WhatIs: 3G/4G/5G

G stands for generation. They are cellular network (mobile network) technologies used mainly by smartphones and tablets to access the Internet. Unlike WiFi which everyone can deploy, cellular networks are deployed by mobile carriers, and we often have to pay to use them.

2G is fast enough for traditional voice phone calls so newer generations won't make you feel any improvement on phone calls. For most users, the newer generations simply mean faster peak Internet speed (higher bandwidth). The real speed may not always peak. It is affected by signal strength, noises, other users, etc.

Newer generations are not backward-compatible. So for example if a smartphone claims to be a 3G smartphone, it won't be 4G compatible otherwise it will be promoted as a 4G smartphone instead. But in most cases, 4G smartphones can connect to 3G/2G networks because they also have 3G/2G modules.

A 4G smartphone doesn't always connect to the 4G cellular network. The SIM card has to be 4G compatible too. And the phone has to be in an area covered by the 4G signal sent out by the SIM card's corresponding mobile carrier. Otherwise, the phone may connect to 3G/2G networks.

Note that newer generations consume more power than the previous one. Many phones provide the option to switch to 2G for longer battery life.

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