If your calls or text messages don’t go through, it may be because of low signal strength. While the bars graphic on a phone may give you a vague sense of signal strength, there are a few hidden options to see actual numerical readings in dBm on Android devices.
These readings, called RSRP, represent exactly how much signal your device is receiving. They can be accessed by navigating to the Field Test mode on most phones.
How to Check
A smart phone is useless without a solid signal. Having 2 or 3 bars may make your device seem like it has a good connection but dropping calls and poor internet speeds are often caused by weak signal. There are many ways to test your mobile phone’s signal strength. You can use a free app such as Opensignal or Network Cell Info which will show you your current signal strength in dBm and the corresponding download speed.
The dBm reading on your Android device should be displayed as negative numbers (although some devices don’t display the negative sign). The closer the number is to zero, the stronger your signal.
You can also check your phone’s signal strength by accessing Field Test Mode on your device. Although this isn’t as easy as using an app, it is still a quick and straightforward process. You can find this in Settings About Phone Status or Network, depending on your phone manufacturer and model.
1. Go to Settings
Whether you’re having trouble making or receiving calls, or your texts and posts seem to take forever to reach their intended recipients, it’s worth knowing how strong your phone’s signal strength is at any given moment. But you may be disappointed to learn that the “bars” graphic displayed on your Android smartphone’s screen isn’t a very accurate representation of your current connection quality.
Cellular signal strengths are measured in decibel milliwatts, or dBm. The closer your dBm reading is to zero, the better your reception. A dBm of -80, for example, would be unacceptable for many purposes, and anything lower than that will probably cause slow connections or even loss of service.
Fortunately, most phones have an in-built method for checking signal strength without the need for third party apps. The steps vary depending on the manufacturer, but generally speaking, the phone’s settings should have an option called About Phone or Status Information.
2. Go to Network
On Android devices you can go to the Network screen to see a summary of connectivity options including signal strength. This displays a number of useful data points including tower locations, dBm signal readings and other information. The closer to zero the dBm signal reading is, the stronger the signal. Typically any reading above -70 dBm is a very weak connection that may be slow or unreliable. Anything below -80 is almost impossible to use.
Most phones have a bar-style graphic showing the current signal strength. However, the accuracy of this display varies from device to device, manufacturer to manufacturer and even within each OS version. You can also download an app such as LTE Discovery or Network Cell Info Lite to provide a more accurate gauge of network signal strength in dBm. These apps also offer logging and other features you may find useful.
3. Go to Status
When your phone’s internet is slow, or your call or text won’t go through, you might think that your network is at fault. However, before you start panicking and calling your carrier, it’s best to take a closer look at your signal strength to determine what the problem may be.
The easiest way to do this is by using a third-party app like Opensignal, Network Cell Info or LTE Discovery. These apps will display your dBm reading which is the metric used to measure 4G and LTE signal strength. The lower the number is, the stronger the signal.
The bars displayed on your phone are a subjective measurement and can vary across phones, carriers, and even locations. Seeing the actual dBm reading is much more accurate and can help you figure out what’s causing your connection issues. Alternatively, most Android phones have a field test mode that can be accessed with a code.
4. Go to SIM Status
Although cell phone bars are supposed to indicate the strength of your network connection, this graphic is prone to changes with slight movements of your phone and can be misleading. This is why it’s important to know how to check cellular signal strength on an Android or iPhone more accurately using a dBm reading.
On Android phones, this information is available in the Settings app under Network or SIM status (depending on your phone model). If you don’t want to go through all of the steps, there are several apps available like NirSoft’s WifiInfoView that will show you your dBm signal strengths on the screen.
The dBm measurement indicates how close your signal is to zero, with a lower number being stronger. The closer your signal is to zero, the better it will be for making calls and sending texts and emails. Since the strength of a cell signal is constantly changing due to usage loads, it’s also best to use an app that can display this information in real time to help you find the ideal location for your next call or text.
5. Go to Field Test Mode
Many people rely on their phone’s signal bars when they are having trouble with making calls. However, these bar graphs are not always accurate and can give the wrong impression about your cellular signal strength. Using a field test mode instead is a much more accurate and reliable way to see your signal strength.
Most iPhones will allow you to activate a field test mode by dialing *3001#12345#* and then pressing call. From there you will get a menu with various options such as LTE, serving cell measurements, and rsrp0. This will give you a reading in decibels of the signal strength from the closest cell tower.
This number may vary from device to device but it will be expressed as a negative number and should be close to zero (ignore the minus sign). You can also access this information in Settings or through a third-party app on Android phones like Samsung, Google Pixel, LG, HTC, and others.