Do Some Smartphones Get Better Reception Regardless Of Carrier?

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A common Google inquiry is, “Which smartphone gets the best reception?” Is there really a phone that gives users better reception no matter what network they’re on? The actual answer is yes and no.

The SureCall blog is full of articles explaining the technology of cellular reception. We’ve discussed the science behind it, what causes bad cell signal, how to improve it, how to learn which carrier has good coverage in your area, and more. One thing we haven’t discussed is the claim that certain smartphones themselves get better signals than others. Can manufacturers develop their phones in such a way that they are prone to better overall reception? If so, which devices are they?

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Do Androids Really Get Better Overall Reception Than iPhones?

In recent years, many internet users claim Android phones get better reception than iPhones. Is this true? Is there available technology that would even make this possible?

The answer is not a hard no. But take the explanation with a grain of salt. Read all the way to the end before coming to any conclusions.

The PCMag Article

PCMag.com has an article on their site titled, “The LG V40 Has the Best Cellular Reception of Any Phone” that they released a few years ago (2018). In it, they say that iPhones consistently place second behind Samsung Galaxy phones in speed tests. After looking at their findings, it’s hard to argue with the data. It appears that, depending on strength of signal and the device you’re using, yes, Android phones get better reception.

As the article states, the LG V40 was the top performer for cellular signal. The study found that devices using Qualcomm performed better than phones that did not (iPhones use Intel). In low-signal conditions, Qualcomm phones worked faster and maintained those speeds for a longer period of time.

Some suspect that Android outperforms Apple in these speeds tests because Apple tends to be more hesitant when rolling out new tech compared to many of their competitors. Historically, they’re more cautious and usually choose not to release new tech the moment it’s available. Also, Qualcomm’s LTE-Advanced technology (as they call it) is a bit more robust than what Intel offers, even according to some 2021 reports.

So does this mean that Android phones will always get better reception than iPhones as long as Androids use Qualcomm? Exactly how much better is cell signal with an Android compared to an iPhone? If the tests say it’s better, how much better are we talking about? If you don’t use an Android phone and you have consistently poor signal, will getting one fix your problem?

Answers to these questions are below.

Is The Difference Really That Significant?

If you live in an area that has consistently strong cell signals, the speed discrepancy between iPhones and Androids is almost certainly going to be minimal. It could be so minimal that it’s unnoticeable. This is assuming that you’re an average, non-hardcore-gaming smartphone user who streams shows on their phone semi-regularly and checks social media every so often.

But if you are a hardcore-gaming smartphone user, using an Android may make a difference. For one thing, Android products are more popular in the gaming community. Android definitely markets themselves as being game-savvy and staying ahead of the curve with gaming technology as they develop their products. That’s not to say that Apple doesn’t, but it does seem more pronounced with Android.

However, if serious gaming isn’t your thing, our opinion is that you should not forget about the other factors that go into choosing the best phone for you. Reception is one of many. Plus, unless you’re using a smartphone that’s 5+ years old, poor cell signal is almost certainly not your phone’s fault. All new phones – especially ones made by big-time manufacturers like Apple and Samsung – have the most cutting-edge technology in them. Simply getting the newest model of the smartphone brand you’re currently using likely will have the same positive effect on your reception and speed as switching brands. The technology is constantly improving.

Changing Smartphone Brands Doesn’t Actually Fix Your Signal Issue

If you’re having signal issues, you need to consider the regular, common things that negatively affect cell signal before doing anything else. Tower congestion, distance from nearest tower, building materials – those kinds of things. If you don’t know how to locate your nearest tower, check out this article. Yes, Android phones have been shown to hang on a bit longer to weak signals. But why not actually address what’s causing your weak signal as opposed to just switching phone brands, which doesn’t truly fix the issue you’re having?

You could have the most powerful, state-of-the-art smartphone on the market. But if the signal strength where you are is poor or non-existent, the capabilities of your phone won’t matter.

What About Switching Providers? Can That Help Your Signal?

