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What Do the Bars on My Phone Mean? Which Level Needs to be Boosted

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What are the bars on my phone? — a commonly asked question among average users. We were always tricked into thinking that the bars on a phone are there to indicate the signal quality. This fact holds some truth but to a certain extent. There are many "buts" though that contradict this common belief. 

You might be surprised to know that the number of bars on your phone doesn't follow a universal rule for measuring signal strength. Each cell phone provider or phone maker decides what 1, 2, 3, 4, or full bars mean on their network. It's not the same for everyone.

And it’s nowhere near the last factor to rely on. 

So, what do the bars on your phone mean? Read on to figure it out.

What Do The Bars On Your Phone Actually Mean?

Firstly, let’s look at bars on a phone meaning. The bars on your phone offer a general idea of signal strength, but they lack precision. The graphical representation doesn't directly translate into actual signal strength or differences between bars. For instance, moving from three to four bars doesn't equate to a specific increase in decibels.

Ironically, your phone's performance might not sync with those bars. Have you ever seen four signal bars on a phone but struggled to text or download? This mismatch occurs. Your phone might display bars while lacking service.

Interestingly, there are no universal standards for these signal strength bars. The bars are more art than science, leaving room for interpretation. A logical question follows: what are decibels there for? The relationship that exists between signal strength bars and decibels adds further complication to the understanding of mobile network reception.

Decibels (dB) are a measure to quantify the amount of signal strength in a precise manner. In the mobile context, they represent the power level of their received signals and are usually measured in dBm (decibels milliwatts). However, the mapping decibel values over bars shown on your phone are obtained differently by manufacturers and even models.

A greater number of service bars on a mobile phone generally represents a stronger signal, but the dB values associated with each bar could vary significantly between devices. For example, one phone might show four bars for signal strength of –70 dBm, while another phone might require a stronger signal of –60 dBm to show the same number of bars. This lack of standardised conversion between decibels and signal bars can be confusing for users who may take into account a consistent relationship.

Do iPhones and Androids Have Different Signal Strength? 

Indeed, iPhones and Android devices show at times different signal strengths even when in the same location as well as on the same network. That difference in the reading of the signal strength is not necessarily due to discrepancies between the devices themselves, but how they read and display that data.

The signal quality can depend on:

  • Hardware – different phones have various hardware components for receiving and transmitting signals. 
  • Software interpretation – all iPhones and Android devices use different software algorithms for interpreting and displaying signal strength. 
  • Signal reporting – carriers and networks might report the signal data differently to iPhones and Android devices. 
  • Updates – software updates from Apple and Android manufacturers can potentially change how signal strength is calculated and displayed, resulting in variations over time.
  • Signal fluctuations – the signal strength can change because of several reasons like physical obstruction, interference, and network congestion. 

Signal strength may also differ during channel loading. In plain English, this phenomenon occurs when many people are using the same channel simultaneously. Thus, your signal goes weaker because you “share” it with others. 

There are differences beyond just between iPhone and Android. Within the Android group, different brands like Samsung, LG, Huawei, and more have their special ways to measure how strong the mobile signals are. 

Can You Measure The Signal Strength on Your Phone?

You can. Despite the distinctions between different companies' metrics, you can still use decibels. They might not be 100% accurate but are considered to be the universal way of measuring signals. If you want to get a precise measurement, particularly on your smartphone, swipe down to the guide. 

How to Measure Your iPhone Signal Strength

Step 1. Launch the “Phone” app on your iPhone.

Step 2. Enter the code: *3001#12345#* and hit the call button to open the Field Test Mode.

Step 3. You will enter the Field Test screen with numerical values and graphs. Find the signal strength indicator, which is usually denoted as “RSRP” (Reference Signal Received Power) in negative dBm. The closer this value is to zero, the stronger the signal.

Step 4. Alternatively, you can look at the signal bars on your iPhone. More signal bars on a mobile phone typically indicate a stronger signal.

How to Measure Your Android Signal Strength

Step 1. Launch the "Settings" app on your Android device.

Step 2. Your path might vary, but in most cases, you'll find the signal strength under "Network & Internet" or "Connections."

Step 3. Look for “Mobile Network” or “Cellular Network” settings. Here, you should see your signal strength appearing in dBm.

Step 4. Some Android phones also come with a “Field Test Mode” like iPhones. You can access this by dialling ##4636## in the phone app, and you will land on a menu where you can check various network information, including signal strength.

Here’s a reminder for you. Signal strength can vary due to factors like distance from cell towers, obstacles, interference, and network congestion. Different Android devices and versions may have slightly different navigation paths.

Also, remember that both iPhones and Android devices generally display signal strength using negative dBm values, where higher values (closer to zero) indicate stronger signals.

How Do I Get More Bars On My Phone?

Of course, you can find an open place near the cell towers, go to the upper floor or keep your device away from disruptive electronics. But, that’s much more of a hassle for you and it’s super inconvenient. The most and only reliable solution is to install a quality booster.

Where to find one? If you choose UCtel as your trusted partner, you will get rid of the issue with unstable signals once and for all. With us, you can rest assured your business always has a quick and steady connection. Stay connected, stay efficient – contact UCtel today, and our team will offer you the best mobile signal boosting solution!


Find answer below or contact us to ask more about UCtel

What do the bars on my phone mean?

The bars on your phone, often referred to as "signal bars," represent the strength of your mobile signal. But, it’s not the correct signal strength indicator. Learn more about what bars on a phone mean in the article.

Why do I only have one bar on my phone?

It's common to see just one bar when you're far from a cell tower or surrounded by obstacles like buildings. To boost your signal, consider moving to an open area or using signal amplifiers. Our guide offers more insights on enhancing your connection quality.

Why don’t I have signal bars?

If you're stuck without signal bars, you might be in an area with poor coverage, like a dead zone.

What is a good signal strength?

Signal strength is measured in decibels (dBm). A range between -50 and -90 dBm is generally considered strong, ensuring smooth calls and data usage.

Can weather affect my signal quality?

Yes, severe weather conditions like heavy rain or thunderstorms might impact your signal.

Contact the team to discover how UCtel can improve your digital connectivity and communications.

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