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9 Easy Ways to Improve Your Cell Phone Signal

on February 08, 2018

You + Poor Cell Phone Signals = Silent Suffering

It's official.

Cell phone service isn't what it used to be. 

Over 72% of Americans suffer from dropped calls & slow internet, because we demand more from our cell phones, smartphones, and wireless devices more than ever.

Talk, text, internet, social media, email, apps, video, audio, personal assistant... our mobile lifestyle demands mobile essentials. 

And nothing is more essential to your cellphone than cellular reception.

Let's see what happens when you get spotty to no service:

  • Dropped calls
  • Poor voice quality
  • Slow internet
  • Stuck text messages & email
  • Still-connecting or endless loading screens

Raise your hand if you've ever clinged to one bar of service, praying, pleading, and promising to be a new person just for the connection to hold on.

And absolutely nothing is more FRUSTRATING than waiting...and waiting... for something to send or load but the progress bar sticks at 99% then fails.

Lost time, lost money, and for you, a loss of patience.

Not acceptable. Not in today's always on, always connected world. 

You're paying for these high monthly cell phone bills. You deserve to get what you're paying for. Because without reliable 3G & 4G LTE (and soon to be 5G) signals, your cell phone is basically a glorified calculator that takes photos.


The 9 Best Methods on How to Improve Cell Phone Reception

Despite your situation, there are methods to improve your cellular coverage. Today we look at a few free & paid options:

1) Use Your Wi-Fi Network

Wi-Fi Calling allows using your broadband landline internet service provider (ISP) to make calls and also connect to the web.

As of now (February 2018), all major carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint support wi-fi calling on most newer smartphones such as Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel, LG phones, and other iOS & Android devices.

So if you already have landline internet, connecting your Wi-Fi compatible cell phone should be able to help maintain a steady connection.

Keep in mind, if your wifi internet speeds are spotty or horrible to begin with, then it won't be much help either, because now you have another device hogging your bandwidth.

Pros: Practically free method if you have landline internet.

Cons: Zero use if you have bad wifi or no landline internet service.


2) Cell Phone Signal Boosters

Did you know you could give a big jolt to your incoming & outgoing cell phone signal?

Cell phone signal boosters take existing cellular signal from the outside (no matter how weak) and amplify 3G & 4G LTE signal up to 32X. Think of it like a megaphone for your cellular service: making signal louder for your cell phone to pick up. 

Here's a quick overview of cell phone boosters:  

  • Boosts 3G & 4G LTE for any phone on any carrier
  • One-time purchases with no monthly fees
  • No need to be connected to internet or wifi to work
  • Fully accepted and approved by the FCC & all carriers
  • Guaranteed boost or your money back

Here are the top 3 categories for signal boosters:

It's worth to learn more about how a cell phone booster can help enhance your cellular service and coverage. For most people, there's bound to be improvement; however, the quality of that improvement depends on the quality of the outside signal.

Unless you're living in an extreme remote area, the number 1 cause of poor reception is building material and signal boosters are great at bypassing internal & external obstructions.

Pros: Great at amplifying 3G & 4G LTE signal for urban or rural areas.

Cons: Quality of amplified signal depends on the outside signal.


3) Femtocells

Like Wifi Calling, femtocells depend on having broadband landline internet with a minimum speed of 1.5 Mbps download & 256Kbps upload to have any decent results. In short, they convert landline internet to cellular signals.

While femtocell is the proper & broad term, each carrier likes to brand their own femtocell names. So you'll see things like AT&T Microcell, Verizon Network Extender, T-Mobile Personal CellSpot or Sprint Airave or Magicbox. But they're all femtocells by nature.

These devices can range from $100 to $300 with a possible monthly subscription service on top of your landline internet bill.  

However, there's good news & bad news.

The goods news: if you're a long-time subscriber with continual reception problems, contacting your carrier may result in a free or discounted femtocell. You'll have to persuade a bit, so get that bartering cap on or call Aunt Sally, the Haggle Queen to help.

Here are the links:

  1. AT&T Microcell
  2. Verizon Network Extender
  3. T-Mobile Personal CellSpot
  4. Sprint Airave or Magicbox

But now the bad news: carriers are moving away from femtocells, because they'd rather have customers use wifi calling. That means no more discounts or possibly devices in the near future since carriers don't want to eat the cost unless it's worth the investment.

But still, until that time comes, if you already have landline internet and don't mind sacrificing your home internet speeds to help improve your cell reception. It's worth a look.

Pros: Possibly free or discounted if you can haggle for it.

