At one point in the iPhone antenna blunder Apple tried to hide behind smoke-screen, claiming they discovered an error in how they calculated signal strength to be translated to those ever-important bars the iPhone (and all phones) uses. They would issue a software update, that would fix the problem – or not, as we now know, the culprit being the antenna design, not just the graphical representation.
Now there’s an entire article @ the Wall Street Journal lamenting just how meaningless these bars are, since all handset manufacturers have their own arbitrary interpretation of what is 1 bar or two .. three .. four. In fact signal indicators vary between different models of the same manufacturer.
But why are we kept in the dark? Why can’t we get real, standardized, comparable numbers? Turns out we can. Just not on the iPhone. When I recently compared two Android phones the HTC Incredible and EVO, and two carriers, Verizon and Sprint, I did not have to resort to subjective bar settings. That would have been comparing apples (not Apple!) and oranges.
All I had to do was download the free Real Signal app from the Android Apps Market. This app displays the real signal in dBM, and also provides two independent bar displays – similar to the “stock” bars on your phone, except this one can be calibrated. For example given the poor reception in my area by any carrier, I only ever see 1-2 bars on the stock display – might as well re-calibrate the display to between –85dBM to –110dBM, which is all I can get. This way I get to compare any phones and all carriers – no more BS, no more dumb bars.