If you sometimes suffer from dropped calls, bad connections, or missed call notifications when your smartphone never rang, you’re certainly not alone. Smartphone signal strength can be a fickle thing. The pursuit of cell phone bars, especially inside your home or office, can be incredibly frustrating. The signal bars on your smartphone are really only providing a rough guide to signal strength, and different manufacturers have different measures, so the bars on one phone aren’t directly comparable to the bars on another. Your local network, your phone, your carrier, and various types of interference at your location combine to dictate your signal strength.

What do you do if you can’t get a signal at all or when your signal is patchy? We have a few suggestions on how to improve your smartphone signal.

Change your location

We’ve all done the signal bar dance, trying to find that elusive sweet spot where the bars pop up. It’s common to have dead spots in homes or offices. They can be caused by interference or building materials blocking the signal. The simplest thing to do is try moving somewhere else to make a call. Go upstairs, go outside, go to the window, find a spot where the reception is good and remember it for future calls. While this may work, it’s not ideal if your desk or living room happens to be in a dead spot, so you may want to try something else.

Remove your case

Your phone case could be interfering with your signal strength, especially if it’s a rugged case or has metal in it. Try removing the case to see if that helps improve reception or call quality.

Keep your battery charged

A low phone battery can affect your phone’s ability to receive a strong signal, and it can also affect performance. Try to keep your battery above 25% whenever possible. Consider carrying a portable charger with you so you can keep your phone charged on the go.

Use Wi-Fi calling

There’s a strong chance you have a Wi-Fi network in your home or office, so why not use that to make and receive calls? Wi-Fi calling is widely available now and it may be as simple as changing a setting on your phone. On an Apple iPhone, go to Settings > Phone > Wi-Fi Calling and make sure that it’s toggled on. The setting can be located in different places on different Android phones so open up your Settings and use the search at the top to look for Wi-Fi calling. You will also have to check in with your carrier to find out what their policy on Wi-Fi calling is. Some carriers may expect you to pay extra money or jump through a few hoops to activate it.

If you’re unable to get Wi-Fi calling to work with your usual number and carrier, you can still use an app or service to make and receive Wi-Fi calls. Many of the best messaging apps also allow you to make calls over your Wi-Fi connection, although the person you’re calling will also need to have the same app.

Check your settings

iPhone 11 Pro Settings
Corey Gaskin / Digital Trends

Make sure that your network settings look correct. You’ll want to make sure you’re connecting to the right carrier and that voice and data are switched on. You may want to change your network preferences and test to see if it makes a difference.

On an iPhone go to Settings > Cellular. On an Android, it will be Settings > Network & internet or maybe if you have a Samsung it will be Settings > Connections > Mobile networks. If you can’t see any issues it may be worth resetting to see if that helps. On an iPhone, it’s Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings, but bear in mind this will also reset your Wi-Fi networks and passwords so you’ll have to set them up again. On an Android phone it will differ from device to device; on a Pixel 4 it’s Settings > System > Reset options > Reset Wi-Fi, mobile, and Bluetooth but on a Samsung Galaxy S10 it’s Settings > General management > Reset > Reset network settings.

Change your carrier

Most carriers have a coverage map that shows what areas their network covers and what kind of connection you can expect. Do a little research to find the best carrier for coverage in your area and consider switching to them. We have a guide to help you switch carriers with minimal hassle. You can also find coverage maps for a lot of major carriers worldwide at Open Signal.

Check where your nearest cell tower is

cell radio tower

If you can find out where your closest cell tower is, then you may find it a bit easier to move to a location that can connect with it. There’s a useful website called Cell Mapper that offers crowdsourced locations for cell towers. Make sure to select your carrier to find the nearest tower.

Get a device to boost the signal

As a last resort, you could look into getting a network extender or femtocell. There’s a chance that your carrier will provide one, but it’s another device you have to have plugged in and it uses your broadband internet to create a cell signal in your home. There can also sometimes be problems with handoffs — if you’re on a call and you leave the building, the call may drop when it tries to switch to the cell tower. Carriers sell these devices, but if coverage isn’t good in your home or office and you complain, there’s a chance they’ll give you one for free.

The other option is to get a signal booster or cell repeater. It can use an outdoor antenna to take a signal from outside, boost it, and then transmit it to an indoor antenna that distributes it inside your home, office, or even in a vehicle. If you’re going to go this route, then do your homework and choose carefully. It’s important to remember that these devices only work if there is a signal to begin with. They can also cause interference.

It’s a good idea to read up on potential safety and security concerns if you’re considering either of these devices for your home or office.

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