Recommendation? "Best" adverse reception area cell phone?

Discussion in 'Gadgets & Gear' started by Sid Post, May 22, 2020.

  1. Sid Post

    Sid Post

    Oct 14, 1998
    Ignoring cell tower and service provider differences, what are the "best" cellphones to own in areas with poor cell coverage? Realizing there are differences in CDMA and GSM, if the phone has reception differences in one format versus another please note that. I am also curious about cellphones that people may import from not-USA markets that might be a good option.

    In my case, a satellite phone is not a viable option primarily because of the significant cost. In the past I have owned both CDMA and GSM phones and I have lived in different parts of the USA so, I also realize there is really no substitute for better cell tower coverage. In Europe, I generally found superior cell tower and signal coverage so, with regards to foreign phones I'm thinking primarily of the Asian Pacific region mainly but, other areas like Africa or Australia may be enlightening as well.

    In my case, I live in a 'fringe' area of Texas and travel to Oklahoma very often so, I frequently lose coverage, hitting 'dead zones' which can problematic at times and just a minor annoyance on a personal call. I have owned OnePlus, Apple and, Samsung Galaxy phones exclusively for the past decade or more so, in general, that may bias my views a bit and let me miss hidden gems from other companies.

    The only other random though that occasionally hits is possibly a cellphone that supports an external high gain antenna that might be reasonable to use with a car or pickup. What is everyone using that is stuck in a 'fringe' area?

  2. Scott321


    Jul 20, 2016
    Have you tried googling "vehicle cell phone signal booster?" The Ama-zone has a few to check reviews on. I haven't used one so I can't vouch for one versus another.

    I've had Samsung, Nokia, Blackberry, LG, and Motorola. A dead zone was still a dead zone. Unfortunately my travels to the EU and Australia were before cell phones had internet, so that info is out of date. However, I've traveled to the Philippines a few times over the last 10 years. Cell signal is different depending on if you are in a city or out in the provinces or islands... then there's the different carriers that have coverage in different sections of the country. I'm assuming when you mention Asia, Australia, and Africa, you are asking about phones made there and not that you want to use them there. If you're on a budget, how much time you will be there, if you are expecting locals to call/text you there, internet options, etc. can play into phone choices when traveling to those areas.
  3. Sid Post

    Sid Post

    Oct 14, 1998
    Overseas, the frequencies used, and some other minor differences (like channel selections) can affect the use of USA based phones on foreign networks or vice versa. It is sort of like FM music radios that operate on slightly different frequencies in China versus the USA. A foreign phone 'might' be compatible with CONUS phone networks and offer advantages for me with attributes important to less-developed foreign cell phone markets.

    Ideally, I was hoping to find a "high gain antenna" version of an iPhone or Galaxy phone that would improve my chances of making or receiving a call while traveling CONUS primarily. If I were in a foreign country and needed to send or receive calls there, a local 'burner' phone and local sim card is likely my best option. Again, having one that might have a better antenna or signal strength could be important if I was traveling outside of major cities for business or pleasure CONUS.

    As you noted, with an area like the outlying islands in the Philippines, I could see a good market for a phone that has a better signal strength, probably through a superior antenna, having a valuable market advantage. That design philosophy might make the phone a bit bulky for well-developed markets but, it would also be very beneficial for someone like myself that travels in rural areas without great cell coverage.

    I will check out the Ama-zone car-based cell booster. A solution like that may prove to be most practical for me. THANKS!
  4. heresthedeal


    Oct 3, 2010
    My Google 4 works everywhere.

    The 25 dollar phone I bought on the street in Afghanistan worked like a charm in Europe and the US.
    My Google works in the elevator at basement level with 2 bars when everyone else is having issues.
    Supposed to have more antenna or something, worth a look.
    Sid Post likes this.
  5. Planterz

    Planterz Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 26, 2004
    I doubt brand really matters. The modem will most likely be a Snapdragon of some sort, manufactured by Qualcomm. So you could buy any of several different phones from different brands, but they'll all have the same hardware that connects you. iPhones might be different depending on the model, or it could be exactly like the Android, because Apple sources from Intel and Qualcomm.
  6. Sid Post

