Are there apps to boost my cellular reception?
Short answer? No.
Longer answer? No, but there are some very good smartphone apps that can tell you exactly how poor your signal is and even the nearest cell tower locations, which can help you address the problem of cellular reception.
First, a little lesson.
The Truth About Cell Phone Bars
They change depending on your phone model and carrier.
One bar on AT&T might be three bars on Sprint, which might be two bars on T-Mobile, which might be full bars on Verizon. A person on iPhone with AT&T might have 3 bars under the same circumstances - despite having the EXACT same signal and performing at the EXACT same speeds. Makes no difference if you're talking 3G or 4G - it's all subjective.
No standards exist. Each carrier or phone manufacturer can determine what one, two, three, or full bars represent for their service or device. So who's telling the truth? Or - here's a better question for you - do you trust them?
Fortunately, you can check your decibel gain on your cell phone to get around this problem.
Cell phone signals are measured in dB (decibels). They're AM/FM radio waves, the kind that are great at traveling long distances but are easily interrupted and lead to spotty service. That's when a cell phone signal booster comes in handy.
dB readings are a standardized unit of measurement. They aren't subjective and can't be screwed with by your carrier or phone manufacturer.
All cellular devices operate within this standard:-50 dB to -120 dB frequency.
-50 dB is considered full strength (full bars). -120 dB is considered a dead zone (no service).
All cell phone signals in the US and Canada need to operate within this range to work. The closer you are to -50 dB, the better your signal. The closer to -120 dB, the worse your signal. Many smartphones have the ability to display dB readings.
Recommended Cell Phone Apps to Find Signal Strength for iPhone:
Unfortunately, recent models of iPhone have removed the ability to read dB levels. There is no perfectly accurate way to read your dB level on newer iPhones. The best app we've found for this purpose is the SpeedTest app by Ookla (picture). However, this only measures data rates and may not represent the best results.
How to Find an Accurate dB Reading on your iPhone:
Starting with iOS 11 and 12, Apple has hidden dBm readings in iPhone field test mode. However, depending on your iPhone chipset (Intel or Qualcomm) and your carrier (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint), there’s a slim chance to find your dBm readings through this workaround.
AT&T or T-Mobile iPhone with Intel chipset (iOS 11 & 12)
- Dial *3001#12345#*
- Tap LTE.
- Tap Serving Cell Meas.
- Your dBm is read as rsrp0.
Verizon or Sprint iPhone with Qualcomm chipset (iOS 11 & 12)
- Dial *3001#12345#*
- Tap 1xEV-DO.
- Your dBm is read as RX AGC0.
For any iPhone pre-iOS 11
- Dial *3001#12345#*
- Swipe down notifications bar.
- Your dBm is in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.
If you’re unable to find any of these options during your field test mode process, you most likely have an incompatible carrier and chipset. The next best method is performing a speed test around areas inside and outside your home. But once we crack the code on dBm readings on your iPhone, we’ll update as soon as possible.
Recommended Cell Phone Apps to Find Signal Strength for Android:
Android phones have a wealth of options, the best of which are listed below.
Best: LTE Discovery
The LTE Discovery app provides all the information you need. It points to your nearest cell tower, shows you what network you’re using, what band you’re using, your dB level...and dozens of other pieces of information you shouldn’t need for our purposes (such as SNR). It’s easy to understand, and breaks bars down into their dB level in a logical manner.
Also Best: Network Cell Info Lite
Network Cell Info Lite is a favorite of installers, and it’s more or less interchangeable with LTE Discovery. These two are the best options. The Network Cell Info Lite doesn’t mess with bars, but it shows neighboring towers, and is extremely user-friendly.
Also Good: OpenSignal
OpenSignal used to be the best app for finding your cell tower, but the rise of LTE Discovery and Network Cell Info Lite have rendered it less relevant. It’s certainly good at finding the tower, as it uses a very obvious pointer mechanism, but the amount of information this app provides pales in comparison to the other options makes it not as strong an option.
Another Option: RootMetrics’ Cell Phone Coverage Map
An interesting app that utilizes a hex-grid to determine cell performance on a map. Can show you strong and weak cell areas in your vicinity, as well as giving you your dB readings. Not the best at finding your nearest tower, but that can still be done. Also good for measuring WiFi and Network Testing.
Good, But Best With a Price Tag: Network Signal Pro
Accuracy: 4/10 (free), 8/10 (paid)
An app with a paid option, the free version has ads and doesn’t keep an updated cell tower database. However, if you’re willing to pay, you’ll get the most user-friendly app for finding your cell tower out there. Signal is shown in both dB and bars, but the bars are subdivided even further.
Good for Aiming Directional Antenna, but Barebones: Antenna Pointer
This is best used for installing a directional antenna, as it gives you the proper direction in which to tilt the antenna by making use of the gyroscopic features of newer phones. Also will point at a tower, giving you its location - but that’s all it will do. Requires latitude and longitude, and is quite technical to boot.
And that's it! Thanks for reading, and happy signal boosting!
Any other questions? Drop us a line on the comments below.
SignalBoosters.com is a leading provider of cellular and WiFi signal boosting solutions & installation.Contact us today for a comprehensive solution.