Wifi, 3G, and understanding signal strength


Well-known member
Jan 28, 2010
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A few questions for you folks...

1. I noticed that my Wifi meter in my office remains the same throughout the day, about 1 of 3 bars. When I walk down the hall and stand under the router, the meter doesnt seem to change. When I then open up my Wifi Analyzer application, to gauge my wifi signal, my wifi meter on the home screen is then very responsive. Why is this? IS the wifi radio or read out of the meter on the home screen just not accurate? It only seems to behave accurately when I open Wifi Analyzer and if I have 3 of 3 bars when the analyzer is open, and I close the analyzer, 10 minutes later I still have 3 of 3 bars in my office, when i normally always have 1 of 3... ?

2. Does anyone know the data speed range of 3G? For that matter, when I am looking at my home screen and I see I have 3G coverage, and there is a signal meter next to it. Is that how much 3G data I have, or how much 2G voice signal I have? Also, as far as the bandwidth range of 3G, when I am at my highest 3G coverage, is 1 of 3 bars of wifi a greater data speed then full 3G?

I a just trying to figure out what is best for my battery. Is full 3G better then low wifi signal? And how do we really measure signal strength with 2G, 3G, and Wifi?



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Feb 17, 2010
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Wifi speeds will be determined by the actual connection sitting behind the router. My home wifi is 6Mbit; work is only 1Mbit.


Mar 17, 2010
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Don't quote me as I honestly have no clue on your no. 1, but it sure sounds like wi-fi is in a power-saving mode until it is being actively used by a process on the phone. (i.e. the analyzer), which, until it is killed will also run in the background.

When you download files, etc do the bars also go up?


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Nov 20, 2009
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Also, unless my understanding is wrong, the signal strength is not indicative of speed. One good analogy I heard was you can think about it like a room. In a room with yourself and one other person, they can whisper (1-2 bars signal strength) and you can hear/process it with no problem. On the other hand, in a crowded room, the person talking to you may be using a megaphone (full bars), but there's so much interference that much of the message is lost, resulting in slower speeds.

So what I'm really trying to say is, just because you have a low 3G signal, it may not mean that it's actually a bad connection speed.

Also, like philip mentioned, the speed of the router/wifi also factors in.


Proximity is a common misconception. Although it can change your strength, that isn't everything.

Where your hands are placed, how much bodily tissue does the signal travel to get to/from the phone.

Are you sure thats a router your phone has access to that you stand under? Many of these are not just "free to grab" wifi.

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