All of us, at least occasionally, find ourselves in a place with little or no cell phone reception. You have a serious problem if that place happens to be your home or apartment, or your workspace.
This post offers some suggestions to help boost your iPhone signal when you’re in a poor reception area.
Why you have bad cell reception
There are two main causes for bad cell coverage. Either you are (a) too far from the signal source (the cell tower), and/or (b) there is something, or maybe many things, between you and the tower blocking the signal.
Depending on your location, your home/apartment/workspace may or may not be too far from your carrier’s nearest tower for good reception. But there are almost certainly signal blockers between the tower and your location, even if the tower is relatively nearby.
The most likely signal blockers are the very materials your home/apartment/office building is made of – concrete, steel, brick, masonry, drywall, low-emitting coated glass windows – even the electrical wiring in the walls!
All these things and many other materials block cell signals and cause, or at least contribute to, your reception problems. See our previous post The top 5 surprising things you didn’t know could block your cell signal.
If there are multi-story buildings near your home/apartment/workspace, they could be blocking your cell signal too. So here are some things you can try to improve your reception.
1) Signal map your home/apartment/workspace
This the best way to find out if there is one particular spot that provides better reception than anywhere else. To do this all you need is your iPhone, a pen and paper. To map your signal:Put your iPhone in field test mode so you can view the incoming signal strength in decibels, abbreviated as dBm. For instructions to put iOS devices into field test mode see our previous post Find the signal strength of your iPhone using field test mode. Or click in the frame below to watch a video that shows you how. Go into each room of your home or apartment, or each area of your workspace, and jot down the dBm reading on your iPhone. For larger rooms or areas, you may want to take signal readings in multiple spots. Each time you move across the room or into another room to check the signal, it may take your phone up to a minute to update the dBm reading for the new location. You may be able to force a faster signal update by putting your iPhone into Airplane Mode for a few seconds once you move to the new location. Then turn off Airplane Mode, and the updated dBm reading should display.
Once you’ve completed your signal map, you will know for certain which locations have the best and worst signal. If you find a “sweet spot” it may not always be convenient to dash there and answer an incoming call, but at least you know you can do so if necessary.
2) Give Wifi Calling a Try
All newer iPhones and all U.S. cell carriers allow native Wifi calling and texting. And of course there are a bunch of messaging apps available now that support audio and video calling. So if you have solid Wifi coverage in your home/apartment/workspace, it may be a perfectly good substitute for the cellular network. See our previous post All you need to know about Wifi calling.
3) A femtocell (microcell)
If you can convince your cell carrier that your coverage is unacceptable, they may provide you with a femtocell, sometimes called a microcell. These devices function almost like a tiny cell tower, creating a very localized cell signal in your living space or workspace.
But they also have some distinct disadvantages. For one, femtocells require a broadband Internet connection, and compete with any other network traffic including streaming video apps. So check them out before committing. To learn more about these devices watch our video about femtocells.
4) iPhone cell signal booster
These devices work in virtually any situation where there is an existing cell signal to amplify. This is the priciest of our suggested solutions because signal boosters have cellular radios in them just like your iPhone does. And that tech also makes this solution most likely to work for most people. To learn more, see our previous post Top 10 cell phone signal boosters 2016/2017.
5) As a last resort, cautiously switch carriers
This works for some people, but be careful about switching your cell carrier in hopes of getting better coverage. The last thing you want to do is to exchange poor reception with one carrier for even worse reception from another.
Switching carriers can make sense if you, using Carrier X, always have poor reception in the office, but your coworker, using Carrier Y, always has good reception. Also be aware that switching will probably cost you some money, so be sure before you switch that your coverage will be better with the new carrier. Check out a previous post What does it cost to switch cell phone carriers?
Conclusion We’ve given you some solid options so you don’t have to suffer with poor cell reception inside your living space or workspace. To be clear, not all these solutions will work in every poor-reception situation. But at least one of these should work for about 99 percent of iPhone users.
Click below to learn more the cell phone boosters we mention in #4 above!