Cons: Wifi calling a better (and free) option. No wifi service means no femtocell will work.


4) Locate Your Nearest Cell Phone Tower

Knowing the closest cell phone tower location helps tremendously when it comes to getting the best reception: the closer your phone is to the tower, the better the signal strength. 

Here are some methods in locating the nearest cell tower:

Websites (Good):

Antenna Search
It looks old and takes a bit of time to load, but it provides a great amount of data. Maybe too much, because it throws everything at you at once. You'll need a little patience (or engineering degree) to mine out the data.

Cell Reception
Put in your zip code or city and state and the magic happens. 

Find cell tower locations by the major carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, & T-Mobile). And read reviews and ratings from users like yourself.

Open Signal:
Open Signal ranks the top 4 carriers and their signal with a cell phone coverage map and then further compares your area cellular coverage nationwide and even worldwide. 

You can also refine the type of cell phone signal by 2G, 3G, and 4G.

Apps (Better):

  1. OpenSignal (Recommended): For iPhone | For Android
  2. RootMetrics' Cell Phone Coverage Map: For iPhoneFor Android

These are our recommended apps to help find cell tower locations and coverage quality. OpenSignal features a compass that points in the direction of your carrier's cell tower.

DIY (Best):

Your smartphone is a great way to find signal strength.

First, a short technical explanation and surprising truth.

Cell phone signals are measured in dBm (decibels). They're basically radio waves, the AM/FM kind. All cellular devices operate within this standard:-50 dB to -120 dBm signal level.

-50 dBm is considered full strength (full bars). -120 dBm is considered a dead zone.

This is why you can't trust the number of bars on your phone too much.

Because there's no industry standard and practice to label dBm values to the number of bars. 

In plain English, what might be 1 bar on Verizon could be 2 bars on AT&T and 3 bars on Sprint, despite receiving the exact same signal and performing at the exact same speeds.

The number of bars is subjective across all carriers!

But dBm readings are not subjective. Just plain old science, math, and truth.

OUR RECOMMENDATION:

  1. Find dBm readings on your phone.
  2. Walk around your house.
  3. The number closest to -50 dBm is where you get your best signal

So how do you find dBm reading on your smartphone? It's usually under the settings menu. We've included a quick guide for iPhone and Android users from one of our finding cell tower guides:

How to Access Your dBm Signal:

For iPhone Users

UPDATED: This method is outdated on iOS 11 (on any iPhone) and also on iPhone 7 & 7 Plus models that use Intel modems instead of Qualcomm models. For other versions of iOS (10 & below) and iPhones that use non-Intel models, this method will still work as long as you're not using iOS 11. As of February 2018, there is no method to see dBm values on iOS 11 because Apple has decided to keep it hidden.

  1. Go into Phone Mode

    How to access db cell signal on iPhone, Step 1
  2. Dial and Call *3001#12345#*

    How to access db cell signal on iPhone, Step 2
  3. You'll enter Field Test Mode

    How to access db cell signal on iPhone, Step 3
  4. Drag down your notifications bar and you will see your dB reading in the left-hand corner.

    How to access db cell signal on iPhone, Step 4

For Android Users

  1.  Access Settings

    How to access db cell signal on Android phones, Step 1
  2. Then General

    How to access db cell signal on Android phones, Step 2
  3. Go to About Phone

    How to access db cell signal on Android phones, Step 3
  4. Network or Status

    How to access db cell signal on Android phones, Step 4
  5. You should see your dB Value

    How to access db cell signal on Android phones, Step 5

Now you understand how to read and find dBm values on your phone. Walk around the house and find that place to get better signal.

Generally anything from -50 dBm to -95 dBm is considered good working signal. From - 95 dBm to -120 dBm, that's the thin margin where you get spotty service to a complete dead zone.


5) Clear Out Obstructions

Your cell phone and cell phone tower play a game of Marco Polo every time you use your phone. One yells “Marco” and the other shouts back “Polo.”

When there’s a clear line of sight between them, it’s easy for the two to hear each other. But when there are objects and obstructions in between, it gets a little harder for the two to communicate. 

When you see people raising their phones or moving to a window, they are basically trying to reduce the interference between the cell phone and cell tower.

That's because there are about 5 main causes of poor cellular signal:

  1. Cell tower distance (of course)
  2. External interference (trees, hills, mountains, valleys, metal structures & high buildings)
  3. Building material & construction (metal, concrete, thick walls, energy-efficient installations, etc.)
  4. Internal interference (electronics, metal objects, anything magnetic or electronic can interfere with cell waves)
  5. Weather (yup)

Some simple tips that help:

  • Move outside or get near a window.
  • Avoid standing under or near tall structures
  • Reduce interior clutter 
  • Get higher. Usually the second floor of the home gets better signal. 

