G 5 Bars What The Signal Icons On Your Phone Actually Mean
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Some AT& T customers noticed a strange phenomenon earlier this year. The upper left corner of their smartphones began displaying 5GE, ostensibly indicating their phones were using 5G technology. And while Samsung announced Wednesday that it will soon release a 5G-compatible phone, actual 5G networks in the US are still in their nascent stages.
AT& T is engaging in a marketing ployone it has used in the past. The 5GE symbol really means a phone is using advanced LTE technology, which is available on other carriers and is slower than the 10-gigabyte speeds 5G promises. When the company introduces actual 5G tech, it plans to call it 5G+ instead. Sprint is suing AT& T over the nomenclature, alleging it constitutes deceptive advertising.
Even beyond 5GE, there’s a lot of confusion about what the letters, bars, and other symbols on your phone actually mean. Experts say interpreting them may only become more complicated as 5G rolls out in the coming years. It’s not entirely the fault of carriersmany factors can impact a wireless signal, which are difficult to convey with a few characters at the top of a screen.
Ultimately what matters is not whether your phone says 4G, 5G, or 5GE, its what experience you actually get.
Brendan Gill, OpenSignal
Use The Field Test Dialer Code
To see your current signal strength in actual numbers, you’ll need to enter Field Test mode on your iPhone. This can be done exactly like before in iOS 10 and under, using the following code.
So, open up your Phone app to the “Keypad” tab, type in that code above, then follow it up by hitting the green call button. If you see the Field Test menu that looks like the one on the left below, you don’t have an Intel chip, but if it looks like the one on the right, you do have an Intel chip, and you can proceed.
On iPhones running iOS 14 and later, the Field Test menu looks different but still houses the same data, as you’ll see below.
About The Orange And Green Indicators In Your iPhone Status Bar
With iOS 14, an orange dot, an orange square, or a green dot indicates when the microphone or camera is being used by an app.
An orange indicator is being used by an app on your iPhone.
This indicator appears as an orange square if the Differentiate Without Color setting is on. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size.
A green indicator means either the camera or the camera and the microphone are being used by an app on your iPhone.
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What Decibels Do Cell Phone Bars Represent
The bars dont relate to actual decibel numbers instead, they indicate the relative strength of the available signal.
The key word here is relative.
One bar indicates lower signal strength than two bars. And two bars represent lower signal strength than three bars and so on. Unfortunately, thats about all the information you get from looking at this little graphic.
You can tell that your signal strength has gone up or down compared to where it was earlier or in a different location because the bars appear and disappear accordingly. But that doesnt actually tell you how much signal strength you have in measurable decibels.
How To Measure Signal Strength On Your Phone
So the bars dont tell you much about the signal strength of your phone. What if you want to know the actual numbers so you can decide whether you need a new phone or need to take action to boost that signal of yours?
To accurately measure your cell signal strength, you must take a reading of the signal in decibels or dBm.
Even though phone companies all present phone strength measurements differently, decibels are a standard unit of measure. So, when you take a dBm reading, you know the absolute strength of the available signal.
A reading of -50 is likely the strongest signal you will see. Signals weaker than -100 dBm are pretty bad, and if the signal gets much weaker than that, you likely wont have cell service at all.
To measure the dBm reading on your phone, youll need to put your phone into field test mode. The steps are different for each phone type. Discover how to find the signal strength on your Android phone or find the signal strength on your iPhone.
Taking this step is the only way to know how strong your available cell signal really is.
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What Does The Orange Dot Mean
If there is an orange dot in the top right of your screen, above the signal icon, it means your microphone is on and recording.
This is why you may have noticed it lighting up when using Siri.
The alert is designed for privacy reasons so that you know when you are being recorded.
If the light is on and you are not deliberately using your microphone, it may mean an app is recording you without your express permission.
You can find out if this is the case by going to your control centre, where you can see which app is using the microphone.
You can then choose to turn off microphone access for that particular app, ore delete it entirely if you want to be extra cautious.
iPad & iPhone Control Center Icons
Access the Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of your screen if you have an iPhone 8 or earlier, or down from the upper right corner of your screen if you have an iPhone without a Home button. Some of the icons in the Control Center are the same for every iPhone, but the icons at the bottom of the Control Center are determined by how you choose to customize your Control Center. You can add or take away Low Power Mode, the Flashlight, the Calculator, Voice Memos, and more.