Sure. Different providers have different coverage maps, so you should absolutely do research on the coverage of the providers you’re considering. Maybe T-Mobile has better coverage in your area than AT&T, who you’re using now. Switching to T-Mobile in a situation like this will certainly give you better reception. Again, issues with poor signal are rarely the fault of the phone you’re using.

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What Are The Things About Smartphones Themselves That Actually Affect Cell Signal?

Good question! There are actually quite a few things.

Device Model

Are you using an old phone? The older your phone is, the less likely it will be compatible with the newest software updates, and the software updates are what keep your phone’s signal capabilities current. So, in general, older phones get worse reception than new ones.

So let’s return quickly to the original question: do some smartphones get better reception? Is there one that gives users the best possible signal? Not really, if you ask us. As long as you’re using a newer (or the newest) phone from LG, Google, Apple, or Samsung, it’s not going to matter. All of these devices will have the latest technology that taps into the best and fastest networks.

Antennas

The antenna is one of the most important components of your smartphone. But we hardly think about it because it’s an internal component. But that wasn’t always the case.

In the 80s, when consumer cell phone products were in their infancy, antennas on mobile phones were huge and on the outside of the device. This was necessary to capture the best signal possible. But with each passing year, as the technology advanced, the antennas got smaller to the point where today, you can’t see them because they’re inside the phone. The antenna was and is so integral to the functionality of a mobile phone that the size of phones themselves has shrunk mainly because antennas are smaller.

But sometimes phone manufactures put design and aesthetics over a quality antenna. Sometimes the antennas aren’t placed optimally inside the phone. When this happens, holding the phone in a particular way can block the signal from reaching the antenna inside. This is what happened with the iPhone 4.

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Does One Manufacturer Have The Best Antennas?

Knowing the importance of antennas, is there a particular company that has the best ones? Technically, yes. Intel and Qualcomm are the two main cellular technology antenna manufacturers. Though there are others, it’s unlikely that you’ve heard of them. But phones using Qualcomm antennas fared better than phones using Intel antennas. Reference the section above titled The PCMag Article.

A related study was conducted at Aalborg University by Dr. Gert Frølund. The study concluded that the more mobile radiation a phone emits, the lower the antenna quality of that phone becomes. Over 100 phones were tested. The phones that emitted the lowest amount of mobile radiation and subsequently had the best-functioning antennas were the Samsung Galaxy 11 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.

Firmware & Software

If it’s been a while since you performed a software update on your smartphone, and you’re experiencing signal issues, this is almost certainly one of the reasons why. The software and firmware of your device must be updated in order to perform at optimal levels, and that includes signal capabilities. If you’re not already, try to get into the habit of checking regularly if your phone is updated to its most recent software version. Checking 2-3 times per month should be sufficient.

Locked vs Unlocked

If you haven’t heard of an unlocked phone before, it’s the term used to describe a phone that is not tied to a specific carrier. Phones purchased with a provider’s service agreement are typically locked to that provider, meaning it’s configured to work specifically with that carrier’s networks. A locked phone has benefits over an unlocked phone. A locked phone gives the user features like powerful signal, fast data speeds, HD voice, and Wi-Fi calling. Unlocked phones rarely have these features, or they’re at least not guaranteed to.

If you have an unlocked phone, it could cause your phone’s poor signal. To tell if your phone is unlocked, insert a SIM card from a different carrier. If you have T-Mobile, for example, swap your SIM card out for an AT&T one. Does everything work the same? If so, your phone is unlocked – if it doesn’t, it’s locked.

Do Some Smartphones Get Better Reception Regardless Of Carrier? – Conclusion

Going to back to the original question, the answer is yes. If you get down to the nitty gritty, Android does tend to at least hold on to weak signals better than their competitors. However, Android phones do not have the ability to enhance signal, nor do any other phone. At SureCall, we recommend taking steps to actually fix your poor signal problem. One of the best ways to do that is with a signal booster.

If you’re having cell signal problems, 9 out of 10 times a cell phone signal booster will solve your problem. No matter what carrier you use, no matter what device you have, a signal booster is designed to enhance your signal to an acceptable level.

Browse our selection of signal boosters here.

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