You are here: Home / Expat Life / Communication / Mobile phones

Mobile phones

The jungle of mobile phone systems worldwide explained

The first cellular system to be deployed was a Japanese system in 1979, followed by the Nordic mobile telephone (NMT) system in 1981 in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, and the total access communication system (TACS) in 1983 in the United Kingdom.

Currently the most popular standard for mobile phones worldwide is the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM: originally from Groupe Spécial Mobile), which covers more than 210 countries.

Mobile phone usage is banned in some countries, such as North Korea and restricted in some other countries such as Burma.

How to say "mobile phone" in countries around the world


Arabic mahmool (محمول) or Jawwal (جوَّال') or Khelyawi (خليوي) or mobile (موبايل)

Esperanto poŝtelefonoj ("pocket phones" pronounced poshtelefonoy)

Portuguese telemóvel (fusion of the two words telefone móvel "mobile telephone") in use in Portugal, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Macau, Mozambique

Afghanistan ګرزندوی (Gharzandoi) translates to “mobile”, تثلفون همراه in Pashto and Dari (Persian)

Albania cellular, abbreviated cel

Andorra mòbils 

Argentina telefonito (meaning little phone) / celular

Australia, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, UK, United States mobile short for "mobile phone common in most English-speaking countries

Austria, Germany Handy; plural Handys, pronounced /hɛndi/, originates possibly from the 1940s product Handie-Talkie, a handheld military radio (the civilian version was the Walkie-Talkie)

Canada, India, Pakistan, South Africa, United States cell phones, abbreviated cell

Chile, Mexico, Puerto Rico celular (pl. celulares

Bangladesh muthophone (literally phone in the palm of your hand)

Belgium GSMs 

Brazil cellular

Bulgaria mobifon (мобифон) fusion of the words mobilen telefon (мобилен телефон). Another term still used but falling out of fashion is dzhiesem (джиесем) literally GSM it refers to GSM phones

China, Taiwan (mandarin) shou ji (traditional Chinese手機) literally hand's device or hand's device telephone

Czech Republic mobilní telefon, plural mobilní telefony / shortened to mobily (mobil)

Denmark, Germany mobil telefon / mobil

Finland matkapuhelin, plural matkapuhelimet (literally travel-phones) or kännykkä plural kännykät (translates to Handy)   

France portable (literally carry-on)

Greece, Cyprus kinitó (κινητό), shortened version of kinitó tiléfono (κινητό τηλέφωνο), translates “mobile phone”

Hong Kong, Guangdong Province of China (cantonese) sau kei (simplified Chinese 手机 / traditional Chinese 手機 / 手机 or cantonese transliteration手機)

Hungary, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden mobil

Iceland farsími (all mobile phone systems), Gemsi (refers to GSM, literally young sheep), GSM-sími (any GSM System phone), or NMT-sími (Nordic Mobile Telephone-system phone)

Iran telefon-hamráh or hamráh (تلفن همراه (literally companion phone)

Italy telefonino (meaning small phone) / cellulare (short form for telefono cellulare) / portatile from portable phone

Ireland fón póca, teileafón póca (pocket telephone) / guthán soghluaiste (mobile telephone)

Israel pelefon (פלאפון; literally wonder-phone from the name of the first mobile company, or najad (נייד; mobile)  / formal Hebrew telefon selolari (cellular phone)

Indonesia ponsel /telepon selular (cellular phones), or HP (acronym for Hand Phone, pronounced ha-pe)

Japan keitai 携帯 meaning portable, short version of keitai denwa, 携帯電話 (portable phone)

Lithuania mobilus telefonas / short mobilus

Lebanon khelyawi (cellular) /cellulair / mobile / telefon

Latvia mobilais telefons / mobilais 

Malaysia (Bahasa) telefon bimbit (mobile phone)

Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea hand phones (핸드폰) in South Korea also hyudae jeonhwa (휴대 전화; 携帶電話) or hyudaepon (휴대폰)

Mongolia    gar utas (literally hand phone) 

Netherlands mobieltje

New Zealand cellphone

Philippines handyphone / (Filipino) teleponong selyular (cellular telephone) / cell phone

Poland komórka, plural komórki or telefon komórkowy translates into cells/cellular phone  

Russia mobilny telefon (= mobile phone) / mobilnik / mobila. Terms falling out of use are sotovy telefon (literally “cell phone”) / trubka, truba (literally “handset”)

Serbia mobilni telefon (мобилни телефон) aslo mobilni (мобилни) or just mob (моб)

Romania telefon mobil (pl. telefoane mobile) commonly shortened to mobil (mobile) or celular (pl. celulare)

Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia mobitel  after Mobitel, the first national cell phone network operator in Slovenia.

Spain (Spanish) móvil (móviles) / (Catalan) mòbil (pl. mòbils)

Saudi Arabia jawwal (meaning “mobile”)

Scotland Gaelic form fòn làimhe (literally hand phone; plural fònaichean làimhe) or  form fòn phoca (pocket phone; plural fònaichean phoca)

Somalia telefoonka gacanta (literally "hand's phone")

Spain cellular

Sweden nalle  (means literally “teddy bear”)

Switzerland Natel (short from the telecom company "Nationales Autotelefon")

Taiwan xing dong dian hua (行動電話) literal Chinese translation of "mobile phone"

Thailand mue thue (มือถือ, literally hand-held)

Turkey cep telefonu (literally “pocket phone”)

Ukraine slang mobilka (мобілка)

United States, United Kingdom clamshell phones cell phones that open as a clam to access keypad, microphone, and earpiece. Synonym of flip phones, a Motorola's trademark

Uruguay celular, abbr. celula, old term movicom (from the name of the first cell phone company network)

United Kingdom moby, slang for "mobile"

Uzbekistan sotka

Vietnam di động (mobile phone) , điện thoại cầm tay (handy phone) or môbai

Wales  ffôn symudol