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Does Aluminum Foil Block Cell Phone Radiation
Aluminum foil does block, or shield, radio frequency waves. Since the Aluminum is a conductor of electricity, it forms a barrier often called a Faraday Cage, entirely stopping the radio waves. You can try this for yourself. Get a large sheet of aluminum foil, lay it out flat, set your cell phone on top and wrap it up.
What Do Signal Bars On A Cell Phone Really Mean
In all honesty, the bars on a cellphone do not really mean anything. Today, we got a call from a person who asked, “Why does my new Verizon phone have one bar when old one had 3?” That is because antenna signal bars are merely an aesthetic representation of the signal strength. Depending upon the make and the model of the phone, there can be quite a bit of fluctuation between the bars on one phone to another phone. Accurate signal strength is measured in decibels, a unit of signal strength measurement.
For example, if an algorithm of your phone says that for every 10 db you will see a bar and your friend’s phone manufacturer has set it such that for every 15 db a bar will appear, their signal will always appear to be weaker even though they may be receiving more dbs . Bars could be compared to a gas gauge where they give you a general idea of what the signal strength is, but not the actual strength.
Therefore, it is more effective to measure signal strength in decibels to determine the best place to find a signal or use a booster. Typical Android phones with have this function in their “settings”. Typical iPhones can access this information by putting phone in test mode by typing *3001#12345#* followed by “Call” in the phone’s number key pad – The Decibels appear in top left corner or by sliding down from the top edge. -50 dB would mean maximum signal and -110 dB would mean no signal. Your range would be somewhere in the middle of those two numbers.
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Any Terrain Thats In The Way
Radio waves travel in a straight line from your phone to the cell tower. If theres something big in the way, like a hill or mountain range, the radio waves will find it impossible to reach the tower. In the place I live, one side of the main hill has great reception because you can see the tower on top. The other side of the hill has terrible reception because you cant instead, our phones connect to a tower about ten miles away that they can see, rather than the one less than a mile away that they cant.
In a city, this isnt as much of a problem because:
- There are normally small radio antennas placed all over the city so the signal never has too far to go.
- Radio waves bounce and ricochet off buildings which helps them get around things in the way.
- Other wave effects like diffraction.
So while certain buildings and structures can affect signal, it wont be as tough as in more rural areas with high terrain.
Update Your Os And Apps
Updating both your iPhones operating system and iOS apps can fix various glitches or bugs you may be experiencing. iPhone updates can also increase your smartphones security and add extra features and functionality, making your smartphone more functional and efficient.
Updating your iPhone’s carrier settings can also improve your call quality.
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Buy A Cell Phone Signal Booster
Cell phone signal boosters are devices that, as their name suggests, boost the signal of cellular networks so that you get a better connection on your iPhone. Signal boosters are ideal for those living in remote or hilly areas though they can also be effective in city areas with limited network coverage.
What Can You Do To Boost Your Signal
Booster technology has been restricted recently after the FCC brought in new regulations. The agency has clamped down on some older amplifying technology because it was causing problems for the operators, who pay a lot billions to license the spectrum from the government.
If you inject noise into a radio channel, you are effectively decreasing the capacity of that channel for all users, so its not good for the operators, and its not good for the consumer either, says van Skike. We offer a smart booster. In the simplest terms its a booster thats based on a cell phone design. Were transparent to the network, and we never interfere with it. Thats why were allowed the high gain we have of 100db, which is far above what youll get elsewhere.
Nextivitys boosters start at around the same price as a smartphone. But if youre with T-Mobile and having problems, call them and ask about Cel-Fi Signal Boosters.
Boosters arent the only option. Some carriers offer femtocells, which boost your signal strength by using your home Internet connection. Another backup for poor service indoors thats beginning to gain ground is Wi-Fi calling. Apples iOS 8.3 update just brought support for Wi-Fi calling to Sprint and EE. T-Mobile already supports it, and AT& T and Verizon are expected to follow suit this year. Its worth checking to see what your carriers policy on that is.
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What Do The Bars On Your Phone Really Mean
Were often asked what the number of bars on a cell phone actually means when it comes to signal strength. Historically, a display of five bars was the only measure used to determine if your indoor signal coverage was strong, but thats no longer the case.
