’s capturing capabilities. Taking great photos generally requires a high MP camera. The Sony Xperia Z5 has a whopping 23MP camera, while the iPhone SE has a very serviceable 12MP camera. If you love to take selfies, the resolution of the front camera will also be important to you. Anything from 2MP to 5MP is standard, although the Huawei Mate 8 blows the competition out the water with an 8MP wide-angle front camera. Remember that the higher the resolution of any photos or videos you upload to social media, the more data it will consume to upload.
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