While the Apple iPhone is the single most popular smartphone worldwide, it's far from perfect. The iPhone suffers from poor signal quality when compared to other phones, especially in the United States. AT&T is the sole provider of the iPhone in the country, and its overtaxed and overstretched 3G network can cause signal loss, dropped calls and slow data connections. Here are some of the best ways to keep your cellular connection, and stay more connected more often.
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Things you need
- AT&T 3G Microcell
Hold the phone correctly. The iPhone's cellular antenna is located on the bottom of the device for all four models. Cupping your hand around the bottom of the phone during a call or normal operation can cause signal loss. This is especially true of the latest model, the iPhone 4. The metal band that wraps around the phone is actually a series of exposed antennas, and touching the seam on the lower left side of the band will cause a dramatic loss in signal strength every time. In low signal areas, this can be the difference between finishing a call and dropping it. Hold the phone gingerly by the sides with your thumb, index and middle finger, being careful not to touch the gap in the metal band on the lower left side. While this method works best with the iPhone 4, the lack of contact with your hand will also reduce signal loss on previous models.
Get a case. The drop in signal loss described in Step 1 is often caused by physical contact with the back or sides of your phone. A cell phone case can dramatically reduce signal loss by keeping your skin away from the device itself. Again, this is especially true of the iPhone 4 model, and similar results can be achieved by simply placing a piece of plastic tape over the gap in the metal casing on the lower left side. Of course, cases can also enhance the aesthetic value of your phone or help protect it from potential damage. Try Apple or AT&T stores for some of the most high-quality and fashionable cases, or try a more generic retailer or online store if you want something cheaper. Any case will do, so long as it completely covers the back (iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3Gs) or sides (iPhone 4) of the device.
Turn off 3G and using the EDGE network. Some of the data and voice problems that the iPhone suffers from are a direct result of its popularity. iPhones and other smartphones can hog the available bandwidth of your carrier's 3G network, especially in large cities. If you just need to make a call or text, or you want to surf nonintensive websites, it may be more effective to use the older EDGE network protocol. To do this, tap the "Settings" shortcut, then go to "General," then "Network." Switch the slider for "Enable 3G" to the off position to force your phone to use EDGE frequencies. You can re-enable 3G at any time in the same fashion.
Reset your iPhone's network connection. Re-establishing a connection with the cellular network can fix temporary reception problems. To do this, open the "Settings" shortcut, then go to "General," then "Reset," and then tap "Reset Network Settings." This step will erase any saved Wi-Fi passwords as well.
Power your iPhone down completely, then turn it on again. Believe it or not, this often results in better reception for a short time.
Call customer service. It's not uncommon for cellular towers to malfunction. If service levels rapidly decline for you and others in the area on the same network, there could be a problem with the local cellular site. Call your provider and ask if the network in your area is functioning properly. Even if there's nothing wrong, continuing complaints from many customers in a given area will often drive service providers to upgrade existing towers or build new ones to improve service. Remember: the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Try to obtain a femtocell. For customers who regular experience poor cell connection in their homes, AT&T and other service providers offer femtocells (pronounced fem-toe-sel), small cellular repeaters that use home Internet connections to augment and improve cellular service. The AT&T femtocell is called the 3G MicroCell, and it costs £97. Depending on your plan, there may be a monthly service fee as well. AT&T has been known to give 3G MicroCells to customers for free if they call customer service often enough. It helps if you're a long-time customer in an area with documented poor reception.
Use the AT&T Mark The Spot app. AT&T's network problems have been so well documented that the company released an application to let customers show them bad service areas directly. Download the free app from the App Store, and activate it when you drop a call, miss a text message or experience slow data transfer. You can send a service message directly to AT&T, documenting the place and time of your signal problems. This is immediate, pertinent and valuable data that will help AT&T's engineers and technicians to better address your area.
Tips and warnings
- All of these steps assume your iPhone is working properly. If none of the preceding helps, consider visiting your local Apple or carrier store. Representatives may be able to diagnose problems with your iPhone's hardware.
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