KIM KOMANDO

Best ways to boost signal strength when cellphone call won’t go through

Jul 11, 2021, 5:00 AM
(Unsplash Photo)...
(Unsplash Photo)
(Unsplash Photo)

Today’s tech means we’re always connected — when our connections actually work the way they should.

Is your Wi-Fi crawling? No one has time or patience for that. Tap or click for 10 smart ways to fix your slow internet connection. Know the tricks before you need them.

While you’re at it, there’s a lot you can do to speed up your computer. Tap or click for six simple ways to get a boost. No IT degree is needed, I promise.

Next on the list is overcoming a spotty cell signal. It can be downright dangerous when you can’t make a call when you need to. These tips can help.

1. Rule out the basics

A fully charged battery is your friend. A nearly dead one could be interfering with your signal. Charge up and see if that remedies the issue. I always keep one of these portable chargers from Anker in my bag in case of emergency. It’s reliable and inexpensive.

Are your signal problems new or worse? Try removing your phone’s case. Depending on how thick it is and what it’s made of, it could be mucking up your coverage.

Finally, be sure your phone is up to date. Running the latest operating system patches security flaws (always a plus!) can make your device run more smoothly. Older versions of software could cause, or at least contribute to, connection issues.

To update your iPhone, open Settings > tap General > select Software Update. If an update is available, select Download and Install.

To update your Android, open Settings. Choose System > Advanced > System update. Follow the steps on the screen.

Note: If your phone no longer receives updates, it’s time to upgrade to a newer model.

2. Try the good old IT standard

What’s the first thing an IT pro will have you do if a gadget isn’t working correctly? That’s right, turn it off and then back on. It’s a classic because, more often than not, it works.

Before you power down altogether, first try toggling on Airplane Mode. Turning this setting on and then off forces your phone to re-establish its connection to the network.

On an iPhone or Android, navigate to the Control Center by swiping up or down on your phone’s screen, depending on which model you have. Then tap the Airplane Mode button.

Wait at least five seconds and tap the Airplane Mode button a second time to turn off the feature. If that doesn’t do the trick, completely power your phone down, wait a beat, then power it back up.

3. Find another spot

The clearer the path to the closest cell signal, the better your service will be. If you have a weak connection, change your location.

Some building materials can function almost as a faraday cage, killing your connection. If you’re inside, try positioning yourself closer to a window or go outside. Go upstairs if you’re on a lower level.

To optimize your location, try a cellphone tower search site. CellMapper is easy to use and has a ton of filtering options. Set your country, provider, and network speed, then enter your address in the Location Search field. Hit enter and you will see the closest cell towers.

4. Boost your signal

Let’s say your home is a cellular dead zone. You can call via Wi-Fi (more on that below), but you can first try a cell booster.

A booster works in any location with an existing cell signal that needs amplification. They are
relatively easy to use and install, but they can be a little pricey, given that cell signal boosters contain cellular radios in them.

One popular option from Amazon is the weBoost Home Boost signal kit. It works with all U.S. carriers, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Straight Talk, and U.S. Cellular. You simply connect the booster to an outdoor antenna. No tools or drilling are required.

At 60 dB max gain, the booster won’t interrupt carriers’ signals to and from the cell tower. With 20 dBm in uplink-output power and 12 dBm in downlink-output power, the booster easily reaches cell phone towers.

Alternatively, you can purchase a femtocell from your carrier. It uses your internet connection to establish a better cellular connection. Make sure you have a strong internet line before getting one or you’re flushing away money.

5. Switch to Wi-Fi

No luck so far? You can skip a lousy connection altogether with Wi-Fi calling. If you often experience signal issues at home or work, your internet connection may be a more dependable option.

On an iPhone, open Settings > scroll down and tap Phone > Wi-Fi Calling. Then, toggle the button next to Wi-Fi Calling on This iPhone to the right to turn it on. Wi-Fi Calling is now enabled.

On Android, open the Phone app, then tap More or the three-dot icon to open the menu. Tap Settings. Select Wi-Fi calling. If you don’t see the option, your carrier may not support it.

Making calls via your Wi-Fi connection may provide you with clearer reception than your cellular network does. Keep in mind you may still experience poor signal strength when browsing the internet or using an app.

6. Communicating at 40,000 feet

Now, this tip won’t boost your signal strength, but it might help you get a message across in an emergency.

I was on a plane last week flying from Santa Barbara, California to Phoenix. There is a part of the desert where a plane’s Wi-Fi drops out for about seven minutes. My mother was in the ICU and the hospital needed my permission to do an immediate procedure as I am her power of attorney.

With no Wi-Fi or way to make the call, I opened the Voice Recorder app on my phone and recorded a note giving the required consent. Fortunately, I was able to text the recording to my sister at the hospital, who played it for the attending physicians.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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Best ways to boost signal strength when cellphone call won’t go through