Your phone’s bars don’t actually tell you how strong your signal is

THE BARS in the upper corner of your cell phone have long been thought to represent the strength of your connection.

The unfortunate truth is the association is baseless.

There are almost 6billon smartphones in circulation and each needs a signal


There are almost 6billon smartphones in circulation and each needs a signal

Looking for cell phone bars in a remote area might be a common movie trope, but there’s little support for this premise.

Experts at Signal Connect wrote that the bars don’t reflect an accurate representation of the metrics, and if it did, users wouldn’t have much to do with the information.

The bars are supposed to indicate how many “decibels of power your phone is getting from the cell phone tower it’s connected to.”

The decibel system, written as dBm, is an expression for decibels per milliwatt.

But according to Sure Call, visual changes in the bars are up to the carrier.

Once a connection is established, they can represent any decibel strength as one, two, three or four bars – it’s at their discretion.

What users want to check is the “absolute power” – measured in dBm – of their connection and its not accessible on every phone.

Though it may be useful to check your device’s absolute power, the reality of the matter is the call either goes through, or it doesn’t.

Apple disabled the user’s ability to check the device’s dBm in 2017 with the rollout of iOS 11.

On older softwares, users could dial *3001#12345#* to start up Field Test Mode.

During successful tests, a dBm reader would appear onscreen.

Connection data is available for reference on the Android, but it’s a bit buried.

In the Settings app, under the About Phone tab, click Status.

Then select SIM Status and finally, click Signal Strength for your dBm reading.

For a second opinion, users can download a third party app from the Google Play store called Signal Strength, which offers a portfolio of connection data and a dBm scanner for paying Android users.

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Cell signal boosters are an option for users with limited access to cell towers or fiber optic cables – they can increase your connection by 32 times.

Another more modern option is to sign up for Elon Musk’s Starlink servers – connection is beamed by lower orbit satellites to provide internet access in remote areas.

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