Mobile Reception Woes: How to Troubleshoot for Additional Bars

Cell phones have become so ubiquitous that teenagers have no clue what a pay phone is. They feel they have an unalienable right to actually own a cell phone as part of being a teen. It is even suggested that 80% of the world’s population has some sort of cell phone coverage.  With this in mind, there are still problems with adequate signal strength or calls being dropped. It is easy to point to the service provider and blame them for this, but in most cases that is not the answer to the problem. In truth there are actually many ways that a person can, on their own, improve the strength of the number of bars they see on their screen.

Keep Your Battery Charged

What many people don’t realize is how the power in their cell phone is used. For example it takes more power to connect a call than to wait on standby. As it works out it actually takes more power for the cell phone to find a signal than it does to attempt a call. So when you power is low, your phone appears to be working, but it may be causing your phone to struggle to find the signal. For this reason it is always best – particularly if you want better reception – to keep your phone charged, keep at least 2 bars of battery strength to ensure you are getting the best reception your phone is capable of.

Avoid Buildings and Dirt

Most people have probably recognized the difficulty of making a cell call from the heart of a big building. Large structures simply block cell phone signals. If possible in such circumstances, try to leave the building before placing the call, or at least getting near a window where there is less mass to block your signal.

Similarly, cell signals simply can’t penetrate through the earth. If you are underground on a subway or spelunking, don’t expect a call to go through.

A final tip: if you are having trouble getting a signal on a busy city street, find your way to an intersection. Generally you will find better coverage there.

Network Extenders

This is fairly new technology, but one that works very well. A personal cell phone network extender amplifies your cell phone’s ability to receive signals. What is more they can be used with any provider, are basically plug and play in their simplicity and don’t require any installation. This is probably the best way to actually acquire a “boosted” signal.

Cellular Repeaters

A cellular repeater is the best way to improve cell phone signals for a given area. Say you struggle to get adequate reception where you live, the best way to improve this situation is to install a cellular repeater. They are capable of picking up low signal strength and amplifying it throughout a certain area. Generally they are placed outside and require a minimum of 2 bars of signal strength, but afterwards provide substantially improved reception. With improved signal strength comes longer battery life as well as quicker download speeds. It may require you to obtain your carrier’s frequency to function properly and many only work with one provider.  However, there are dual-band repeaters that can improve the reception on all carriers.

Hi-Gain Antennas

Some cell phone manufacturers off a Hi-Gain antenna you can put into your handset. You can have these replaced in a store or do it yourself at home. They don’t improve cell phone signals with the same strength of a repeater, but they do allow you the freedom of having to use them only in a specific area.

Hold the Phone Correctly

Because of the antenna’s design, it best picks up signals when you hold the handset upright. If for some reason you are holding your phone in a different position and having trouble receiving a signal or holding a call, you might try turning it to the upright right position. This allows the antenna to better find the signal. However, the antennas in many of the new phones have been placed in the bottom of the handset. So, if you have a newer phone and are experiencing difficulties you might try turning it upside down. Crazy as that might seem, it will help boost your signal.

Offer to Host a Small Cell Site

This isn’t an immediate fix for your signal problems, but it can be a great way to eventually get great reception. In areas where there is inadequate coverage many of the wireless carriers will consider private property hosts for small cell sites. You have to register for these Wireless Revenue Programs through third-party companies if you want to be eligible for this, but if you are selected you will have terrific coverage, and in many cases the carrier will even pay your phone bill.


This is a more limited option, but if your carrier happens to support UMA you can use your Wi-Fi signal as your cell phone signal. This is particularly useful if you can’t get a GSM signal or you have poor coverage in your area. At this point only a few blackberry and android phones support UMA, but if you have the right equipment this could substantially improve the service you are now receiving.

Change Carriers

In most cases the major networks have their own frequencies and cell phone towers. They don’t work together to provide signal access to all those with cell phones. For this reason there are some carriers who have better coverage than others. If you aren’t happy with the coverage you now have, switching providers could very well solve your problem. You can [tp lang=”en” only=”y”]shop T-Mobile phone plans online[/tp][tp not_in=”en”]shop T-Mobile phone plans online[/tp] to see if they have a solution. And since you can usually transfer your phone number to whomever you go with, there really is no reason not to switch plans if it will improve your signal strength.

As a word of warning, don’t buy into easy $5 fixes that come in the form of a patch you can put on your phone. They don’t work; they don’t improve signal strength. Commonly referred to as “Internal Cell Phone Boosters,” they do not do as they suggest and are nothing more than a scam. If such a think actually worked manufacturers would be putting them in phones before they sold them.

In the end, if you are having trouble finding a signal, try some of these remedies first. In most cases your problem will be satisfactorily resolved.

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