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10 ways to improve bad cell phone reception without signal booster

Nov 27, 2017

10 ways to improve bad cell phone reception without signal booster

Try our ten tips to get that cell phone signal you need, to make or receive a call in a jiffy! None of the tips suggest anything that costs money like a cell phone signal booster.

Nowadays, we use our smartphones for a lot more than simply calling someone. We text, send emails, browse the internet, watch live media streams and use numerous apps that need a cell phone signal to work properly. The result of this is that we need good cell phone reception wherever we are, and at any time of the day or night. Whether you are at home or at work, or commuting in between, at school, university or college, out doing shopping or working out at the gym, visiting a restaurant, bar or club, or even simply taking a stroll in the park, we want our cell phones to work and have a strong, uninterrupted signal.

Unfortunately, this is often not the case and the result can be endless frustration and even anger.

Apart from using phones, we also increasingly use the cell network for our other devices such as tablets and even laptops when we take these with us wherever we go.

What causes bad cell reception?

If you understand why cell phone signal is bad at certain places, it will help you solve the problem more easily. There are 3 main causes for bad or spotty cell phone reception:

  1. In rural areas, there might not be enough cell towers to cover the area you are in. If this is the case, there is unfortunately not much you can do apart from getting to an area where the cell phone reception is better.
  2. The quality of cell phone reception depends very strongly on there being nothing between the cell tower and your phone. The more obstacles block the signal, the bigger you problem is likely to be. In an urban area with lots of buildings and other structures, these obstacles will cause the signal to be weak, or in very bad cases, even disappear completely.
  3. The number of people using the signal from a cell tower at the same time has a big influence on the quality of your signal. A cell tower can typically handle from a few hundred to a few thousand users at the same time. If it suddenly has to cope with tens of thousands of users, it will not be able to cope and the result will be bad or spotty service on your phone. This would typically be the case at big events such as concerts or sporting events.

How to check how good your reception is.

I'm pretty sure we have all been on a phone call where the quality was far less than perfect, and you could hardly hear the other person. One trick we have all used is to walk around while talking, desperately trying to find a spot where we can hear properly and when we find it, freeze into a position like a statue hoping that the signal will stay clear.

Another way often used to find a spot with good reception is to check the signal bars on your phone. When you know of a specific building or place where you always battle with signal, you could walk around and try to find a place where the most signal bars show on your phone, and then always try to use that place when you make a phone call, or use the cell signal in any other way.

While both of the methods described above may have some measure of success, there is a better, easier way that can quickly be used to find the spots with the best cell reception. The signal bars on your phone are at best a very rough indication of signal strength, and each carrier uses a different scale to represent the signal strength. All phones nowadays have a function in the Settings menu that will show the cell phone signal strength in dB. "dB" ia an acronym or short form that stands for "Decibels". It is a unit of measurement for signal strength. Normally, anything between -50 dB and -95 dB is a good working signal. Closer it is to zero, the stronger the signal strength. If your signal strength however falls below - 95 dB, you're likely to get spotty service, or even a complete dead zone.

10 Ways to Improve Cell Phone Reception without Signal Booster:

Tip #1: Don't move around when using the cell network.

When you move around, the phone and network constantly have to adjust to cater for your changing location. This makes it much more difficult to obtain and hold onto strong signals.

Tip #2: Remove the case on your phone.

If you have a case on your phone, removing it might improve the signal. A case could block the cell signal and prevent it from reaching the phone's internal antenna. If you check the dB reading in a specific location and then remove the case, you will be able to see if it improves the reception.

Tip #3: Don’t block the internal antenna with your hand.

Unlike older phones where the antenna was outside the phone and clearly visible, new phones use internal antennas. As it is possible to block the signal depending on how you hold the phone, be aware of your hand's position on the phone while using it. Experimenting with different positions might improve reception.

Tip #4: Get away from obstructions.

As buildings and structures block cell signals, going outside might improve reception. If you are outside, an open area like a park will make it easier for the cell signal to reach you.

Tip #5: Keep your battery charged atleast 25%.

A phone needs enough power in order to utilize the cell signal. If your battery is low, there might simply not be enough power for the phone to acquire and hold the signal.

