3 Ways You Can Improve Smartphone Reception

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improve smartphone receptionWhenever I’m at my favourite pub (admittedly not often) or at my mother-in-law’s (sadly more often than I would like) I find that I have considerable trouble making a phone call. It’s so bad that I have to leave the house, and getting a data connection is considered alchemy within those four walls.

I’ve never quite been able to work out whether the problem is structural or environmental – it certainly isn’t down to my mobile network as in the case of my mother-in-law’s house, no one who sets foot through the door can use the phone.

It’s this that baffles me – how can mobile phone networks claim such high coverage when the majority of people can easily recall occasions when making a connection has been a trial? We’ve all stood on chairs with our phones held aloft, trying to “hook” onto a stray signal, but surely there is a better way to improve smartphone reception?

After all, if your phone is constantly trying to connect, your battery is going to run flat faster

The Simple Fix: Lose the Case (and Your Hand)

We’ll move onto some of the more unique and complex solutions below, but there are a couple of things that you can try to improve smartphone reception beyond standing next to a window.

improve smartphone reception

I’ve found that since I started removing my phone from its rubber case that my signal is much stronger, particularly when driving and streaming Nokia Music into my car’s sound system.

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The reason for this, of course, is because the case dampens the signal. It isn’t only cases that cause such problems, either. Remember Antennagate, when issues with users upgrading from iPhone 3 to iPhone 4 caused users to complain to Apple in their droves, forcing a response from the company?

Depending on the model, how you hold your smartphone is paramount to getting a good signal. It is worth spending a few moments to find the optimum “holding stance” for you to use the device without a loss of signal; if this isn’t possible, however, start relying more on your hands-free kit or headset.

Geographical and Environmental Factors

Don’t blame your poor reception on your hand, however; where you’re currently situated could be a cause of your bad signal.

Cell phone towers are situated based on their range, with the aim being to give users blanket coverage. This enables you to use your mobile phone wherever you are – within reason. The idea is that your phone automatically connects to the nearest tower, switching towers as you move around. Problems occur as you approach areas without a tower, and the strength of the signal degrades. When you can’t maintain a stable connection, calls are dropped and data won’t be received.

smartphone reception

Distance isn’t the only issue, however. Landscape can reduce your signal strength, so if you find that calls are dropping and data isn’t transferring, consider changing your position. Naturally if the problem is your entire property or place of work, this might be difficult, but hills, mountains, valleys and even trees can be as detrimental to a strong connection as a large steel structure (such as a tower, skyscraper or pylon) thick wall or pillar.

One way to avoid losing your cell phone signal when you travel is to make better use of your phone’s roaming settings. What would normally happen when travelling across the USA or from country to country is that as you lose your connection with the first mobile network you then connect to a second, based in the area you’re travelling to or passing through.

How you access roaming settings depends on your carrier and your device, but this system can be used to select a preferred carrier/network for a specific area or location.

Signal Boosters and Femtocells

An increasingly popular solution to improve smartphone reception is a signal booster, a device that comes in several different flavours. Should you choose this solution, you will need to make your decision based on your carrier and the band that your phone uses (2G, 3G, 4G LTE). Signal boosters work by amplifying the frequency of the radio waves carrying the data. Vehicle-specific versions of these devices can also be used, which are essentially cell phone variants of domestic Wi-Fi repeaters.

Another solution is to use a femtocell, which can be added to your home or work wireless router to improve cell reception. Essentially these are miniature cell phone towers, and if your phone is within 2500 feet you should experience a full-strength signal.

smartphone reception

Meanwhile, there are also some DIY signal boosting tricks that you might try, but these can have the effect of voiding your phone’s warranty as they involve opening the device. Insulated wire and even paper clips have been used, but neither is a great long-term solution.


Handling problems with your smartphone reception can mean doing something as simple as taking your phone out of its case, or as expensive as relying on a signal booster or a repeater.

improve smartphone reception

One is obviously cheaper than the other, but unless you’re experiencing issues while roaming, these are the only solutions available that don’t involve opening up your smartphone and affecting a fix that may or may not work.

Have you used any of these tricks, or have any methods of your own to improve smartphone reception? Let us know in the comments.

Images: Base station of cell phone under sunset (Shutterstock)Man angry with phone (Shutterstock)Multitouch smartphone with leather cover (Shutterstock)Paper clips (Shutterstock)

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Comments (26)
  • Gram

    I hate to add this but I bought a Galaxy S4 and had terrible reception at our house in the country, then I bought an iPhone 5–same problems. Our OLD clamshell phones both worked better than these new smartphones in our house. The broadband modem on the iPhone didn’t work, either–at all.

  • Jay H


    1. Radio frequencies “pour” down the roof like rain, are caught by the gutter and actually fall through the down spout. (Seriously) Outdoors are anyone’s best bet at bars, especially if your house has stucco walls, which contain chicken wire. (It acts like a semi-shield to signal.
    Low-E glass windows (which improve over-all home insulation) deflect signal entirely, wireless network signals too! These are marked with a small insignia (“Low-E” I believe is the logo) in one of the bottom corners
    Water, like that of a fish tank or a rain storm, diffuse signal effectively dulling it’s edge.
    This goes on and on so to learn more, do as I have and go to a library and check out a book on Home Networking.
    Thanx 4 reading, please correct if I err’d.
    We’re here to learn right? Or is it left…


  • Stephanie Staker

    Well, interesting stuff here! I can see why, at home, I don’t get full strength. First, huge trees pretty much everywhere plus I have a rubber case. Our house actually stands below the yard a bit (hard to explain) in the back. However, out in the car driving down the street, I get a great signal. Not much I can do about home but I am passing this info on to all my family and friends to see if it helps them.

  • S-online

    Once you get a signal, put the phone down so it wont move and place it on Speaker! A no-brainer, but few peeps seem to think of this.

    • Scott M

      You seem to have hit on the easiest and best advice.Thanks!

    • Degenerated S

      what if you get a good reception outside your house … would you place your phone on the road and let any vehicle crush it ???

    • Sean Graham

      Kinda difficult to do when you want privacy. Just sayin.

  • Julie Smith

    “… removing my phone from its rubber case … the case dampens the signal”

    If I remember my science correctly, insulators such as rubber should have no effect on radio signals, so perhaps the case is not pure rubber?

    Certainly anything conductive (such as your hand or any metal) that shields the signal will have an effect on signal strength. I find that holding my phone from the top helps in weak signal areas, because the antenna is in the bottom of my phone.

    • Christian Cawley

      That’s a very good point. The case seems to be some sort of plasticy PVC rather than rubber, on considered inspection.

    • Degenerated S

      man…. rubber or any other non metal only blocks the signal…

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.