Cell phones have gone from niche items that were only available to a small segment of affluent, well-connected people to affordable devices that are used by billions worldwide. Digital and analog phone cellular service are two types of technologies used in the U.S. However, there are distinct differences between the two that impact the voice and data services we receive.
Analog Cell Phones
Analog cell phones were the first generation of cellular technology implemented in the U.S. Analog technology was approved by the FCC in 1983 and was first used in Chicago. Analog cellular phones use a variety of frequencies that range between 824 megahertz (MHz) and 894 MHz. Analog phones work similar to radios by broadcasting voice calls into the airwaves on a single frequency or channel.
Digital Cell Phones
The second generation (2G) of cellular technology is digital cell phones. Digital phones use the same radio frequencies as analog phones, but they accomplish their goals in a different way. Since digital services compresses voice data into binary information, they are able manipulate information very easily, allowing them to fit more channels within a given bandwidth.
Analog Pros and Cons
Analog cell phones are excellent for occasional use and they are also relatively inexpensive. They also offer better coverage than digital phones because of their increased network availability. Analog cellular service is available in 90 percent of the country, and it is compatible with the majority of U.S. wireless networks.
Analog cell phones are not very secure. They can be cloned or scanned to steal the callers account information. Also, anyone with a proper radio receiver can intercept and overhear analog voice calls.
Analog phones offer fair sound quality; nonetheless, they are known for frequently dropped calls, static and interference. Analog service was originally designed for voice calling services; therefore, data services are not available on analog phones.
Digital Pros and Cons
Digital cell phones operate on a more efficient wireless network; therefore, they are able to transmit and receive more information.
Digital cell phones also offer better reception since digital networks are less prone to interference. Better reception means clearer conversations and fewer dropped calls.
In addition to clearer calling services, digital cell phones offer many calling features including call waiting, voice mail and caller ID. Digital cell phones are also able to provide Internet access, which allows them to send and receive SMS and MMS messages, browse the Web, and download over-the-air applications.
Digital coverage is mainly limited to large cities. Moreover, many digital networks are not compatible with one another and some digital phones may not possess the necessary technology for roaming on different networks. However, most digital phones now posses dual mode capabilities and they are now able to roam on analog networks as well.
Digital phones tend to be more expensive than analog phones, which leads to a more expensive start-up cost.
Digital cell phones offer more services and better overall reception than analog cell phones. Despite their expensive cost, digital phones offer a variety of data options and sophisticated handsets that surpass anything analog can provide.