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How to Get The Best Reception On Your iPhone

Updated on December 9, 2015

How To Get The Best Reception From Your iPhone

The iPhone is one of the hottest selling phones on the market. It can replace your iPod, your PC in some cases, and help you manage your busy life. Unfortunately there are many places where you may have trouble making calls on your iPhone. The causes of poor cell phone reception are many but there is hope for iPhone users in marginal areas where just a small boost is needed. Here are some of the options available to boost iPhone reception.

Try An iPhone Booster Case

A company called Griffin Technology makes a protective case that also boosts the signal from the original iPhone. They do not yet make a booster case for the iPhone 3GS. It works by passively picking up the signal from the iPhone's internal antenna, which is located at the base of the phone, and radiating the signal up a solid copper wire that runs the length of the case. Don't expect miracles, but you might see an extra bar or two in marginal areas.

Try A Repeater Type Cell Phone Booster

No model of iPhone has a port for an external antenna jack. This is unfortunate but there is a solution. Some companies claim that a passive "patch type antenna" placed over the back of the phone can relay the signal to a traditional cell phone booster. It simply does not work in the real world. A better solution is an active, repeater type booster. These work for all models of cell phones, including the iPhone, but not Nextel. Using a roof mounted, high gain antenna, and a smaller antenna inside the vehicle, a repeater type cell phone amplifier picks up the signal from your iPhone and boosts it over 40 decibels. Repeater type boosters are made by Wilson Electronics and Digital Antenna (Powermax).

In real world language you may expect to see anywhere from one to four more bars on your phone and in an area where you show no signal you might get one bar and be able to make a call. Keep in mind that these boosters work by amplifying the incoming and outgoing signal from your phone and boosting it to the full legal limit of 3 watts, but they don't perform miracles. There are presently thousands of locations along major roads where cell phone signals cannot penetrate due to mountains, trees or because of distance. No booster will help in those places but it might in marginal areas.

The Thirty Mile Limit

Presently all iPhones in the United States work on the GSM network. Verizon and Alltell use a system called CDMA, which is as different from GSM as diesel is from gasoline. An iPhone, as they currently exist absolutely cannot be converted to work on Verizon or Alltell. GSM is an excellent transmission protocol. It locks into your signal and keeps you connected to the tower very well, however it does have one major flaw. Cell phone calls, both voice and data, are transmitted over GSM as "packets" or bunches of information.

Every so many milliseconds a snippet of code needs to be exchanged with the tower to say "we are reading you loud and clear, no errors". This handshaking, so to speak, occurs in microseconds. Once you get past thirty miles from an GSM tower, because of timing issues, the handshake cannot occur and you cannot make a call.

You might have five bars, thanks to a booster, but if you are over 30 miles from a GSM tower, such as AT&T, you cannot make a call, period.

Repeater Type Boosters Work Well In Most Situations

In most areas where you will travel you will find yourself less than thirty miles from a cell phone tower and the handshaking issue will not matter. You can make a call if you have good line of sight (a clear path) to the tower. In marginal cases a repeater type booster will help your iPhone reach the tower.

Keep Your Phone Charged

Finally, for the best reception on your iPhone, keep it well charged. A charged up phone has more transmit power.

For more on how repeater type cell phone boosters work see: Repeater Type Cell Phone Boosters


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