When Star Trek first showed America the possibilities of hand-held communicators, the technology seemed impossible. How could such a small device connect people, no matter where they were, without antennas or wires? But today's smartphones offer all that and much more. They are true hand-held computers that put all the world's knowledge at our fingertips through wireless data connections. Science fiction writers of the 1960s couldn't have imagined the storage capacity and computational power of today's smartphones, much less their capacity to connect us to almost limitless sources of information through the internet. Today, it's hard to imagine life without access to a wireless phone network. How would we find an ATM, navigate new cities, or check our bank balances? There are now more wireless subscriptions in the US than there are people. The technology has snowballed in the last 20 years; only 13% of the population had wireless subscriptions in the mid-90s, but in 2015 more than 90% of us are taking advantage of wireless networks.

The broad coverage of these networks, combined with the availability of affordable smartphones from providers like T-Mobile, has changed the way we communicate, research, conduct business, and entertain ourselves. For better or worse, our phones are our constant companions. Statistics show that more than 40% of Americans sleep with their phones, a third are using only their phones to access the internet, and 29% "can't imagine living without" a smartphone.

Although the technology has been widely adopted, most people don't know much about how their 3G or 4G network actually functions. Knowledge is power, and understanding more about how your network and phone interact can help you troubleshoot problems and keep your data flowing. Here's a quick graphic look at wireless phone networks: how they're put together, how they interact with your phone, and how to troubleshoot data problems on your iPhone or Android phone. 



I'm the Founder of SocialSteak. I work in social media. Love fashion, tech and science.