Better Cell Phone Signal, Reception, and Coverage





Introduction: Better Cell Phone Signal, Reception, and Coverage

About: Introverted but somehow a chatterbox on the internet. It'll be nice to explain to my kids one day about how a cassette tape worked and life before the internet.

You are your cell phone.

Whether it's a Facebook post or tweet, furious session of Candy Crush, fast Yelp review, quick Wikipedia read, time-wasting YouTube video, Amazon shopping, an important business call, an urgent text message, email, etc. Our daily lives ARE our digital lives.

And our digital lives depend on two things: our cell phone (the vehicle) and cell phone signal (the gas).

Because even with the most expensive smartphone, without wifi or cell signals, what you've got is a very expensive calculator that can take photos.

So before you go off blaming your carrier, we're going to look at the best practices to get better cell phone signal.

Step 1: Remove the Clutter

Cell phone signals are simply radio waves (the AM/FM kind). Although they're great at traveling long distances, they can be easily disrupted.

Have you ever noticed how people run outside or towards the window when talking on the phone? That's because they're trying to reduce interference between the cell phone and cell tower.

So easy tips like moving outside, getting near a window (away from thick interior insulation), getting higher up to avoid barriers such as hills, mountains, metal structures, and tall buildings, and reducing clutter such as trimming tall trees and brushes and tidying up your room should help improve reception.

Also know that weather can also affect reception, too! But the rule of thumb is simple: less things between your cell phone and cell tower, the better the signal.

Try moving to different rooms around the house while using your phone. It could make a big difference.

Step 2: Find Your Nearest Cell Tower

Knowing the location of the closest cell phone tower is very important for getting better reception and coverage. Although understanding dB (decibel) gain is the best way to locate your cell tower, another simple and easy way to find your nearest tower is by downloading apps. There are several apps we recommend such as OpenSignal and CoverageMap (both on iPhone and Android).

[Read an extensive review about the best signal finding apps here.]

For the techies out there, you can use your phone for dB reading. Short course: -50 dB is considered full bars. -110 is a virtual dead zone. So your signal should between these two values.

To access dB reading on your phone, check out these options:

For iPhone: go into phone mode, dial *3001#12345#*

You'll enter Field Test mode. On the upper left-hand screen, you'll see the dB value.

For Android: access Settings>General>About Phone> Network or Status (depending on the mode).

You should see the signal strength numbers now.

Once you have access to the numbers walk around the perimeter of your home. The closer the number gets to -50 dB then you'll know the general direction of your closest cell tower.

Step 3: Have a Full Battery

Back then, cell phones had to do two things: make a call and send some texts. Now smartphones are the jack of all trades. One device doing so many things at once means quick battery drain.

And always being connected to a cell tower takes a constant supply of power. And if you're low on battery, your phone might not have power to find a signal.

So best practices such as turning off Bluetooth or NFC when not in use, lowering screen brightness, closing unused apps running in the background, updating firmware that may run more efficiently, reducing push notifications and fetch instead, and keeping phone from extreme temperatures are a few example that leads to a longer lasting battery.

Step 4: Hold Your Cell Phone Correctly

Anyone remember cell phones from the 1990s and early 2000s? (Raise of hands, anyone?)

Well before the sleek designs of today, most mobile phones had external antennas. They would stick out literally, but they were a vital part of the machine that gathered and sent signal.

However, today's smartphone antenna is now crammed inside the phone. But there's a tradeoff: better looks, less reception.

Because when you hold your phone tightly, you are essentially blocking the antenna from receiving signal. Apple, the grandfather of all modern smartphones, even faced such problems a few years back with the iPhone 4.

While newer smartphones are developed to alleviate such problems, it's recommended to avoid holding your phone is a landscape position, because you're essentially covering the whole phone. Holding your phone in an upright position should help increase reception a little.

Step 5: Avoid the Crowd

Nothing beats going to a live event.

Watching dunks, touchdowns, or home runs, cheering for your favorite team. Or maybe going to a concert and rocking out like it's no tomorrow. Beer festivals. Food trucks. Anywhere there's a horde of people.

But with that many people and that many YOLO moments, expect selfies every 10 seconds and expect cell towers to be overwhelmed as people post to social media and sent photos and messages to friends.

Instead of competing for bandwidth, find a place where they are less people, and you should have a better chance of getting more signal.

Step 6: Use You Wi-Fi Network

We already have Wi-Fi calling apps like Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts.

And it's an option slowly moving to the major network carriers. So if you are already paying for a landline internet service provider, using Wi-Fi calling could help provide more stable calls and connections.

In fact, carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint already support Wi-Fi calling with Verizon and AT&T expecting to join soon.

Step 7: Get a Cell Phone Signal Booster

What is a cell phone signal booster? It's a device that boosts your 3G & 4G LTE signals for home or car. They work on all phones and all carriers and are FCC-approved devices.

