Signal Bars: Do they even mean?

    Signal bars aren't always a reliable indicator of the frequency of the signal your phone is receiving. Although they do signify the intensity and consistency of your signal, there is no industry norm for “this much signal equals this many bars”—each cell phone manufacturer calculates it differently. Two different brands of phones on the same cellular network may show different numbers of bars when placed next to each other.

Smartphone showing signal bars

Signals can be seen from two perspectives. The frequency of the cellular signal you are receiving is one factor (i.e. from the cell tower). The other is the signal's efficiency, which is affected by factors such as noise, network traffic, interference, and so on. To get the best signal on your cell, you'll need both. Device manufacturers, on the other hand, can use different parameters when measuring the number of bars (or dots) shown (e.g. Some only consider signal strength, while others consider signal quality as well.)

To determine the strength level of the available signal, each cell phone manufacturer uses an algorithm that they have created. Then they show you as many or as few bars as they want. This makes comparing signal quality between different phone models virtually impossible.

You might, for example, have an Android phone and an iPhone, all with the same carrier. Even if both phones have the same signal power, the iPhone can display four bars while the Android phone only displays two.

Smartphone users

You may have even had four bars on your phone, but when you try to download something online or send a text, it simply won't go through due to the bad service that the bars don't represent.

If you're in a crowded area, such as a stadium, your phone will be forced to switch to another wireless band simply because it supports it. Even if you're on the same tower as the person next to you, there's no guarantee you'll have the same number of bars on your computer.

The truth is that five bars aren't always possible – or even needed. In certain cases, a show of two bars or higher should be more than enough.

Networks keep track of how many people are using a channel and send a signal to your phone when it becomes congested, which normally results in fewer bars. However, iPhones operate in a much more complicated manner, monitoring the signal strength as well as the distance to the transmitter and the number of people on the network, making it difficult to pinpoint the source of your poor signal.

RSRP is used to calculate the frequency of 4G and 5G cellular signals (Reference Signal Received Power). On the RSRP scale, excellent signal strength is greater than 85 dBm, whereas weak signal strength is less than 115 dBm.

If you dial 911, your phone can use every available channel from any operator. It makes no difference for whom you have a service contract or who your operator is. You may be low on battery, in which case your phone will not usually allow you to make a phone call but will allow you to make an emergency call at all costs.


I hope you find this information useful.

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