GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It's one of the acronyms in this chapter really worth spelling out, because the long name explains what it does. GPS triangulates your position through satellite signals. This isn't the only way your phone can tell where you are, but it's the most common method.

When you use maps or tag your photos by location, the GPS signal is most often used. Android can also supplement this with the location of nearby cell towers and the location of any Wi-Fi networks you're using. However, plenty of apps require a GPS signal to tell you what movies are showing nearby or the location of the nearest Thai restaurant.

GPS activity is represented on the top of your screen as a satellite. If you have GPS activated, you may notice it activating when you open your web browser, even if you aren't doing anything directly map related. This is usually to sense your location for local search results and ads. It's not necessary unless you really do need to find nearby results, so feel free to disable GPS to save battery time.

EDGE, CDMA, and 3G

Connecting to the Internet through Wi-Fi is fast and generally uses less battery life than relying on 3G connections through your phone. However, it's not always available, and one of the best reasons to own a smartphone is so you can get access to the Internet anywhere you happen to be.

Most Android phones can use EDGE and 3G networks. EDGE is also sometimes called 2G, even though it's technically a bit newer than the 2G systems. Using EDGE is like using an old dial-up modem to connect to the Internet. It works, but it's going to be much slower than a 3G connection.

EDGE technology is older and available just about everywhere you can get a phone signal, but newer 3G networks tend to be restricted to high-population areas.

Just to be confusing, Sprint and Verizon have the similar and competing CDMA networks with EVDO technology. The competing technology is different behind the scenes, but CDMA and EDGE look pretty similar on your phone. You will see them labeled as 1x and EV instead of E and 3G.

WiMAX and 4G

The next generation of phone networks are already under construction, but it will still take years before everyone can take advantage of these new high-speed networks. WiMAX is one of the 4G technologies being developed. It's a high-speed, long-distance

Internet signal that can be used for home and phone networks, and will likely be used the same way Wi-Fi is used on smartphones today. Think of it as a form of Wi-Fi that can be broadcast for miles instead of several dozen feet. Sprint and Google are both investors in the WiMAX company Clearwire, so chances are fantastic that Android will be an early adopter of WiMAX.

Unless your phone specifically offers 4G capability, you'll have to buy a new phone to take advantage of WiMAX. Sprint introduced the first 4G Android phone, the HTC EVO. The EVO has an 8-megapixel camera on the back of the phone and a smaller web camera on the front for video conferencing.

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