Become a MacRumors Supporter for $50/year with no ads, ability to filter front page stories, and private forums.

jay968

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Apr 2, 2019
351
181
California
Well after a month of reading threads and trying to get info on receiving signal strength on the new iphones, I finally broke down yesterday and purchased an iphone mini.

I've been very curious about that signal strength, and I have read all kinds of conflicting reports based mainly on the bars on the phone and the download speeds (neither of which are true indicators of signal strength). Using an app on my 2 Android phones and using field test mode on the iphone (there is no signal strength iphone app), I have done many comparisons over the past day and a half and found that, the iphone mini (at least the one I have) is not doing very well as far as reception is concerned. It's unbelievably inconsistent too.

Anything below -90dBm is a good signal. Anything below -70dBm is a very good signal. In an area where my Androids always get between -70 and -80, the iphone in the same location occasionally comes close but is usually more likely to be between 8 and 15dBm worse than either Android. This is actually as bad as any iphone I have ever done this comparison with. What's even more interesting is that the differences can range anywhere from a couple of dBm to more than 15dBm difference at any given time. It almost looks as if the iphone is constantly trying out different cell sites, even the poor ones to get a signal to hold onto.

Interestingly, the bars on the phone rarely go below 4, and the download speeds are very good. It seems as though Apple (or my carrier, T-Mobile) has gotten very liberal in the bar display, keeping them higher for a given signal than they used to, thus giving a false impression of great signal. What's a much better indicator is the dBm measurements, and they are not very convincing.

Not sure if I just purchased a dud, but I can certainly see why so many people have had issues holding onto signals with these phones. I've owned many iphones in the past and none have shown as good results as the Androids but they have all been better than this. An Xr that I had was actually very close showing maybe only 3 or 4dBm lower than any Android I've owned. But this one? Being routinely 15dBM worse? I really was hoping that the switch back to Qualcomm may have helped these phones, and it did as far as download speed is concerned, but I honestly think that as far as signal strength goes, they may actually be worse than the Intel modems used in the iphone 11 series. My results with this mini have certainly shown this to be the case.

I do have ios 14.2.1 installed and have not had one bit of trouble with the touch screen or anything else for that matter. The screen was a bit yellow at first, but it's stabilized in the past day and actually looks pretty good. By the way, turn off true tone and it won't look as yellow. But this signal strength issue just may be a deal breaker for me.

I'm not giving up yet though as I do like the size of this phone more than anything. If anyone is interested, I'll report back as I am not in a position to return it till after the holiday anyway.
 
Last edited:

AlumaMac

macrumors 6502
Jan 25, 2018
283
340
I’m having the same issue with reception. Was running errands in a 5 mile radius yesterday and the reception was all over the place, but it was mainly 1 bar which rendered any internet use futile. I’m coming from an iPhone 6 and never had any issues in the same geographical area. Based on the amount of complaints I’ve seen posted I’m assuming a software fix will be released....hopefully.
 

jay968

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Apr 2, 2019
351
181
California
OP,
You didn’t state if you have the phone set up for 5G auto, 5G ON, or LTE only. In my opinion, that can make a big difference.
It is set for 5G auto.

I'm still doing comparisons and probably will for the next day or so. I just did a comparison against my wife's 11 pro max and see similar results. So I at least know now that there isn't likely anything wrong with my mini.

Last night, I measured a -95dBm, then did a speed test which showed almost 300mbps. Not that -95 is terrible, but to get that kind of download speed at that level is actually pretty remarkable. At the same time though, my Samsung phone measured -78dBm...an unbelievable difference. Though its download speeds were actually a bit slower. So one thing for sure...the Qualcomm modems do seem to handle speed on the iphones very well. I just wish the reception was better on them. Again, not that -95dBm is bad, but something is wrong if a phone sitting in the same spot is getting -78dBm.

I am going to drive around to some various bad spots with both phones to see if the iphone can actually hold a call in these areas. This should be the turning point for me as to whether to keep this phone or return it. I'll come back and post results when I find out.
 

DumbPhone

Suspended
Sep 6, 2020
285
437
before im put auto 5g...very bad...not change lte when 5g no good...now put only lte all the time now good...i live portland 5g good only stay one place not move...kaa:)
 

AppleForTheTeacher

macrumors member
Nov 17, 2020
51
34
Murfreesboro, TN
iPhone 12 Pro here. Spent the past 5 weeks having barely 1 mbps down and 0.10 mbps up. Couldn’t make or receive calls and texts consistently and calls failed every 2-3 minutes. Location didn’t matter, it happened the same everywhere. Did all the troubleshooting, had the sim replaced, got a replacement phone, had the sim replaced again. Nothing changed. The highest level tech support at Verizon said it seems to be a widespread issue with about half the phones being affect. They sent me another replacement phone yesterday. Now I am getting 15-25 times the speed I was getting before and everything seems to be working fine. It seems like certain batches have something faulty, and Verizon said it is likely the antennas. So my advice would be pester your carrier for a replacement until you get one that works.
 

jeremymayf

macrumors newbie
Nov 6, 2020
2
7
Mini here set to 5g auto, Verizon. Reception was a big concern purchasing this phone. Live somewhat in the sticks and work in a surgical unit deep within the bowels of a hospital. So far has actually been very good. Don't use alot of data, but do spend a fair amount of time on calls.

