2G & 3G Mobile Phone Differences

Updated July 19, 2017

3G, or third generation, mobile phones greatly expanded on the technology and capabilities offered by 2G, or second generation, phones. Some of the improvements include faster data speed, better Internet and e-mail access, and backwards compatibility.


A 3G mobile phone has faster data service than a 2G phone. A 3G phone can reach speeds of 144Kbps (kilobytes per second) to 2.4Mbps (megabytes per second), which are similar to the speed of a cable modem. By contrast, a 2G phone can only reach speeds of between 56Kbps to 114Kpbs.

Internet access

2G phones are able to handle phone calls, text messages, and a limited version of the Internet called WAP, or Wireless Application Protocol. WAP websites are very abbreviated versions of the full website. A 3G phone, however, offers an Internet experience close to what can be accessed on a computer or laptop, and can support full Internet browsers and web-based applications.


As with Internet access, e-mail access on 2G phones is severely limited and only supports the ability to send text. 3G phones, on the other hand, can support file attachments and downloads such as PDFs, DOCs, and image files. Some 3G phones even have the ability to scan and then e-mail attachments.


3G phones are backwards compatible, meaning they can support 2G networks, while 2G networks cannot support 3G capabilities. However, because of the difference in speed between the two networks, the 3G phone will not run at its normal capacity and will perform at a speed closer to 2G than 3G.

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About the Author

Tayla Holman started writing in 2006, specializing in technology, health and wellness, and diet and nutrition. She is a graduate of Hofstra University, earning her B.A. in print journalism and English.