General Question

robmandu's avatar

How come cellphone signal-strength bars are so often wrong?

Asked by robmandu (21293points) October 18th, 2007

I’ve often been dropped from calls when I have 5 bars (full) strength signal. Or, on other occasions, I’ve noticed, while on a call that signal strength falls to nothing, the call drops, and then, at that point, the signal jumps to full strength. What the?

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4 Answers

bob's avatar

Sometimes what you’re seeing is the cell phone switching from one cell tower to another. Tower A gets further away and the phone switches to tower B. If that process goes wrong, the phone can’t hand off the call properly, so it drops out of service on tower A, then connects to tower B and reestablishes full service—but without your phone call.

As for getting dropped from calls with full signal strength, that’s weird. Could be the other person’s phone, or you phone / service could be weird.

deannnnn's avatar

also, sometimes phones exagerate the actual signal strength. Like for example, your phone won’t actually show less than all of the bars until your signal gets really bad

hearkat's avatar

I got together with friends recently and we all have iPhones… there we stood together in Central Park NYC and each of us had different levels of bars and some had Edge while others didn’t… I don’t get it.

robmandu's avatar

Wow… nine months later, I stumbled across the answer.

In short, the number of bars indicates signal quantity, not quality. Along with the signal, there could also be a lot of noise, too.

A high-signal strength is like your friend shouting at you. A high noise level at the same time is like your friend shouting at you while you both stand in the front row at a rock concert.

(Actually, for phones and Wi-Fi, it’s often more like your friend shouting at you while you’re both attending a rock concert in an echo chamber.)

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