How to Tell If a Cell Phone Has a Good Antenna

By Mandy Slake

The cell phone's antenna picks up radio waves from nearby cell towers.
i cell phone tower image by Aaron Kohr from

When purchasing a cell phone, it's important to know whether the phone has a good antenna. A bad antenna can lead to frustration due to poor reception and dropped calls. Cell phone carriers will give you a return window of 15 to 30 days to test the phone out, so take advantage of this time period to make sure the phone is right for your area. The best way is to compare the signal strength to another phone on the same carrier's service.

Check the signal bars on the cell phone's screen. Cell phones have four to six bars. The more bars that show on the screen, the better the signal. No bars means no reception.

Compare the number of bars on the phone to the number of bars on another cell phone from the same carrier, preferably the same model. If one phone has no bars, and the other has full bars, the one with no bars has a bad antenna. Cellular carriers have towers in different locations. If you're comparing signals from phones on two separate carriers, one carrier's tower may be farther away.

Test the phone's reception in areas where you will be using it frequently. Try to make calls indoors and outdoors, and observe how many bars the phone has and the quality of the audio signal.

Power cycle the phone by turning it off and back on again. Sometimes the reception won't transfer to the closest tower if you are traveling. If your phone goes from low to no signal to full signal after powering it back on, this might be the problem.

Update the phone's preferred roaming list. CDMA phones have a list of carriers and towers in the phone that tells the phone what towers it can use while roaming. When in your home coverage area, you can update this list by dialing *228 and selecting the option to update the phone's roaming capabilities.