NBT’s tablet glossary

tablet glossary1 - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

ROM RAM WiFi ICS CGM, but not if microSD the HDMI and then some apps to flash the launcher boot loops. Right? We use a lot of technical terms on the site, which is basically a necessity in order to not explain every term every time we use it. However it also makes some articles and even news posts hard to follow for people who are just getting into the tablet game, and that’s not a good thing. We want to provide content that’s understandable by anyone, from beginners to professionals. This post will serve as a glossary of terms that can be hard to understand, and it will be a collaborative effort among the writers. Feel free to use the comment section to ask for terms you can’t find here, or clarifications on those you do. We will update this regularly.

As this is a work in progress, a lot will be missing right from the start – but we thought we might as well put it out there and just have it be better every time someone uses it.


  • 1080p: A screen (or video) resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.
  • 3G: Third generation mobile network (internet). A mobile connection technology that is still considered reasonably fast, but has been surpassed in speed by several recent advances in mobile communication.
  • 3.5G: Normally refers to HSPA, referring to it being faster than 3G but not as fast as 4G LTE. Sometimes referred to as 3G+ or turbo 3G.
  • 3.75G: Normally refers to HSPA+, referring to it being faster than 3G and HSPA but not as fast as 4G LTE
  • 4G: A controversy terms most commonly used to refer to LTE. Some companies, like Apple, use the term to refer to slower-than-LTE technologies like HSPA+ as well. This is effective for marketing slower networks using the same term as faster networks, but also causes confusion and has lead to law suits being filed regarding the use of the term for anything besides LTE.
  • 720p: A screen (or video) resolution of normally 1280 x 720 pixels, but also used for 1280 x 800 and 1366 x 768.


  • ADB: Android Debug Bridge. This is a tool that is used to connect and send commands from a computer to an Android device. It is sometimes required to use this when rooting a device, or performing other software modifications.
  • AMOLED: Active Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode. A screen type used by some manufacturers where the pixels in the screen themselves light up instead of being lit up by an interdependent light source behind the screen. This allows AMOLED screens to be thinner, use less power when displaying black, have blacker blacks, and more saturated colors to the point of greater than reality saturation. Although the color saturation is not to everyone’s taste, AMOLED screens are generally thought to be vastly superior to LCD screens, but also more expensive to produce, limiting the amount of devices they’re found in.
  • Android: Google’s mobile OS, used on both tablets, smartphones, and even things like ereaders, home phones, and TV media boxes. One of the two biggest tablet OSes, the other one being Apple’s iOS. Android versions are given nicknames based on sweets, such as Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, and Ice Cream Sandwich. Android is open to use by device manufacturers, and is used by such companies as Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Asus, and more. The Android OS is based on Linux, and so a lot of the terms used are identical with the Linux OS such as Root or Superuser.
  • Android Market: See Google Play
  • App: Short for application, most commonly used for mobile device software programs (applications).
  • App Store/app store: App Store with capitalization refers to Apple’s software store for its iOS platform. Without capitalization, it refers to the concept of such a software store in general. Other app stores include the Amazon Appstore and Google Play.


  • Bluetooth: A short-range radio built into devices that lets you connect headsets, speakers, keyboards, a mouse or even computers to your device. The effective range of Bluetooth devices is 32 feet (10 meters). Bluetooth transfers data at the rate of 1 Mbps.


  • CM: CyanogenMod is probably the most popular group of developers for Android devices. They currently have custom ROMs available for over 50 different devices, with more being added all the time. They are usually on the frontline of the Android hacking community with such feats as getting the Nook Tablet running a full version of Android and also a lot of the work behind getting Android running on the HP TouchPad. CM ROMs are numbered with CM7 being its version of Gingerbread and CM9 being its version of ICS.
  • CPU: Central Processing Unit. The CPU is the key component of any computer system. It handles executing and interpreting program instructions. It’s also referred to as the processor.
  • Cydia: Cydia is the jailbreak only app store for Apple devices. When you jailbreak an iOS device it will get automatically installed.


  • Dalvik Cache: Writable cache that contains the optimized bytecode of all apk files (apps) on your Android device. Having the information in its own cache makes applications load faster and perform better. This is one of two caches you should wipe whenever flashing a zip on your device.
  • Delta update: An update to software, normally the OS, that contains only the pieces that have changed instead of the entire OS. Smaller in file size and therefore quicker to install.
  • Digitizer pen: A pen that allows a supported tablet to read pen input without touch so through touch or pressure. Currently the most accurate way of inputting data to a screen, but only available on a few devices, like the Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, Motorola Xyboard 10.1, HTC Jetstream, and HTC Flyer.
  • DVI: Digital Visual Interface. A digital video connection type that is for the most part directly compatible with HDMI (but without audio) and uses a much larger connector. Common connector on desktop computers as a means of connecting to a screen, though HDMI is starting to replace it in many cases.