At the hospital, there are several locations where reception is poor, staff complain about signal loss across platforms-both iphone/android. Mini has been great and calls have been uninterrupted with crystal clear sound quality even at the known dead spots. At the house, we've always had acceptable, but fringe connectivity. In other words, we could always make a call, however, you could count on some static each and every call. Here again the mini has been great, clear without hiccups or interruptions. Finally, go mountain biking a couple times a week in an area that even the Verizon map reports as sketchy with blacked out spots. The old phone would disconnect a call about half way to the trail and become intermittent-texts but no calls. 3 trips in the last 1 1/2 weeks, made calls on each trip just to see--was able to hold conversation with good call quality all the way to the parking lot at the trail head.

I know the above is not all that scientific, but overall I am finding the mini's reception to be very respectable. Disclaimer: old phone was a Note 3 with Verizon via Boom mobile. New phone: unlocked Iphone mini purchased directly from Apple with Verizon via Xfinity by the gig plan.

Cheers,
Jeremy
 
  • Like
Reactions: asleep and brucemr

jay968

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Apr 2, 2019
351
181
California
OK, I tried putting the phone into 4g only but that made no difference at all. I think it may make a difference if you have spotty 5g service and the phone is constantly switching. I think this is the biggest reason Verizon users are having the most trouble. Verizon's 5g service is terrible because they chose to go with ultra wide band which has the worst coverage of any of the options.

Since we are basically not able to celebrate Thanksgiving here, I took a drive today to a couple of bad coverage areas with the iphone mini and the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G. While the Samsung did have slightly better dBm readings, the difference wasn't that bad and I tested calls between the two phones. Everything was fine. The calls held, there was no breaking up, and I was satisfied. Reception on both phones was between -100 and -110 at any given time in these areas. Still not that bad, but bad enough to cause problems in some circumstances.

So I have actually yet to drop a call and even with the sometimes poor dBm readings on the iphone in field test mode, everything seems to be ok. I suppose the ultimate test would be in a really bad area.

One issue that I did run into today literally drove me crazy for hours till I figured out a fix. Seems I was randomly either getting or NOT getting OR receiving txt messages. Something I've never seen before, was that for some reason that I still cannot figure out, Siri decided to put my email address into my contact list entry (for myself). Not that I really need an entry for myself, but I've just always done that. Well, I decided to delete that entry to see if that might make a difference, and lo and behold, txt messages are working fine for me now, 100% of the time (keeping my fingers crossed). Something just didn't look right to me in the messages settings where it listed both my phone number and my email address. So I thought..hmmm, let me try and delete the contact. Took me a few hours to figure this out. Not sure if it's just a bug or a design by some Apple programmer who for no reason I can think of, decided that this was a good idea.

Something else I am beginning to wonder is whether or not the field test mode is now designed not to be very useful at all. It rarely updates, and when it does the numbers are sometimes way out of left field.

Anyway, if I come up with anything else, or if my messages quit working again at some point (I really wouldn't doubt it), I will report back.
 

jay968

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Apr 2, 2019
351
181
California
So I have basically concluded that the field test mode will update from time to time but nothing on any kind of regular basis. It sometimes will not even update for hours at a time. I find that the only way to reliably use it is to turn the phone off and back on again.
 

firoze

macrumors regular
Jul 3, 2011
228
81
So I have basically concluded that the field test mode will update from time to time but nothing on any kind of regular basis. It sometimes will not even update for hours at a time. I find that the only way to reliably use it is to turn the phone off and back on again.
In what way would Field Test mode affect reception? Am asking for my information. Thanks.
 

jay968

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Apr 2, 2019
351
181
California
I never said field test mode affects reception.
I'm just saying that it doesn't appear to be a very valuable tool. It updates too slowly.
 

firoze

macrumors regular
Jul 3, 2011
228
81
I never said field test mode affects reception.
I'm just saying that it doesn't appear to be a very valuable tool. It updates too slowly.
That's what I thought too. Was wondering why you mentioned the Field test mode.
 

ghostface147

macrumors 68040
May 28, 2008
3,812
4,384
iPhone 12 Pro here. Spent the past 5 weeks having barely 1 mbps down and 0.10 mbps up. Couldn’t make or receive calls and texts consistently and calls failed every 2-3 minutes. Location didn’t matter, it happened the same everywhere. Did all the troubleshooting, had the sim replaced, got a replacement phone, had the sim replaced again. Nothing changed. The highest level tech support at Verizon said it seems to be a widespread issue with about half the phones being affect. They sent me another replacement phone yesterday. Now I am getting 15-25 times the speed I was getting before and everything seems to be working fine. It seems like certain batches have something faulty, and Verizon said it is likely the antennas. So my advice would be pester your carrier for a replacement until you get one that works.

I don't want to get a replacement phone that isn't brand new since the iPhone 12 Pro isn't that old.
 
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.