All these tips should help get you better reception.

As mentioned, weather may also affect service, too, like rain, snow and thunderstorms. Sometimes it feels as if windy days can affect your signal.

Just remember this, less things between your cell phone and the cell tower, the easier the two can keep communicating. Cellular signals are very fickle by nature. Sometimes, a slight move here or there can drastically change reception.


6) Keep Your Battery Full

Your phone needs to do many things. 

Connecting to a cell tower takes a constant supply of power, so if you’re low on battery, your phone might not have enough juice to find a signal. That's why many smartphones have a battery-saving mode.

The following best practices should help conserve battery power:

  • Turn off hardware options like Bluetooth and NFC when not in use.
  • Lower screen brightness
  • Close unnecessary & unused apps working in the background
  • Turn off push notifications
  • Update to the latest firmware
  • Keep phone away from extreme temperatures

But if you still find your cell phone lacking power before the end of the day, we'd recommend a portable battery charger or case.


7) Don’t Block Your Cell Phone Antenna

Before the rise of smartphones, most mobile phones had external antennas (90s & 00s, the good old days). They were the vital part of the device that gathered and sent signals to the cell tower. 

However, with most smartphones today, the antenna is now designed to be tucked inside the phone.

Great for cosmetic reasons but difficult for increased reception, because those interior antennas still need to do the same job.

By holding your phone in landscape position (sideways), your hands may be effectively blocking your antenna from the cell tower. Although the newer smartphones have designs to combat this problem, a smartphone in a rugged case and gripped with both hands can occasionally give you the no-signal burp.

To avoid such antenna problems, try holding your phone in an upright position with your antenna free of a blockage, it should help increase the flow of signal.


8) Find Some Me Time

A cell phone tower can connect to a few hundred users. What happens when everyone tries to access that tower at the same time?

Chaos.

When you’re at a concert, festival, crowded public event, or major sports game, there’s bound to be a horde of picture taking, Facebook and Snapchat selfies out there. With so many people and their smartphones and tablets, it's bound to overwhelm the cell tower or base station.

Which leads to the following problems:

  • Dropped calls
  • Poor call quality
  • Slow internet
  • Super slow uploads & downloads 
  • Stuck text messages
  • Spotty service

Instead of completing for signal bandwidth and clogging up the network, finding a less populated area should help improve your situation. Of course, if you followed Step 4 above, you already know how to find the nearest cell towers.


9) Change Network Carriers

Well, you’ve done everything you could, but there’s still no progress. 

No one likes to burn bridges, but you've got no other option.

If your phone is fully paid for or past its two-year contract, it may be time to jump ship and find a carrier better suited to fulfill your mobile needs. 

And most carriers are eager to get customers to switch, so you might be able to get a new or highly discounted smartphone or bill.

For example: T-Mobile will pay up to $650 for you to switch your contract. Sprint also does the same thing. And ditto for AT&T and Verizon.

So keep an open eye for carrier deals and promos. They're everywhere.

We recommend using Open Signal to research carrier service heatmap for your location. Search by ZIP code and compare network rankings in your area. 

With that information along with understanding cell tower location, it should give you much better information about the quality of your carrier's and competition's services.

There's a lot of variables to consider. 

Verizon might have more 4G coverage nationally, but if you live near an AT&T cell tower, you might have to reconsider. Perhaps talk and text is more important to you than internet data, so T-Mobile's or Sprint's 3G plan might be more cost effective. 

So take your time and do the right research. 

Hope this helps & happy signal hunting.


How We Can Help:

Wilson Amplifiers is the leading provider of cell phone signal boosters. They amplify 3G & 4G LTE for any phone with any carrier for home, office, or vehicle.

  • Free consultation (ask us anything) with our US-based customer support (sales@wilsonamplifiers.com).
  • Free shipping.
  • Better signal or money-back guaranteed.

We want everyone to be satisfied, so we provide lifetime technical support and a 2-year warranty. 

Read real reviews from our customers. 

Ask us anything and we'll be glad to help.


Want to learn more about cell phone boosters? Read more with our definitive guide:


Need help? Email us today ( sales@wilsonamplifiers.com) or give us a call at 1-844-890-8264. A cell phone signal expert will gladly assist you in getting better signal instantly.

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