In the UK we call them "mobile phones", in the US "cellphones". However, would an American be familiar with the term "mobile" when referring to something pertaining to cellphones or would it sound completely alien to them?

For example, a British person would intrinsically know that an iPhone app named "Mobile x" would be a phone-version of x, but would an American find the same logical conclusion?

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    We see the term enough ("mobile devices", "MobileMe", and even "T-Mobile") that it causes no confusion. But we would call the phone in our pocket a "cellphone" or a "cell" instead of a "mobile"; this despite the fact that "mobile phone" is common in journalism and advertising.
    – Robusto
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 15:17
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    Oddly enough, the term "mobile to mobile" is commonly used to refer to separate minute plans for calling other cell phones within the same network. But yeah, while most people would figure it out from context if you asked if they'd checked their mobile, but using it as a modifier, they've be thinking about something moving (or not really moving such as the common "mobile home"). Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 15:23
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    Probably. But it shur sounds ferrin, doncha know?
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 16:07
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    I do understand "mobile" for cellphone, but what I don't get in the question is why it would be necessary as part of an app's name. Isn't an app inherently mobile? I would think it would be almost more confusing to have the word mobile in the name. For example, if I look at Facebook on my laptop, it's a website I go to; but if it's on my phone, it's an app. But if there were a Mobile Facebook, I might think it was something different altogether, which I don't think is what you want.
    – Julia
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 23:08
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    @Julia: app is just short for application, a program, and although the shorter word is often applied to mobile apppications, it can also be used for web applications such as for the Chrome browser, Facebook and Google Apps. But also sometimes for "normal" desktop applications.
    – Hugo
    Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 5:29

5 Answers 5


Americans are familiar with the term. One of our main carriers is T-Mobile, and the word appears in ads for service providers and products. Googling "mobile phone us" will turn up more.


My business card has a line that says:

+1 xxx xxx xxxx mobile

Software developers for iOS and Android are collectively referred to as mobile developers, so the American tech community is certainly aware of the term.

However, while Americans may be perfectly comfortable with saying, "I got a call on my mobile phone," you may draw a few blank stares if you ask an American, "Please ring me on my mobile."


As far as I know, most Americans will understand "mobile" as a "cellphone".

Also note in British it's usually pronounced like "moh-by-ul", /məʊbaɪl/, and Americans tend to say it like "moh-bul", /moʊbəl/.

Both will usually understand the other term.

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    Actually, to an American it’s /moʊbəl/. We don’t have that funny diphthong you have; we have our own. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 23:43

Americans (or GenAmE speakers) will understand it if you use the term 'mobile' in context to refer to your cellphone.

However, they wouldn't understand it that way out of context, and they wouldn't ever user the term themselves for a cellphone. They call the object a 'cellphone'; 'mobile' would sound weird to hear and to say. Out of context, for most GenAmE speakers, the word refers to the artwork or baby's attention toy that hangs and moves around.

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    Except that the sculpture is pronounced /ˈmoʊbiːl/, differently from either pronunciation for the phone. Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 21:38
  • @SamuelEdwinWard: I'm not a great reader of IPA...is that second syllable the long 'i' with diphthong, like 'eel'? If so I agree that's the accepted pronunciation of the art work (both syllables are stressed though), but often the artwork is 'mispronounced' as /mɛʊbəl/.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 22:05
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    Yes, like "eel" (at least in my accent). As for whether it's a diphthong, the phonemic transcription doesn't indicate a diphthong, but I think it is phonetically a diphthong. I don't think I've heard that mispronunciation myself from native speakers, but it's a fairly rare word. Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 14:54

In railroading (although this terminology refers to UHF radios) we diferentiate between "mobile" and "handheld." Mobile referring to a unit that is fixed to a vehicle while handheld refers to, as the term suggests, a radio you carry with your person, usually on your belt. Back in the day, late '50s/early 60's, a few people had "mobile phones" in their cars. While they truly were phones in the sense you could make calls to people to receive on their home phones, the technology was radio waves converted at some service center for telephone service. By the way, the equipment required would take up most of the space in the trunk of your vehicle. Perhaps today we should think of mobile phones as being early generation mobile technology and cell phones as being current generation cellular technology.

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    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 8:16

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