No cell signal? Best ways to boost signal strength when your calls won’t go through
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 reestablish 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.
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 cellphone 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.
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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.
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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.
Bonus Tip: How Bezos, Musk, and Buffett pay no federal taxes and a bonus for anyone who owns a home
Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Explains” on Apple, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player.
ProPublica obtained IRS information showing how billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett pay little in income tax when compared to their massive wealth — sometimes, even nothing. I sat down with an experienced tax accountant who works with wealthy clients to get the scoop. Plus, we talked about special tax credits to lower your taxes.
Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.