Life & Technology

GSM vs. CDMA – Which is Best For You?


If you frequent a lot of websites that dabble in smartphones, you’ve probably heard these terms over and over again in the specifications section of every device you’ve checked out. That’s because they are essential to the functioning of the device. The terms refer to the type of carrier that the phones are able to sustain, CDMA or GSM. But what do they mean, and which is better? We’re going to check out what these terms mean right now and by the time we’re through, you should have a solid idea about which one is better for you.

So what are they?

The answer is simple: Both CDMA and GSM are radio systems and they dictate how mobile phones communicate with radio signals. CDMA stands for Code Division Multiple Access while GSM is short for Global System for Mobiles. It’s not just about the type of technology used but also about who’s behind it. Each of these radio systems have multiple other technologies under their command. And each individual conglomerate is owned by the same entities.


This means that these aren’t just different technologies, they are competing technologies. In the U.S. for example, you can find CDMA with Sprint, Verizon and US Cellular while GSM is provided by T-Mobile and AT&T. That being said, GSM is currently the more popular solution for a number of reasons. One of the most important ones is the fact that GSM is a lot cheaper to produce and use since it’s not owned by Qualcomm like its CDMA counterpart. While CDMA still exists, many are flocking towards GSM and in Europe for example, GSM is mandated by law.

Which is better?

This is what you’re probably most interested in. Which of the two technologies is actually better, and which should you get for your own smartphone. Well, the answer is not that simple but it’s not very complicated either. It’s not about the technology used itself, but about the way in which it is used. It really depends on how efficiently the technology has been implemented by the entities in charge.

When it comes to pure differences, GSM has the advantage of being reliant on removable SIM cards. This means that when you want to change your phone for whatever reason, you just take out the SIM card and put it in your new device. With CDMA, it’s not that easy. CDMA technology providers use white lists for subscribers and if you want to change your phone, you need their say-so.  Only being able to change your smartphone with the approval of your carrier is something that obviously doesn’t bode well with a large majority of the population and that’s why many choose GSM.

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