  • Flash: (1) A term used to mean install something on a system level, normally a new version of an OS or a system hack. (2) Can also refer to a system for video and animations/interactive objects on the internet, owned by Adobe. The subject of some controversy as Apple has refused to allow it on its iOS devices due to issues with performance, stability, and battery drain. Apple instead pushes the use of HTML5, a far more optimized solution to accomplish the same things. Android devices initially used Flash support as a selling point, but in late 2011 Adobe announced that it was giving up on Flash for mobile devices, and the current version is also the last.
  • Froyo: The nickname for Android version 2.2. It is the shortened version of FROzen YOgurt.


  • Gingerbread: The nickname of Android version 2.3. Mostly used for smartphones, but also comes on some cheaper/older tablets. This is also the version of Android that Amazon and Barnes & Noble took and heavily modified for the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet.
  • Google Play: Google’s software and media content store for its Android devices. Formerly known as Android Market.


  • HD: High Definition. A term that generally means resolutions of 1280 x 720 or higher, but sometimes used more subjectively with lower resolution (SD) displays.
  • HDMI: High Definition Media Interface, the most commonly used video connector for HD video. Requires a screen with an HDMI connector, or one with a DVI connector and an adapter. HDMI and VGA are not directly compatible, the former being digital, the latter analog video. Physical connectors for HDMI come in many shapes, including normal HDMI (type A), mini HDMI (type C), and micro HDMI (type D), as well as proprietary adapters.
  • Honeycomb: The nickname for Android version 3, 3.1, and 3.2. The first version of Android designed to be used on tablets, and actually restricted to tablets only. From 2011 Honeycomb and Gingerbread ran side-by-side as the tablet and smartphone version of Android respectively, with Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich merging the two into one version that works on both device types.
  • HSPA: A term used to refer to both HSDPA and HSUPA collectively a faster version of 3G. Also referred to as 3.5G, 3G+, and turbo 3G.
  • HSPA+: Like HSPA, but faster. Sometimes referred to as 3.75G.
  • HTML5: HyperText Markup Language version 5. HTML is the basic programming language used on the web, and the fifth revision adds a lot of multimedia capabilities that allow it to do many of the same things as Flash and even proper apps can do.


  • Ice Cream Sandwich: The nickname of Android version 4.0. From 2011 Honeycomb and Gingerbread ran side-by-side as the tablet and smartphone version of Android respectively, with Ice Cream Sandwich merging the two into one version that works on both device types.
  • iOS: Apple’s operating system used on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. One of the two biggest tablet OSes, the other one being Google’s Android. Only available on Apple devices.


  • Jailbreak: Jailbreaking is the act of hacking your iOS device to be able to customize and run different apps that Apple doesn’t want you to be able to. If you are interested in jailbreaking, make sure you find the correct tool for your software version. It is also important to note that if you do jailbreak, under no circumstances should you update to the newest version of iOS. You will most likely lose your jailbreak and possibly brick your device. There are two types of jailbreak. A tethered jailbreak means that every time you reboot your device it needs to be physically hooked into the computer that you jailbroke it from. An untethered jailbreak means that you don’t have to have it hooked to a computer when rebooting.


  • Launcher: The software that creates the home screen/desktop on Android devices. See this video for an in-depth description.
  • Lock screen: The screen that shows up when you unlock your phone, either with a simple gesture to avoid accidental interaction or with a PIN/pattern/other form of security on it.
  • LTE: Long Term Evolution. The latest mobile internet type, faster than older 3G and HSPA.


  • Megapixel: One million pixels. Most commonly used for camera, where it describes how many dots are used to make up one picture. 8 megapixel means an image consists of 8 million single-colored dots. Sometimes used for displays as well, when the resolution is high enough that it makes sense to use this measurement. A full HD, 1080p display is about 2 megapixels.
  • micro HDMI: see HDMI
  • microSD/microSDHC/microSDXC: see SD
  • micro SIM: see SIM
  • mini HDMI: see HDMI
  • miniSD: see SD


  • NFC: Near-Field Communication. A relatively new wireless communication system that works only in very close proximity (a few centimeters) and is therefore often used to initiate a connection with proximity rather than a more complicated setup to avoid unauthorized connections. Currently being rolled out as a method of paying, where an NFC-equipped device can be held to a “payment plate” in order to quickly complete a transaction.


