The latest addition in the world of mobile communication technology is the 3G phone. This high-tech piece of telephony enables users to surf the Internet, share multi-media files, send and receive emails, and participate in video conferencing amongst other activities.

3G is short for 3rd Generation and is sometimes known as the Next Generation in mobile phone technology. Previous incarnations were 1st Generation, which was analogue technology first appearing in the 1970s, and 2nd generation, a digital standard introduced in the 1990s, which brought us capabilities such as SMS messaging via mobile phone networks.

The new 3G standard enables data to be transferred at high speeds between digital wireless phones, made possible as the technology has significantly larger bandwidth than previous standards.

This next generation in mobile technology brings with it the introduction of a new file format, 3gp. This is a video file format and allows multi-media streaming on 3G compliant phones, enabling users to create, watch and share video files through their mobile phone network.

It is a multi-media container format, which means several different file types are stored together within the one file. In this case, audio, video and bitrate information, which is data relating to the size and transfer time of the images, are stored together.

The 3gp format is a simplistic version of the MP4 or MPEG-4 technology, and its creation was designed to decrease the amount of bandwidth necessary and the overall file size so they could be incorporated with mobile phones.

The format was defined by the Third Generation Partnership Project, known as 3GPP, and the Third Generation Partnership Project 2, or 3GPP2. These bodies involve the cooperation of several countries in a collaboration agreement with the objective of standardization of mobile phone formats. The aim is to allow consistent delivery of multi-media formats over the new 3rd Generation mobile networks worldwide.

There are two international standards for the 3gp file format:

3GPP – this uses the file extension .3gp and is compliant with GSM based phones.
3GPP2 – compliant with CDMA mobiles and uses the file extension .3g2.

The 3gp videos stored on mobile phones are easily transferred to a computer via USB or Bluetooth technology and are suitable for all platforms such as Linux, Mac and Windows. Media applications such as Quick Time, Media Player and Real Player are all capable of playing the 3gp files.

There are many software programs available that allow 3gp files to be converted into other video formats including avi or wmv, enabling playback on other platforms. These and other formats can also be converted to 3gp, allowing them to be used by 3G phones. The conversion software is widely available, mostly for free, via the Internet.

Most of today’s 3G mobile phones are capable of recording and creating 3gp files, as well as having playback and sharing features. There may be limits on resolution, memory and maximum size of files, depending on the brand and model of mobile phone.

Some of the more modern or high-end 2G mobiles have the capability of playing 3gp files as do the very latest 4G phones. However, again depending on brand and model, there may be some limitations.

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