It works by taking whatever weak signal you have, amplifying multiple times then rebroadcasting in both directions between the cell phone and cell tower. These are powerful systems that require a little investment. but it is the best option of all the other tips in this list to get better signal and connection.

One of leading providers of cell signal boosters is Wilson Amplifiers.

Step 8: Say Goodbye to Your Network Carrier

"It's not me. It's you."

So you've tried all the other tips and steps and you still can't get better signal. If you've already fully paid for your two-year contract, it maybe time to find another carrier.

Many carriers are eager for you to switch and will gladly entice you with big discounts on the newest phones.

We recommend finding the nearest carrier near your place of need (Step 2) and then take your time to consider your options.

Yes, Verizon has more 4G coverage nationally, but if you live near a Sprint cell tower, then Sprint may be the way to go. Perhaps talk and text are more important to you than high-speed internet, so finding a good 3G plan would be more cost effective.

Take your time, do your research, and happy travels for more cell phone signal, reception, and coverage.



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    Sprint sent me one (said it was complimentary) does nothing...any ideas?

    3 replies

    Hi Andrew, definitely look at getting a cell phone signal booster. There are several big brands from weBoost, zBoost, and SureCall. I can vouch for the two units I own.

    well what units do you use?

    I use weBoost. The one for home Connect 4G and one for car Drive 4G. I live in a 2,500 sq ft home, so I got something a little more powerful than what I needed, but I've been getting near full bars. So I basically cut the cord with Uverse a few months ago and haven't look backed.

    Now I just need to find something to replace my HBO fix.

    Wow, I never knew clutter IN your house could disrupt the reception. And thanks for sharing on how to access the dB reading on our phone, hopefully that'll help us, at work and home. And a question about holding the phones....what about when you're using the bluetooth? These are great tips though. Thanks for sharing them. :)

    2 replies

    Unless the clutter is made up of metal or other very conductive (electrically or magnetically) material, it will have absolutely no effect on cell phone reception!

    Hi Anna, actually using bluetooth is recommended. The less your phone is surrounded by disruption, the better. Today's smartphone is pretty good with less dropped signal with internal antennas but nothing will beat an external antenna but that signal won't be making a comeback soon.

    I really didn't think clutter in your home was a big deal in terms of reception, but it does make a lot of sense. I hate trying to call someone at a place like Universal Studios because it is impossible to get a reception. I'll keep all of these excellent tips in line before I call the company complaining about how bad their reception is next time.

    1 reply

    Thanks, Janiera. Yeah, it's small tips like these that can help get better signal.

    I actually was recommended a cell phone booster from a friend, saw the prices on them, got a sticker shock, but as with anything else, you have to spend money for good quality. I wasn't going to spend more on a booster than my cell phone, so the SureCall TriFlex was out of the question. I did buy the weBoost, and am very happy with it. It does everything it claims to do. And since I travel a lot, I go to spots that don't always get the greatest reception....this is a MUST have in my baggage when traveling.

    1 reply

    Hey Piper, thanks for the comment. Yeah, I definitely went with weBoost/Wilson Electronics. I'm a bit of a penny pitcher, so it's hard for me to spend money for something I already should be getting. But once I was satisfied with the car unit, I went with the home unit and have been a big fan of them. I basically cut the cord (goodbye, Uverse!) and have been enjoying strong 4G LTE at home.

    I just switched over to AT&T since my contract ran out....not too happy with the reception I've been receiving. Does anyone know if the cell phone boosters work with AT&T on a farm? I've heard they're good, but I'm wary about the price.

    1 reply

    Hey Trey, I was wary of them, too. So I went a car unit (much cheaper) while visiting Grand Canyon and the experience was night and day. One bar of 3G while driving around one of the biggest places in the world is not fun especially when I was lost. With the signal booster, I had full bars and sometimes even 4G which was a godsend.

    I also tried out the field test in our house, the highest was -100, the lowest was -75....nothing too crazy. But I didn't know being in a huge crowd will disrupt your reception....guess we'll be leaving our cells in the car next time we go to a concert.

    1 reply

    Hi Lucas, it really depends on the venue. For big events, they might wheel out some mobile stations. But I went to a public fireworks display and with thousands of people taking photos and trying to upload photos. It was a nightmare, even when trying to call and find friends.

    Great tips. I work as a cell phone tech and these are what I tell our customers to try and do before sending it in for repairs. Will save money and time to try to fix issue yourself first.

    1 reply

    Thanks, Brandon! I have a few friends who use T-Mobile and didn't know about Wi-Fi calling, so it lead me down this path of gathering tips.

    The field test mode is neat. We have very poor service at our house, -105 dB. One room is a little better at -100 dB. At least I know where to run to when I have an important call! Thanks for the the info

    1 reply

    Yikes, you're almost at a dead zone. Glad the info helped.

    This is great info! Thanks for sharing!