AMOLED, GHz, GSM, megapixels, dual core, MicroSD, LTE, LCD. What do all these mysterious words and letters mean? And then, what do they really mean, like, in a practical ‘which phone should I buy’ way? To the average user, the specs used to describe cell phones these days can be at best meaningless and at times misleading. Not to worry. MightySkins has done some research to help you sort out what means what and what what means.
All of the terms we mentioned, and hundreds more, are used to describe really 5 basic aspects of your phone or tablet: the display screen, your connections, the battery, the camera, and the tiny computer that makes all of these things work together. We thought we’d start with the tiny computer. We’ve made a handy table.
Specs related to the tiny computer inside your phone
|Term||What it refers to||What it means to you|
|CPU (Central Processing Unit) AKA processor||This is the brain of your tiny computer||Every computer has a CPU. Some would argue that every computer is a CPU. The faster your CPU, the more readily your phone will respond to your commands. If your CPU dies, your phone is over. For the average user the speed of the processor is more important than its name (Snapdragon, Apple A4, etc.).|
|GHz (gigahertz)/ MHz (megahertz)||The speed of your processor||1GHz=1000MHz. A 1GHz processor is able to move through processes at twice the frequency of a 500MHz processor. This does not necessarily mean that you will experience twice the speed, but it will respond noticeably faster. The fastest phones come with 2 or more GHz these days, but most people should be fine with anything more than 1GHz.|
|Dual Core/ Quad Core||Processor configuration||Dual core sort of means that you have two processors working at once. Quad, of course, means four. This means easier multitasking, and more than one core to dedicate to tasks that take a lot of processing, like video rendering, making the process go much faster. There are also Octo Core processors, but they are very expensive and unnecessary for most people. You will want at least a Dual Core, but a Quad Core will be helpful as tasks that you can perform on your phone become more and more complex.|
|RAM (Random Access Memory)||Data moving capacity||RAM is used to temporarily store app and program information and carry out the active running of processes, like turning an MP3 file into sound, making information from the Internet appear in your web browser, or moving the little avatars from your game around. RAM effects how fast things happen as well as how many things you can do at once. These days, anything less than 1GB of RAM will slow you down.|
|Internal Storage||Memory (not RAM) for data storage||This is where things you retrieve, like photos, MP3s, and apps are stored. The more memory you have, the more of these things you can have on your device without having to delete things. An 8GB iPhone 5c, for example, has very limited storage space and you will probably have to store all your pictures in the cloud and stream your music. A 128GB iPhone 6 will let you take advantage of its fancy camera and slow-mo options without a hitch. The average user will probably want at least 16GB of internal storage.|
|microSD card (the SD stands for “Secure Digital”)||Additional internal storage||Most phones (iPhones are the notable exception) allow you to expand the memory at fairly low cost by inserting additional memory in the form of a microSD card, available anywhere you can buy a phone. As an example you can get a 64 GB card for $20-30 on Amazon, and chuck it into any phone that has a microSD slot.|
|GB (gigabyte)||Volume of memory||Both RAM and internal memory are measured in GB. Make sure you know which kind of memory is being referred to in the specs. RAM will usually be 1-3. Internal should be at least 8.|
|OS (Operating System)||The software that makes your phone run||The OS you use is determined by your device. Apple, Blackberry, Android, and Microsoft phones all use a different system. This is why you can’t use apps from the iTunes store on your Blackberry and why some things that are possible with an iPhone 6 are not possible on a Galaxy S5 and vice versa. It’s like they speak different languages and some things have been translated but other things haven’t and then some things are just cultural and don’t translate. When choosing a device, one thing to consider is whether the apps and functions you want are available on its platform. So far, iPhone and Android offer the best selection of apps.|