Apple’s app store doesn’t allow cell meter apps. That’s just wrong.

Friends, I’ve told you how hard it is to try to measure your cell signal strength. Bars are useless. You usually can’t even tell what frequency your phone is using. That’s why Solid Signal does a good business in cell phone signal meters like this one. A cell meter will let you know what frequencies are actually coming into your home or office. A fancier one like this one will even measure real carrier data. But those meters cost money, and it’s hard to get people to buy them if they’re not going to be used every day.

It should be easier

Personally, I recommend an app like Signal Strength. It’s free and it’s available on the Google Play store. Yes, it’s loaded with ads. But it’s actually pretty good if you want to measure the signal strength from the carrier you have. It won’t do much for the other carriers, but that’s a limitation of your phone, not of the app.

The only thing is, this app is available for Androids, and not for iPhones. In fact, there are no apps for iPhone that allow you to do this thing. You can measure your Wi-Fi signal strength, but not your cell strength.

iPhone field test mode stinks

Now, some folks will tell you that there’s a secret mode on iPhones called “field test mode.” They say if you dial *3001#12345#*  that you’ll get a hidden menu that gives you signal strength. Yes, that’s kind of true. Except, that mode doesn’t work really well. The “Serving Cell Measurement” only updates about every 10 seconds. And it’s almost always wrong, compared to what I get from a real signal meter.

Wrong? Yes, I don’t mean even a little wrong. When I look at the cell strength right now in my office (after I unplug the cell booster), the meter says my LTE signal is -85. That’s ok, not great. My phone says it’s -115. If that were true I wouldn’t have any signal at all.

Not only that, this menu has a nasty habit of disappearing completely about every other operating system version. Point is, it’s no good for doing what you want.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that Apple’s App Store rules don’t make sense. The goal of the App Store rules is to make sure that no app can get deep enough into the OS to cause problems. Certain kinds of apps, those which can modify system settings, aren’t allowed. Even accessing certain information within the OS isn’t allowed. This is all done so you have a safer phone experience.

But it doesn’t make sense. Because the iPhone is, after all, a phone, information about how it does its phone-type business is off-limits. I could kind of see that. But, information about Wi-Fi is OK, because that’s not a primary function of the phone. Or at least that’s what they tell me. To me it seems like a ridiculous double standard.

If Apple doesn’t want other people to have this information, like how you determine cell signal strength, fine. Let them come up with their own app, one that works. What’s it to them? I know that carriers would like you to think that there’s no worries. You know, that every populated place on Earth already has great cell signal. That’s not completely true, unfortunately. Carriers like AT&T do a great job, but there are still dead spots. And it would be nice if you could find out what they were without expensive hardware.

Hey, but doesn’t Solid Signal sell that expensive hardware?

Yes, we do. But personally I’d rather that the phones just got it right. We do sell a lot of cell signal meters but I have a feeling we would offset that with sales of cell boosters if people really knew how bad their signal was. In fact, you can shop for those cell phone signal boosters here. I just wish that it was easier for you to figure out that you needed one.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.