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In some parts of the world, the cell towers are few and far between. In places like these, when someone is shopping for their next smartphone upgrade, they need to consider cell reception.

Boosters may be a good option, but it lacks a mobile power supply and is uncomfortably bulky.

It seems clear that some phones would be better than others when it comes to cell reception, for example, in the modern world my Note II will hold 4G internet even if my USB modem will not.

But in places like these, the challenge is to get any kind of reception, let alone 4G.

How can one determine the strength of the cell antennae on the phone they are about to buy? Is there a place to look this information up, or a spec one could check on?

And does the method of determination change whether you are on a GSM or CDMA network?

  • Shopping recommendations are off topic here, sorry. Please see our help center for details. – Izzy Nov 6 '13 at 13:41
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    This is not a shopping recommendation. This is asking how to find the information needed to make a good buying decision. Precisely the kind of question called out in the Stack Overflow Blog as a "good" shopping question. – ale Nov 6 '13 at 14:53
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    It may be difficult to find a resource for this information. There are a lot of variables in signal reception. Antenna type, size, and design all contribute to its total gain and directionality. It's hard to find info about each phone's antenna. To make things even more complicated, different Radio firmwares (which you sometimes get in software updates) often have different properties that affect how a connection is recognized, established, and maintained. The exact same phone, when updated, can have hugely differing performance. – dotVezz Nov 6 '13 at 15:47
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I suggest you ask carrier reps in the area you are concerned about, as I am not aware of another way to get the information you are asking for. As others have mentioned, there are many factors that go into how well a phone will pick up, let alone how it will pick up in a certain area/location. I used to work for Verizon and this was a question we got a lot. What I can tell is that, at least for the location I worked at, we knew which phones picked up well and which ones didn't. If we had customers that lived in the country/rural area there were certain phones we would try to steer them away from. However, if the customer was not going to be in the country then that same phone may have been fine. Of course, as new phones launched we would eventually learn how they performed in different areas, so the information was constantly evolving. Having to help technologically challenged customers troubleshoot signal issues was a great incentive to learn which phones worked the best! Certain phones gained reputations for being great or horrible when it came to signal. You didn't want to sell an elderly customer a phone with bad reception unless you wanted them to pay you many angry visits in the near future!

All that is to say that you should spend some time asking people in the area who sell phones. I personally try not to venture into carrier stores too much, but this is one area where you may be able to get some help from carrier reps. Dealing with as many phones as they do they are in a unique position to know which ones work the best in their area.

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You can compare the specific absorption rate (SAR) between handsets. The number isn't precisely a measure of antenna performance, but the higher the SAR the more RF the phone is emitting. Also, I found a review (current as of 2013) of mobile antenna performance. Your best bet may be to buy a cell phone booster; check ubersignal.com for examples. They aren't perfect, but they do allow you to use a variety of antenna configurations, including using a directional (beam) antenna.

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One way is to use apps like openSignal on two separate phones. The signal strength of the tower obtained can tell which phone is better.

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