We accept, as standard, that the tiny bars that appear on our smartphones demonstrate to us how strong or weak our signal is.
However, while that is true up to a point, the actual picture is a little less coherent and, for want of a better word, “correct”.
In short, explains Steve van Skike, senior manager of Test and Regulatory for Nextivity, there is no actual standard across handsets.
Speaking to Digital Trends recently, the expert said that while the bars do equate to signal strength – that’s pretty much universal – it’s “up to the manufacturer to come up with whatever algorithm they want”.
“The way these things work is that the handsets report what they see back up to the network, and then the network tries to make an intelligent choice as to what technology, band, channel,” he elaborated.
“The handset is going to use for its next communication. It’s not always based on how strong the signal is.”
The lack of uniformity is a surprise, as it can deliver results that are not quite correct. However, for the most part, the more bars, the better the signal (although, as Mr Skike notes, “it doesn’t mean the service is reliable at all).
So where does that leave you? Well, pretty much as you are, in a position where you never quite know how accurate your signal is.
Additionally, the strength of your signal depends on where you live and what provider you have a contract with.
As Ofcom has explained: “Just because you enjoy a strong signal with your current provider doesn’t mean that a competitor will necessarily provide the same coverage.”