Tip #6: Change location.

The cell signal will be different in different parts of the same building. Moving to another part of the office or home might give you better reception. Try the reception at different windows, as a window will not block the signal as much as a wall would. An open window would be best if weather permits, because glass can also reduce reception signals - Especially Low Emission (Low-E) windows.

Tip #7: Move to a higher position.

Higher positions, be it within a building, or on a hill outside, will reduce the probability of obstructions blocking the cell signal. Finding the highest point in your immediate surroundings and moving there might improve reception dramatically.

Tip #8: Use WiFi.

All smartphones allow WiFi calling and texting nowadays, and this is supported by all major cell carriers in the U.S. There are many messaging apps available that will allow you to do audio and video calling. If the cell reception at your location is bad, and you have access to strong WiFi coverage, switching to WiFi might solve your problem.

Tip #9: Identify the nearest cell tower.

If you know where the nearest cell tower is, you know where the signal is coming from. This will help you identify which side of the building is nearest to the tower and this is where you’re most likely to get a good signal. If you’re outside, try to move to a position where there are no obstructions between you and the tower.

Tip #10: Try switching between 2G, 3G and 4G.

Different networks will have different signal strengths at a specific location. Experiment by switching between the networks to see which one works best for where you are. How you switch between networks will be different for different carriers and phone models. Go to "Settings", and choose "Networks" in most cases and you will be able to choose 2G, 3G, 4G, LTE.


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14 comments

  • Tip #6 (moving to another location) is another example of how cell phones can drive people batty. You’re in one room and you can’t get a signal for anything, but you move to another room and the situation is fine. Why? Usually because there’s some sort of interference in the room reducing your signal (such as other users, windows, walls, etc.) which is why it works better in the other room. A cell phone booster can make for a better signal throughout the house or apartment because it strengthens the signal throughout the house. That’s an option to consider too.

    Gino Moretti on
  • These are good tips, but it’s important that people know how to check their phone’s signal strength. If you look at your bars only, you’re going to get an inaccurate reading because signal bars are just plain unreliable. The best way to check your signal (as this blog points out) is to check your cell phone’s signal strength in dB’s (decibels). This will give you the true indication of what strength signal your phone is receiving. As noted in the blog, the best dB readings are anything -50 and below (although as noted, -50 to -95 is good too). So, the next time you run into a problem and you think your signal strength is weak, don’t look at the bars. Instead, go to settings, find cell phone signal strength, and note the readout. That way, you can see if you need to do any of the suggestions listed here. You don’t have to buy a cell phone amplifier, but remember it’s a permanent fix to bad cell phone signals.

    Richard T. Lawson on
  • It’s unbelievable how many tricks there are for helping to improve your cell phone reception without getting a booster (although they sound pretty helpful). I’ve sometimes asked myself how can I boost my cell phone signal at home, but didn’t know there are so many options. I didn’t know the causes of these problems so now that I do, some of the solutions make perfect sense. Even when I do get a cell phone booster, these will come in handy for times when I’m not at home such as going to the mall, attending a concert, or visiting a friend’s home. This was an informative article and I can’t wait to employ these different methods.

    Patrick Ellison on
  • THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE USING THE SIGNAL FROM A CELL TOWER AT THE SAME TIME HAS A BIG INFLUENCE ON THE QUALITY OF YOUR SIGNAL. I think anyone who’s been in a storm can relate to this. I remember being stuck in a blizzard and it was almost impossible to get through on my cell phone (I’m sure the weather didn’t help either as I hear weather conditions can affect cell phone reception). I didn’t have a cell phone booster in my car at the time and I didn’t know about any of these tips for fixing bad reception. I think I’m going to print these and give them to my family because everyone runs into cell phone issues and not everyone knows the major benefits of cell phone boosters.

    Barry Thomas on
  • Just when I think I know every tip, you guys come up with a new one. I had no idea removing the cell phone case could help you get a better signal. You need all the help you can get today because phones seem to be doing so much more and everyone around you is using the cell phone signal. While I don’t have a cell phone booster right now, it sounds like a permanent fix for someone experiencing dropped calls or poor data speeds on a regular basis. By the way, speaking of Wi-Fi video apps, I hear there are ones you can use when your traveling overseas so you can call without any extra charge. If you’re going away, I would definitely look into these, particularly in countries that have good Wi-Fi.

