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Cell Phone Reception Hack 142

New Breeze writes "Has this ever happened to you? Just when you need to make a phone call, the bars of reception are scant to none. But Graeme, who writes a blog called 'Earth: Mostly Harmless,' gives us hope. Succeeding where most would quit, he chronicled his ingenuity in a post titled 'How I got mobile phone reception where there was no signal.'" Update: 08/01 14:31 GMT by T : Note: Credit for this story belongs to Mike Yamamoto, who wrote it for CNET's
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Cell Phone Reception Hack

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  • Short version: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mobby_6kl ( 668092 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @05:55PM (#15820932)
    Use an external antenna. A lot of phones still have connectors for those, so no hacks required there.
  • Sitefinder (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jarg0n ( 882275 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @06:18PM (#15821106) Homepage
    Is there a US equivalent for "Sitefinder"?

  • Re:Bars (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:36PM (#15821870)
    I get the same thing, and judging by the other replies, it's fairly common.

    Last week, my T-Mobile Motorola phone would show 4-5 bars, and when I tried to make almost any call (including voicemail), it would sit for 5-10 seconds, then simultaneously drop to zero bars and show the "Call Failed" message. The interesting thing is that there were two numbers I could call that worked flawlessly: my house's landline, which is probably on my T-mo records, and the tech support number (I think I just dial 611 on my cell to get it). Further investigation on my own led me to believe that my phone was receiving a "fast busy" signal, but that the phone itself would just give the "Call Failed" message rather than let me hear it. Further investigation found that my friends who had been trying to call me received "fast busy" signals. -Further- investigation found that my sister's phone, which is also on T-Mobile, was having the same problem.

    I calmly told all of this to someone at support. The frontline person asked a few script-type questions which seemed to want to blame it on my phone or the local weather. Luckily, the weather was flawless that day and my sister's phone was having an identical problem. Since she couldn't blame it on either of those, she forwarded me to an actual -tech- support. The actual tech support person was also very polite, and seemed to be able to check network status for any sort of regional problems...unfortunately, she couldn't really do anything to help. The final answer was something like "we've had some reports of problems and the engineers are working on it"...I could tell that was the best I'd get. She did give me 50 extra minutes, which is at least something (although I also found out that there was now a plan identical to mine at the same cost except with an additional 300 anytime I guess I just got ripped off less this month).

    Further research on fast busy led me to believe that some part of the local network was saturated...seeming to me like the kind of problem that would have been anticipated in advance if there was any actual hope of it being solved.

    Anyways, my main advice:
    1) Don't be afraid to call tech support. If you do, be calm, be ready to wait a few minutes if need be...but first make sure that you do a few things:
    2) Before you call, try to verify that the problem is not your phone. Power cycle your phone. Try a couple numbers: cell phones, landlines, voicemail, and see what works or doesn't. Have a cell phone and landline call your phone. The more specific you can make your information, the less troubleshooting they'll try to talk you into on the phone, and the faster you can get things done.
    3) Don't expect anything major in return.
    4) Be nice!

    I've pretty much resigned myself to defeat as far as cellphones go. Only once have I ever felt like my cell plan was a good deal (and it was when I first started with T-Mobile). Before and since that time, I've always felt like I was getting ripped off in various ways that I couldn't control. I've never had service in my house/room, but I've almost always had perfect service in my friend's homes/rooms. And, it's pretty obvious that whoever is designing phones and their menu systems has never used a cell phone in their life: it takes at least a full half-second for any button presses to cause action on the screen. The menus are a mess. Several years ago, in about a 12 month period, ringtones went from being something that anyone could make their own and easily upload to their phone to a $1 billion industry. A $1 billion industry created in a year at the expense of consumers.

    Nothing anyone can do, because the convenience of a cell phone is still too nice to pass on, and they keep the prices just low enough that we'll still pay. Someone submit a story if some investors ever get together and offer relief somehow. :(
  • Re:Where to buy? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Myself ( 57572 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:15PM (#15822052) Journal
    Carriers won't put new service on an analog-only phone anymore. I spent an afternoon trying in March. I have a bag phone with a POTS simulator, essentially it's a Cellsocket or Dock'n'talk built right into the phone. Generates ring voltage and dialtone, interprets DTMF *and* pulse dial, and generally rocks. I wanted to find a prepay plan with free incoming and run a BBS off that sucker, with a 300 baud modem on a C64, in the back of my car just for kicks ;)

    Verizon's counter-kids don't even know what the word "analog" means anymore. When I talked to the old guy in back, he laughed me out of the store.

    The folks at Cingular, who I had service through several years ago but let lapse, thought it would "kick ass" to see "that old beast" running again, so we spent 2 hours trying to get their online activation system to do our bidding. I downloaded motbib23.txt and broke out the screwdriver while standing at the counter, but we couldn't get their system to take the phone's ESN. In the end it was fruitless.

    None of the other places I called would even acknowledge that "analog" or "amps" or "brick phones" ever existed. Bastards.

    If you find one, let me know...
  • Re:Where to buy? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:26PM (#15822108)
    Yeah, pretty much you can't. Sometimes the prepaid cellular places are laxer about what phones they'll activate (I guess not an issue with GSM phones). But, the remaining TDMA (let alone AMPS..) ones were using Cingular AMPS.. Cingular's TDMA prepaid billing provider lost some lawsuit, and Cingular was required to stop new TDMA accounts as of January 1.

              As for prepaid cos using Verizon or the like... with newer requirements for locatable phones (your location's supposed to be avaiable to within a block or so at least if you dial 911), well, older CDMA phones and AMPS phones aren't locatable accurately enough. Verizon etc. have been letting people with AMPS accounts keep them but aren't activating new accounts citing this as a reason.

              I think maybe there's a few way-out-of-the-way areas that still have AMPS systems.. I think you could activate AMPS on them 8-).

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