How to check LTE band, signal strength and more on Android phones

Picking up one of our favorite 5G-capable phones is a great way to boost your connectivity, but even the best phones can’t always maintain a seamless connection. Your location, carrier, or phone plan can affect signal strength, but determining the exact cause can be difficult.

Knowing what type of 5G or LTE connection you have can help diagnose connectivity issues, but you’ll need to install a separate app for a detailed signal strength report. We explain how to use our favorite app, LTE Discovery, and how to interpret it.

How to use LTE Discovery to identify connectivity issues

Before you can identify connectivity issues, you’ll need to do some cleaning in LTE Discovery:

  1. Faucet I understand under the Privacy Policy heading. LTE Discovery does not share anonymous user data, so you can use the app without worrying about your personal data being sold or shared. If you create an account (which is not required to use the app), you can further manage your data sharing permissions and erase all stored data.
  2. Faucet Cancel under the LTE discovery heading. These advanced features are not required to use the app and you can activate them later.
  3. Select the Position AND Read the phone status checkboxes. These permissions are required to use LTE Discovery.

Once you’ve granted permissions for LTE Discovery, you’re presented with a wall of numbers that can seem overwhelming if you’re not familiar with how mobile networks work. We walk you through the important elements.

How to interpret network band/frequency and signal strength

There’s a lot of information here, but you can safely ignore most of it. Later, once you get familiar with the layout, you can hide certain panels to focus on crucial information. Right now, you want to check:

  • The strength of your signal
  • The band you are connected to

The first and most important number to check is the signal strength. This is the negative number that appears in the upper right corner of the screen. The further this number is from 0, the worse your connection will be (for example, -110dBm is worse than -90dBm). Ideally, the signal strength should be no lower than -90. The best connection you can hope for is around -50dBm.

Checking the bandwidth you’re connected to identifies the network speeds you’ll receive. While you may be aware of the types of mobile networks (for example, 5g, 4G/LTE, and 3G), you may not know that there is a lot of variety within these networks. For example, the slower 5G network is nearly indistinguishable from the faster 4G networks.

Your band is identified by the number in the upper left corner of the screen. This band corresponds to a frequency that determines the speed of your network. Different phones support different bands, so one phone may not get the same connection as other phones in the same location.

The last thing you should notice is the GCI number at the top of the screen. This is the identifier for the cell tower you are currently connected to. While this isn’t directly helpful, it can be helpful if you need to troubleshoot connectivity issues with your carrier.

After identifying the signal strength and network bandwidth, tap the Discover tab in the upper left corner of the screen and tap Start. This resets your data connection and forces your phone to connect to the best signal in the area, which your phone doesn’t do automatically.

Make sure your privacy is protected with LTE Discover

An app that monitors your phone’s mobile signal should be reliable. We mentioned earlier the privacy settings and permissions for LTE Discover, which are required for the app to function properly.

Location authorization allows LTE Discovery to retrieve more accurate bandwidth and technology information. The phone state authorization pulls the relevant information from the SIM card.

If you enable LTE crowdsource in the Settings menu, you will provide anonymous data about your connectivity. It’s up to you whether you want to, but it helps LTE Discovery deliver more accurate carrier information. However, disabling it does not affect the information displayed.

Alternatives to LTE Discovery

LTE Discovery is perfect if you just need to check your signal strength occasionally. However, advanced users may want to explore alternative options.

About the Lite Network Cell provides an alternative view of your connectivity. Some people may like the graphical data presentation of this app and the Pro version allows logging and some other features which you may find worth $2. The Lite version of the app is linked below.

Stay connected wherever you are

No app can boost your signal. All they can do is identify and connect to the best available. However, if you’re having trouble with a specific type of network connection, we have a guide on how to force your phone to use LTE or 5G.

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