Carriers might hide signal strength from phone users beginning with Android P

Remember the good old days when you would brag about your phone receiving 5 bars of signal strength in certain locations? Your friend might reply by noting that his phone had only 2 bars in the same spot. And strangely enough, that would make you feel superior to your pal, at least until you found the roles reversed at a different location. Well, if some commits discovered by XDA on the Android Open Source Project are implemented, carriers might decide to no longer provide subscribers with this information beginning with the Android P build.

This information in numerical form can be found on the SIM status screen in Settings on your Android phone in dBM. The abbreviation stands for "decibels relative to one milliwatt." A reading of -120dBm is said to be the minimal reading for a cellphone signal. A reading of -99dBm would represent a stronger signal. The numerical figures are translated into the infamous bars seen at the top of your handset. To get there, go to Settings > About phone > Status > SIM status.

Why this might be implemented is unknown at the moment. We also don't know which carrier (or carriers) requested the change. Keep in mind that this is not something that is going to happen very soon. After all, we are just starting to see some 2017 devices (like the Verizon Moto Z2 Force) receive the update to Android Oreo. This means you still have plenty of time left to brag about the number of bars on your phone.

source: AOSP via XDA



1. Paximos

Posts: 283; Member since: Jul 26, 2012

Google allowing this, joining the assholes.

2. CHP19

Posts: 50; Member since: Jun 23, 2017

Nothing has been implemented whatsoever, nor has Google anything to do with this. It are just commits on the AOSP. Either way signal bars are pretty meaningless anyway. There's no standardisation for them in any way or form. One phone can show 3 bars while the other shows just one yet have exactly the same signal strength.

3. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

We already saw this happen with antennae-gate where Apple made the bars taller and started faking the signal strength even though it was obviously a problem beyond cosmetics. Still, it is good to have some indication of signal strength, especially if you travel to remote areas.

5. MrShazam

Posts: 987; Member since: Jun 22, 2017

Not sure what phones you've been using but when my Note 8 and OnePlus One showed at least 1 bar of LTE or at least 2 bar of 4G, they both were reliable indicators that they'll be fast and easily useable for internet tasks. I'd rather have such glanceable status info that be left guessing and waiting for things to load...

8. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

You do know that AOSP is maintained by Google only and Google is allowing this bulls**t. If carriers are using it to hide their bad signal, it's pretty pointless since any app can still read out signal strength. It doesn't hide signal strength, just hides it from the settings menu. I am glad Dutch carriers don't change Android, they only add an app or two. And they aren't allowed to block unlocked phones.

4. MrShazam

Posts: 987; Member since: Jun 22, 2017

I sure ain't in a hurry to have such update without opt out...

6. An.Awesome.Guy

Posts: 636; Member since: Jan 12, 2015

Now imagine someone is a little far away from the city and an accident happen to him Then 3 people, who use different carriers, are next to him and decided to call an ambulance and ask about what first aid they may need (or maybe calling the police for something urgent) The one who have the best signal should call, otherwise that man could be screwed. Also,if the house you are thinking about buying it does have a bad signal then you may look for another house....etc

9. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

Actually, the bars showing signal strength doesn't say that much about call quality at all.

11. An.Awesome.Guy

Posts: 636; Member since: Jan 12, 2015

But shouldn't they be an indicator ??

12. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

You think they would be and of course, with 1 bar there is more chance of losing the call than with 5 bars. But a lot depends on the numbers of people on the cell tower at the same time, not to mention the back-end of your carrier.

13. An.Awesome.Guy

Posts: 636; Member since: Jan 12, 2015

Thanks for the info, maybe that could be a reason for why they want it to be hidden

7. BGChicago

Posts: 228; Member since: Nov 16, 2014

1000% the request came from a gready americam carrier. The logic is to be T-mobile, because that's their weak spot (still in some areas, rapidly improving) but I doubt. Probay Verizon is planning some bull$hit move.

10. smoked_2na unregistered

If the signal bars are a guesstimate for DB then I am all for keeping the display.

14. MaryPoopins

Posts: 324; Member since: Jan 15, 2015

I'm on -87 dBm, seems pretty good. How about you? :)

15. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

Good, pretty useless information most of time, less clutter on status bar.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.
FCC OKs Cingular's purchase of AT&T Wireless