    Dustin Woods on
  • I didn’t know there are so many ways how to boost your cell phone signal strength for free. I have heard about trying to go to higher ground to get a signal (or seen people holding their phones up over their heads). I’ve definitely had success going outside because something seems to interfere with my signals. I didn’t know the reasons why though—cell phone signals are weakened and/or blocked by things like what a house is made of, from other radio signals, and from outside terrain. Thanks for posting about how to test your signal too. I will have to try that the next time I’m making an important phone call. The cell phone boosters look interesting too for a more permanent fix to the problem of weak signals.

    J. Joseph Wright on
  • “My new car comes with a cell phone booster in it. Do I need to anything before I can use it?” You’d be surprised at how many vehicles (including boats and RV’s too) come with signal boosters now. People are recognizing the benefits of cell phone boosters and how they can make their cell phones stay connected, provide clear audio, and boost data speed. However, you do need to contact your wireless provider before you use it. Also, any passengers who use the booster on a regular basis should contact their wireless provider also. You can get the information for your registration and labeling information concerning your vehicle’s signal booster in one of the following: 1) the owner’s manual; 2), on the manufacturer’s website; or 3) in materials furnished by the dealer. Enjoy!
    Lionel Ketchum on
  • This is a good question because everyone has had a dropped call before or a music download that takes longer than the artist took to record and produce the song. Why are cell phones so powerful yet so weak at the same time? Cell phones have been around since the 1980’s I believe, but they still have issues getting clear call quality, fast download speeds, and of course, solid connectivity. It’s good to know there are tricks you can use to tweak your phone’s power and that there are cell phone boosters for people looking for a permanent solution to the problem. I have to look to see whether I want a cell phone signal booster for my home first or my car. I think I use them in both locations about the same amount of time. Any suggestions?

    Daniel McGee on
  • My new car comes with a cell phone booster in it. Do I need to do anything before I use it?

    George Jackson on
  • You’re getting angrier by the second as you talk on your cellphone. How many times does the person on the other end have to say, “What did you say?” The static in the call or worse yet—the multiple dropped calls are enough to drive anyone up a tree. The problem is that the cell phone towers send out signals to our phones, thus allowing us to make calls, text, and download items like songs or movies. However, if the cell phone tower is far away, or there are things interfering with the signal like terrain or the make-up of the structure you’re in, you can have problems. Sometimes, you can solve your problems by switching to airplane mode then back to normal; going outside (less interference); or just standing still (that way the signal isn’t trying to find your phone while you’re walking around). You can also get a cell phone booster which really strengthens your signal. Chances are, you’ll never have any issues with your cell phone once you do this.

    Barry Owens Smith on
  • Oh wow, I didn’t realize so many things could affect your cell phone signal. I wondered why sometimes my phone would work perfectly fine one minute then the next not work quite right when I had a “full signal bar” available. I’ll have to give these a try next time the issue comes up.

    Ashley on
  • From what you see here, there are different ways how to improve mobile signal strength. There are technological ones and then some of the tricks mentioned here. While, I think most people want to know how to boost cell phone signal strength for free, people are also looking for permanent and reliable solutions for how to increase their mobile network signals in their homes. That’s where cell phone signal boosters are ideal. They’re a proven way to boost your calls. While these are ways to boost your cell signal at home for free, you can’t go wrong with a booster because it removes the need to rely on any of these tricks.

    George Fitzpatrick on
  • Moving around is usually the technique I employ while searching for strong service. Thanks for all the important information shared, I now understand the importance of staying close to a window.

    Clara on
  • I’ve heard about some of these hints (such as not covering your antenna). However, I didn’t know you could switch between 2G, 3G, and 4G networks if you’re looking how to increase cell phone signal strength. Very interesting. I’m going to try that out the next time I have a problem. Thanks for the tip!

    Micah Reynolds on

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