The basics of iOS are intuitive and in plain sight, but there are a number of features that are hidden, likely because their presence may over-complicate things and many users are not interested in them. Even so, these hidden features can certainly come in handy, and one of them is a numeric representation of the signal strength that can replace the basic dotted icon shown by default in your iPhone’s status bar.
Numeric values are much more accurate for determining signal strength and if you feel like this could be of use to you, know it’s very easy to unlock it and your phone doesn’t need to be jailbroken.
To begin with, you’ll have to enter Field Test Mode. This is a hidden menu where you can find information about the cellular network and nearby cell towers. To enter it dial the exact sequence as shown below:
In the Field Test page, tap on the dotted icon that represents your signal strength found in top-left corner, until it changes to a numeric value.
Right now, the signal’s numeric value can only be seen while you’re in the Field Test menu, but there is a simple trick we’re going to use so it stays in the status bar permanently.
Press and hold your phone’s Power button until the Power Off menu appears. Now, press and hold the Home button and after about ten seconds it will refresh and you’ll be redirected to the home page.
If you did everything right, the numerical representation of your iPhone’s signal strength should have been replaced the dotted indicator. And if you change your mind and want to return to the default dotted icon you can simply tap that area until the dots appear.
How to figure out the actual signal strength
The numbers are indeed a more accurate representation of signal strength, showing it in dBm (decibel-milliwatts), but far less intuitive compared to the dots. What you need to know, in order to determine signal strength based on these numbers is they’ll always be negative and the signal strength is better as the numbers go higher.
Even with a near perfect, five-bar signal which is somewhere between -40 and -77, you’ll still get negative values.For a one bar signal numbers will go down, roughly around -100 and -120 as you can see in the image above.
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