How To Survive Horrible Mobile Phone Reception

How To Survive Horrible Mobile Phone Reception

You probably use your mobile phone as your primary phone line, and since it’s with you all the time, that’s extremely convenient. It turns into a problem, however, when you’re stuck with crappy reception. If you regularly deal with bad service — whether at home, at work, or anywhere else you frequent — here are a few of the best ways to deal with it (short of moving).

Note: For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to talk about getting bad reception in your home as an example, but these tips can work just about anywhere, like your office.

If you have a little bit of reception to work with — say, one bar, or salvageable service in certain places in your house, there are a few things you can do.

Find the areas in which you get service: If you’re lucky, there may be a few spots (like by windows, doors, or away from big appliances like TVs and microwaves) where you get service. The quickest and easiest solution is to just make sure you don’t venture out of these areas when you’re talking. Make a mental (or physical) map of where your phone works and where it doesn’t. Obviously, this isn’t the most ideal, but it’ll work in a pinch.


Use a Bluetooth headset: If there’s an area of your house in which you get good reception, a quick and easy solution (that we’ve mentioned once before) is to pick up a Bluetooth headset, leave your phone in a good reception area, and just talk via Bluetooth. The range isn’t incredible (so, if you have a big house, you’ll need a few designated “good reception” areas), but it’ll let you move around a little more while still getting enough reception to talk.


Upgrade your antenna: If your phone supports installing an external antenna (which many do, nowadays), you may be able to buy a (relatively) inexpensive external antenna and an adaptor for your particular phone. There are quite a few external antenna models available, but many are designed to be used in cars, and will only work when mounted on the surface they’ve been designed for — magnetic ones need to go on metal, and glass ones need to go on glass. They should still work, but just be aware of which one you’re buying. Also note that these will need to be wired up to your phone, effectively making it as useful as a landline. You won’t be able to walk around your house, but again, it will keep you from having to talk with leaning your head out the window.

Try another phone: Again, it isn’t ideal, but if you found that part of the problem is your phone, using a different one might help you out. In fact, you’ll probably get better reception if you use one of those old phones you have lying around in the basement. Old phones often get much better reception, usually due to the giant antennas they have sticking out of them. If you’re a smartphone fanatic, you won’t like this option, but you can at least use them inside and swap their SIM card back into a new phone when they leave the bad-reception building.


Install a repeater: Sadly the most reliable non-VoIP option is also the most expensive. There are a number of pretty good cellular repeaters out there, that when installed, can spread some much better service across a room or two. Unfortunately, they cost about two or three hundred dollars, so unless you’re hell bent on avoiding using your computer to make phone calls, you’ll have to plop down some cash if you want maximum range and reliability.

Having bad mobile phone reception is annoying, but it doesn’t have to make your life more difficult. Got any of your own tips for surviving bad reception? Share them with us in the comments.


  • Perhaps you should mention that mobile phone repeaters are illegal in Australia since they cause interference to other services and you would be using an unlicensed transmitter on a licensed band.

    The guys in the Repeater Detector Van would show up pretty quickly.

  • There are some useful suggestions in here and a lot of not so useful ones too. I’m going through this exact problem with Vodafone at the moment; I have decent reception outside my home, but patchy (and often non-existent) reception inside. It makes me wonder if they’ve used lead paint when they built the place [end sarcasm].

    Finding the areas around your home that DO have service is a given – I’m surprised this was even added as a suggestion. I’m yet to find a person who sits and complains about no service without wandering around from a room or two to try and pick up their providers signal.

    Bluetooth headsets aren’t such a bad idea, but let’s face it – they make you look like a dork. Plus they’re no use for anything other than receiving (or if you have voice dialling enabled – making calls). It’s certainly not an option I’m giving much consideration.

    The antenna upgrade solution isn’t bad either. In my own case, the worst black spot in my house is ironically on the couch – one of the main places I would like to be able to use my phone. I’d more than happily consider being tethered if it meant I could use my phone where I want it most. I might yet check out whether an external antenna is available for my phone, and how much it would cost.

    The suggestion of trying another phone is purely ridiculous. Regardless of whether the current phone is being paid for outright or via contract – the vast majority of handsets are not cheap commodity items. No one is going to want to have a brand new phone sitting in a cupboard that they’ve just wasted a few hundred dollars on, while they use a phone purchased 2-3 years ago. Further, the suggestion of swapping SIM cards is just as ludicrous. Firstly it’s a hassle to do, secondly it also means resetting the clock and a handful of other functions on many phones, not to mention loosing use of inboxes and address books from one phone to another.

    The repeater suggestion has its own pitfalls for Australian readers. I’m pretty sure use of such devices are illegal in Australia (obviously this article is taken from US lifehacker) and while I doubt there’s anyone policing their use, it does mean adding additional hassle in sourcing a compatible product internationally, and even further expense in importing to product here.

    One suggestion that I’m VERY shocked to see wasn’t suggested was use of VoIP. All (Australian) mobile telco’s allow call forwarding, and most smart-phones are VoIP capable (either natively, or via an app). Diverting incoming calls when “no service” to a VoIP number attached to your phone (which in turn would be connected to your home’s WLAN signal) would be a doddle. If your VoIP provider also provides voicemail – even better for times when you’re legitimately out of signal (i.e. up in the air, or out in the sticks). Obviously, there’s a pitfall in this solution in that it doesn’t help for SMS retrieval – though most of these solutions offered by the author do little on this topic anyway.

  • I’m using an iPhone on Vodafone and have found that switching off 3G can improve my reception dramatically. In some areas I can’t even make a phone call with 3G on, but with it turned off there are no problems.

  • What about modifying the phone itself? Why does one T-Mobile phone get better reception than an identical T-Mobile phone? Can I make a modification to internal antenna?

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