The Difference Between 2G and 3G Mobiles

Written by sean russell
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The Difference Between 2G and 3G Mobiles
Many phones receive Internet access from either 2G or 3G networks. (phone image by Zbigniew Nowak from

Mobile phones are made in several configurations from slide to touch screen to clamshell style, and many connect in some way to the Internet. The Internet connection is affected by whether it is 2G or 3G. In fact, whether a phone is 2G or 3G affects a phone in several ways, not the least of which is the strength of the Internet connection.

Network Speed

The main difference between 2G and 3G phones is the speed at which they can receive and transmit data over the wireless network. While 1G phones were designed only to transfer basic data, such as phone calls and text messages and later used the same transfer methods to transfer data over the Internet, 2G phones had a dedicated data bearer and were designed to feature an Internet connection. Still, the 2G phone Internet service used the same basic data transfer method as 1G phones and the data transfer rate was limited to about 64 Kbps. 3G phones added a dedicated transmission band for 3G Internet which allowed phones to transmit and receive data at speeds from 144 Kbps to up to 3.2 Mbps.


Although some 2G phones such as the Treo, the Blackberry and the iPhone 1 and 2G granted the user an ability to send e-mail over the wireless network, these e-mails were limited to text transmissions and served many of the same purposes as text messages. With the advent of 3G technology, the cell phone was able to send attachments such as PDFs or even images over the broadband quality 3G network. This greatly improves the function of the phone as a business tool, especially in the case of the iPhone 3G, which can both scan and then e-mail attachments.


Another difference between many 2G and 3G phones is the difference in capability emphasis. Many 2G phones included phone and text and a limited version of the Internet called a WAP connection. This type of Internet connection was able to open abbreviated web pages and offered limited navigability, instead favouring on-phone capabilities such as text messaging, MP3 players and cellular service-based web pages. 3G service, on the other hand, granted the user far more access to the Internet, and phone manufacturers began to take advantage of technologies that would maximise user interaction with the Internet, such as touch screen, web based "apps" and full Internet browsers.

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