How to Increase Cell Phone Reception With Verizon

A quarter of consumers consider improving cell phone coverage and quality to be the most important issue with cell phone use, according to the 2013 Annual Consumer survey conducted by MyWireless.org. Poor signal strength drains your phone battery as the phone uses power to search continually for a better signal. You can try software or hardware solutions to improve your Verizon cell phone reception, but before you do, try the quick fixes that might help when you're already on a call.

Quick Fixes

Cell phone signals are blocked by physical obstacles, which include the walls of your house or building, other nearby buildings, hills and mountains. One way to improve your reception is to move somewhere with fewer obstacles between you and the cell tower. Even if you don't know the direction to the nearest Verizon cell tower, three simple actions can improve your Verizon signal when you're on a phone call.

Step

The more you move around while you talk on the phone, the harder the phone has to work and the spottier your reception may be. So, stop moving. If your reception doesn't improve, move on to the next step.

Step

Move to a higher floor in your house or building if one's available; even standing up can help. The higher you are, the less likely an obstacle is between you and the cell phone tower.

Step

Glass windows permit better signal strength than walls permit; neither can interfere with your signal when you're outside. Move next to a window while you talk or go to an open space outside your home or building.

Software Solutions

Echo Test

If you often experience poor reception in a location you visit frequently, scout out the area for the best reception before you're on an important call. An echo test is an easy way to do this.

Call (909) 390-0003 on your cell phone to perform the test. This number is a publicly available PSTN test number designed to test phone call quality. When you connect, you won't hear a ring or any sound; just wait a few seconds, talk, and your voice is echoed back to you. Walk to different locations in your home or building and talk in each location or as you walk. Your voice is sent both ways on the phone line, so you hear when the connection is poor either for talking or listening.

Find Your Cell Tower

Use the Open Signal app to guide you to the locations with the strongest signal. Open Signal shows you the direction of the strongest Verizon cell tower signal and displays a map of cell towers near you. You can download Open Signal from the Apple App Store or Google Play, where it shows in search results as 3G 4G Wifi Maps and Speed Test.

The OpenSignal app displays an indicator at the top pointing in the direction of the nearest cell tower, and other options on the bottom
The OpenSignal app on iPhone
credit: OpenSignal

Update Your Verizon Roaming Capability

Verizon adds and changes cell phone towers periodically, especially in large urban areas. Your phone doesn't know when cell towers are changed and new cell towers are added, so it may connect to towers that are old or far away. However, you can manually update your phone's list of cell towers to improve your reception.

Android

To update your Android phone's roaming capability:

1. Call 228 on your Verizon phone. A banner at the top of the screen says "Activate your phone". A voice prompt says "Welcome to Verizon Wireless programming" and prompts you to press 1 to program or activate your phone or press *2 to update your roaming capabilities.

Your phone will display "Activate your phone" at the top and "Please wait while your phone is being programmed" in the center, with "Back" and "Speaker" buttons below.
The update roaming capabilities screen
credit: Google, Inc.

2. Press 2. You're prompted by the recorded voice to "Wait while your phone is being programmed." After about a minute, you'll see "Your roaming capabilities have been updated successfully." Your phone displays a message that begins "Your phone is now activated."

Your phone displaya a message --  "Your phone is now activated. It may take up to 15 minutes for service to start."
Message indicating that your roaming capabilities have been updated successfully
credit: Google, Inc.

iPhone

To update your iPhone's roaming capability:

  1. Open Settings and select the General Category.
  2. Scroll down to the bottom and select Reset.
  3. Choose Reset Network Settings. If you have a security code, you are prompted to enter it, and then you are prompted to confirm the reset.
The Reset Network Settings confirmation prompt appears at the bottom of the Reset screen.
Reset Network Settings screens
credit: Apple, Inc.

Force Your Phone to Reconnect to the Network

Sometimes your phone connects to a cell tower with poor reception and doesn't look for a tower with better reception even though one might be available. This may happen, for example, if you have a good connection in one room and then move to another room where reception is weak. Although it's normally a good thing for your phone to avoid changing cell towers frequently because cell tower-hopping drains battery life, you can force your phone to disconnect from the cell tower and search for a stronger connection.

The simplest way to connect to a new cell tower is to reboot your phone. For a quicker method turn Airplane Mode on, wait a few moments, and then turn Airplane Mode off again. In both cases, when your cellular service restarts, your phone automatically finds the cell tower with the strongest signal in your current location.

Airplane Mode is the first selection in the iPhone Settings screen
The iPhone Settings screen with Airplane Mode enabled
credit: Apple, Inc.

Hardware Solutions

Verizon sells hardware signal boosters to boost the strength of the Verizon signal in your home or other building. The booster requires wired high-speed Internet access. Although there's a good chance that a signal booster will improve your reception, it's not guaranteed. If reception is poor because of thick or heavily insulated walls or floors, which is common in industrial buildings, even a signal booster may not penetrate sufficiently to give you strong reception.