  • OCR: Optical Character Recognition. Basically a system that allows you to convert images of text into actual text, or perhaps even hand writing.
  • OS: Operating System. This is the software that is responsible for everything that happens on a device. Windows is an operating system for computers, Android and iOS are operating systems for mobile devices. Other OSes include Linux, Blackberry OS, Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7, Symbian, and others. What OS a device runs determines what applications it can use.
  • OTA: Over The Air. Refers to something that happens via the internet without a computer in-between, normally used to describe the process of updating the OS of a device by using only the device itself (not a computer).
  • Overclock: Overclocking refers to changing the default clock speed of the CPU. Most CPU’s can be pushed past their default clock speed in order to achieve better performance on your system. Overclocking is inherently dangerous however as the act can cause irreparable damage to your CPU if you push it too far and it overheats. Always proceed with caution when dealing with Overclocking. See also: Underclock


  • ROM: Technically means Read-Only Memory, but is often used to mean other things . Can mean storage, e.g. 32GB ROM being used to describe the memory available to store your own data. Can also refer to a file that contains the Operating System of a device, e.g. “flashing a ROM” means “installing another version of the OS”. Customs ROMs in that regard are versions of the OS that have been modified and released by people other than device manufacturers.
  • RAM: Random-Access Memory. This is a type of memory that is used by the device to store data temporarily, for instance if an application is running it will be loaded into RAM while the application is being used. The amount of RAM is very important to the performance of a device, as it determines how complex and how many applications can be used (at the same time). Measured in MegaBytes or GigaBytes where most brand-name tablets these days have 1GB.
  • Recovery: The Recovery is an essential part of any device after you have root. Normally in the root process a custom recovery gets installed on your device. That Recovery partition is what is used to flash custom ROMs, install updates, make and restore backups, and lots of other things. There are a few popular Recoveries available depending on what device you have. The three most popular ones are ClockWorkMod, Amon Ra, and Team Win Recovery Project (TWRP).
  • Root: Root is a term you will hear when referring to hacking an Android device in order to gain control of the device. It comes from the fact that Android is based on Linux, and in Linux if you have root, that means that you have control of everything. Think of it like having administrator privileges on a Windows or Mac computer.


  • S-Pen: Samsung’s version of a digitizer pen, used on the Galaxy Note and Galaxy Note 10.1.
  • Scribe pen: HTC’s version of a digitizer pen, used on the HTC Jetstream and HTC Flyer tablets.
  • SD: (1) Secure Digital, the most common type of memory card. SD cards were upgraded to SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) years ago, and this is the standard used in most devices today. SDHC has a maximum possible capacity of 32GB, which lead to the development of SDXC (Secure Digital eXtended Capacity) which is to replace SDHC, but is in very early stages of doing that. Older standards will work on devices that support the new standards, but not the other way around. SD cards also come in different physical sizes, ranging from microSD to miniSD and (normal/full sized) SD. microSDHC is most common in devices today. (2) SD can also mean Standard Definition, referring to a resolution that isn’t high definition – generally meaning less than 1280 x 720.
  • SDHC: See SD
  • SDXC: See SD
  • SIM card: Subscriber Identity Module card. A small card that stores identifying information about a mobile subscription account, in practice a card that is inserted into cellphones and mobile internet enabled tablets to connect them to a mobile phone carrier. SIM cards can be normal sized or micro SIMs, which are smaller versions.
  • Springboard: The software that creates the home screen/desktop on Apple devices.
  • Superuser: Superuser is another term that comes from the fact that Android is Linux based. If you have root on your device, you will have an app called Superuser. Superuser is what gives root-only apps the permission to do things to your device that it normally could not do. For example, without root you cannot overclock your CPU. If you install an app such as SetCPU on a rooted device, it will ask the system for root access, and Superuser is the way that you give it that access.


  • Underclock: Underclocking refers to changing the default clock speed of your CPU. By Underclocking your CPU you are lowering the clock speed and can then gain some benefits on your device. The biggest benefit of Underclocking is battery life.


  • VGA: Video Graphics Array. (1) Can refer to the most common connection type for analog (high definition) video,  normally blue, large connector that used to be the main standard for connecting a computer to a computer monitor. Still fairly common in older equipment, but most tablets only do HDMI, which isn’t compatible with VGA being analog and HDMI digital video. (2) Can also refer to VGA resolution, which is 640 x 480 pixels.


  • WiFi: Wireless network connection. The most common way of connecting a mobile device to the internet or a local network at home, at the office, at coffee shops – basically anywhere stationary that has “wireless internet.”
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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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