How Cell Phones Work

By: Marshall Brain, Jeff Tyson & Julia Layton
A woman checks messages on her mobile phone. Cell phones have truly taken over the world. See cell phone pictures.
Digital Vision/Thinkstock

From Tibet to Tanzania to Toronto, no matter where you go you'll see someone talking on his or her cell phone. These days, cell phones provide an incredible array of functions, and new ones are being added at a breakneck pace. Depending on the cell phone model, you can:

  • Store contact information
  • Make task or to-do lists
  • Keep track of appointments and set reminders
  • Use the built-in calculator for simple math
  • Send or receive e-mail
  • Get information (news, entertainment, stock quotes) from the Internet
  • Play games
  • Watch TV
  • Send text messages
  • Take photos and videos
  • Integrate other devices such as PDAs, MP3 players and GPS receivers

You might hear terms like 4G, LTE, GSM and CDMA thrown around and wonder what they refer to. At its most basic, a cell phone is a radio -- an extremely sophisticated radio, but a radio nonetheless. We'll show you what we mean.