Mark Harris
3G's A CROWD, 30 March 2005

The 3G revolution is here!
2G mobiles? They're destined for the scrap-heap now the third generation has well and truly arrived, says Mark Harris

The mobile revolution is here. New third generation (3G) mobile phones offer space-age digital and multimedia features, all in affordable handsets that can slip into a pocket. Although 3G mobiles might not look very different to your current (2G) phone, they contain new technologies that transfer information at much higher speeds. This gives camera phones a new lease of life, turning them into a live video phones for broadcasting pictures alongside your voice calls.

Or if you’d rather see Jennifer Lopez or Michael Owen on your phones than business colleagues, video clip downloads are another popular 3G option. These short movies can be anything from the latest Premiership goals and film trailers to music videos and news bulletins, and are accessed at the touch of a button.

The MP3 craze has also reached your mobile. Why spend hours setting up playlists at home when you can browse huge digital music libraries while you’re out and about, then download high quality tunes direct to your handset? Many 3G handsets use tiny memory cards to store hundreds of tunes, video clips and photos, and most have headphones and large colour screens to help those long train journeys fly by.

3G phones let you do everything you can do on your current mobile, and a lot more besides. Text messages are joined by photo and video messaging, and many 3G games are much faster and more detailed than their 2G counterparts. Many 3G networks also offer location-based services that can direct you to nearby pubs, restaurants and specialist shops, or help you navigate your way around an unfamiliar city.

3G phones are also great for business. Although many mobiles can access the internet and e-mail, 3G handsets can download data up to six times faster. Some sophisticated 3G ‘smartphones’ double up as PDA digital organisers, letting you read e-mail file attachments, synchronise your address book and load all kinds of software to help you work on the move.

But there are a few drawbacks with 3G phones. Although city centres are generally very well served, not everywhere in the country is covered by 3G transmitters yet (and some networks are better than others). If you move out of a 3G area, you’ll still be able to make voice calls, send messages and download data, just at a slower speed. 3G handsets also have a reputation for being chunkier and more power-hungry than 2G mobiles, although this is changing fast.

The good news is that networks want us to move over to 3G, and are offering generous discounts on high-tech handsets and multimedia call plans. It’s a great time to take the plunge and see what 3G has to offer.

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