A few months ago I was interviewed for a Digital Trends that talked about a field test for understanding the algorithms used to determine the number of bars, and why they differ from device to device. Its all pretty complicated stuff that doesnt really provide a definitive answer for non-engineering type users. In fact the readings can even change with every software upgrade.
So what is the true measure of signal usability? The answer is actually much simpler than any field test could provide.
There are two ways of looking at signals. One is the strength of the cellular signal you are receiving . The other is the quality of that signal, which relies on factors such as noise, network traffic use, interference, etc. You need both to have the best signal on your phone. However, when calculating the number of bars displayed, device manufacturers will use different criteria .
The reality is, five bars isnt always attainable or even necessary. A display of two bars or higher should be more than adequate in certain circumstances.
Do you have signal challenges in your home? We can help you determine what you need.
Reset Your Network Settings
Resetting your iPhones network settings removes all of your saved network names and passwords and has been known to fix cellular and internet connectivity issues. You will need to re-enter all of your Wi-Fi login information again after resetting your network settings on your iPhone, but its still worth trying if none of the other solutions work.
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Find A Better Location
Even if your mobile carrier promises good service in your area, cellular networks can still be blocked or interrupted by geography, buildings, and other large objects. If youre experiencing weak signals on your iPhone, try walking around your house, on your balcony, and in your backyard to see if the issue is specific to a particular location. The back porch might be your favorite place to take phone calls, but it could also have the worst reception.
Time To Leave The Bars
The number of bars on your phone?
Not the best way to measure cell phone signal strength.
Think of it like cooking without using measuring cups and spoons. Sure you can eyeball everything and get a decent meal, but when you want to produce the same reliable results, you need to get accurate.
And cell phone bars are not accurate. Why?
They’re SUBJECTIVE across all carriers and phones!
In plain English, it’s up to each individual carrier or phone manufacturer to decide what’s 1,2, 3, or full bars on their own service. So what could be 1 bar on Verizon, might be 2 bars on AT& T, 3 bars on Sprint, and 4 bars on T-Mobile.
There is no industry standard that ties cell phone signal strength to the number of bars on your phone. Even the difference between 4G and LTE is murky to most people.
But there is the one true method.
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What Does It Mean When You See Blue Green Or Red In The Status Bar
If you own an iPhone X or later, you may have noticed that sometimes there’s a colored bubble behind the time. So, what do these colors mean? If you see a blue bubble, it can mean that an app is currently using your location or your iPhone is Screen Mirroring. The bubble is green when you’re on a call or FaceTime, or when another device is connected to your personal hotspot. The bubble is red when your iPhone is recording sound or your screen.
Why Do I Only Have One Bar On My Phone
Usually, one bar of service on your phone means youre receiving poor signal because youre too far from the nearest cell tower or something is blocking the signal from getting to your device. As you read above, how poor a one-bar signal actually is will depend on your phone, but its the worst the signal can be, relatively speaking, for each device before you dont have service at all.
Some common signal blockers can include building materials such as concrete, steel, brick, fiberglass insulation or wood.
If youre in a densely populated area such as a major city, the issue of network traffic can also arise. People assume theres plenty of cell coverage to go around, but cellular tower resources are limited. If a lot of people are on the same network and tower, downloading things, sending messages or otherwise taking up bandwidth, the tower might struggle to support that level of usage.
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Why The Indicator Lights Matter
With the iOS 14 update, Apple introduced a number of new tools to help users protect their privacy, and force apps to be more transparent with how they use your phone.
The indicator lights are part of that, alerting users if third-party apps use their microphone or camera without consent. If you find that an app is accessing your microphone or camera without prompting, you should delete and report it.
Your Distance From A Cell Tower
Your cell phone communicates using radio waves, which get weaker the more atmosphere they have to move through. This means that the distance you are from a cell tower can be one of the most crucial factors. A more powerful transmitter can send the signal further, but obviously theres a limit to how big a radio can be crammed into a modern smartphone.
According to Outside, a cell phone can theoretically reach a tower thats 45 miles away in ideal circumstances, but because of the way cell phones work, the actual limit will be about 22 miles, even in perfect circumstances.
In a city, distance probably wont be a massive factor, but out in the backcountry or when youre driving between towns, it will be one of the most important ones. If youre too far away from a tower, the only thing you can do to get better signal is move.
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