MSNBC has one of those ‘tech myths debunked’ articles and there’s one that’s pretty interesting to me. It’s the link between the number of bars you see and the service you receive. We typically think that if you have five bars that means you have a strong signal and if a call drops, well it couldn’t have been you. “But if you’re connected to a tower that lots of other people are connected to, you could have a strong signal and still have poor service, since everyone’s calls are competing for scarce network resources.” Aside from that, there’s still the reality of the data flowing though the actual network that also has to perform (and is independent of the number of bars you see). In fact, they tested this in 2009 and found that in 12 of 13 cities the number of bars and the service were not correlated. “In San Francisco, for one, signal bars correlated with service quality in only 13 percent of test results.” I never knew this but it does make sense. I guess I can go back to blaming all dropped calls on the iPhone. I know that somehow it’s screwing everything up for me…


  1. when the iphones got picture messaging the cellphone tower crashed here in San Luis Obispo. Nobody on ATT was able to call or send texts. It was really bad. My phone at the time however was reading the normal 4 or 5 bars. Just thought id further confirm the independence between service and bars

  2. thats a bunch of crap, it should have been “bars have no correlation to how much traffic is on the network”. bars do display how much signal strength you have, and that does relate to cell service that you get because if youve got 2 people on a congested tower and one has better signal than the other, his request to the cell tower will be read faster and connect his call faster leaving the guy with fewer bars not being able to call because the tower is then at capacity. its amazing what people try to make correlations out of with “studies”… they just end up confusing most people

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