    Sid Post

    Oct 14, 1998
    I'm hoping to find one with a better antenna. Even with the same base hardware, a better antenna will make a weaker 'transmitter' or 'receiver' work better. A more powerful transmitter will take more power so a stronger battery would be needed and it would generate a lot more heat. Where I live, my current Samsung Galaxy S9 gets unpleasantly warm indicating it is working at a high broadcast power level to reach weak cell towers.
  7. ilten


    Feb 10, 2002
    I still have my Ericcson R250s pro.
    It came with 2 antennas. A short one for better reception areas, and the longer high gain antenna in the picture.
    Way better in the country : )
    I'm sure you can still find one. I do have the orange and green frontplate for it.
    No internet though.....
    Battery is probably dead. It has been sitting in a drawer for about 18 years or so....
    Sid Post and Piso Mojado like this.
  8. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    Certain areas have a higher concentration of cell towers for a particular company. You might ask folks in rural OK what companies they favor for cell phone service. For example, in KY that is AT&T land and my Verizon phone generally gets very limited coverage outside of the immediate area of the interstates or bigger towns/cities. This could have changed, but I doubt it.

    In the old days, analog phones did the best in rural areas with limited cell phone coverage.
    Last edited: May 29, 2020
  9. Sid Post

    Sid Post

    Oct 14, 1998
    Something like that looks like it would work really well for me! Thanks!
  10. Sid Post

    Sid Post

    Oct 14, 1998
    Part of the problem is the geographic changes I see while traveling. Verizon works well in some areas, ATT in others, etc.

    I've traveled with people that ran 4 cell phones to try and deal with the situation you describe but, that isn't practical for me. In fact, at that cost, a Satelite phone might become feasible today.

    An Iridium phone costs ~$900 which is reasonable but, the minutes get spendy pretty fast.
  11. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    Before I carried multiple cell phones where the cost and use does not justify their expense, I would install an antenna on my vehicle for my existing phone. I would think you would get better reception with that but I have no experience with them.

    The poor reception areas I frequent are generally mountainous and for the most part there is no cell phone towers that service those areas.

    Another option is a pay for use (buy minutes reloads as needed) with another company that might have a better tower density in the areas you travel. This would likely be one that you don't use much, but it would be available for those times you travel outside your dominant usage area.
    Last edited: May 31, 2020
  12. Piso Mojado

    Piso Mojado Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 11, 2006
    You have been using the best. Here are some other ideas.

    If you are using an Android phone, download Network Signal Info (KAIBITS Software GmbH). You don't need to pay for the "pro" version if you TURN OFF the settings switch for "do not share data." Letting the app share data lets you access the pro version's giant international database of cellular towers, which is the only part of the pro version you need. You'll get all kinds of information about your cellular signal and tower maps like this:


    There is no substitute for seeing what you're dealing with.

    Verizon has the biggest US network and the most expensive. A cheaper way to get their network is with Visible which is $40/month prepaid, unlimited (tethered devices capped at 5Mbps) and works with GSM phones.

    Google Fi is a big network alternative. Fully supported phones run on T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular networks, and automatically switch to the network with the strongest signal.

    Finally there is Wi-Fi calling, and T-Mobile has the best support for that. The last time I checked, for a $25 deposit they would lend you a pretty good wireless router. Actually, Wi-Fi calling is the first thing I turn off with a T-Mobile phone, because it's a laggy pain if you don't need it. If you do need it, it looks better. Stop at Panera Bread and make your call over a coffee and a scone. I've made Wi-Fi calls from hospitals with no cellular reception.
  13. Sid Post

    Sid Post

    Oct 14, 1998
    That looks promising. I have tried a couple of other similar tools but, usability was very low and the information provided was minimal.

    :eek: That's faster than my 'broadband' connection at the house which costs me over $100/month! My neighbor ~300 yards away gets 250Mbps for about half what I pay. Grumble, grumble ... :mad:

    WiFi calling for me doesn't work or works poorly. ;) Even my house connection with its 1.5~3.1Mbps connection doesn't support it very well.

    In terms of public WiFi, that is easier said then done traveling in more rural areas. Sure, not a big deal in major cities but, in rural America, it isn't practical, especially when driving though and trying to reach someone on the phone or get a Google Map update.

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