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Tweak Your iPhone to See Signal Strength in Decibels, Not Bars

There has been criticism that the all-too-familiar cell phone bars on your iPhone are not entirely accurate.  There is a (reversible) trick to show reception in decibels, not bars.  

This gives you a number (sadly, for me, usually ranging between -100 and -80) which is a more precise measure of signal strength.  The closer you get to zero, the stronger the signal.  Between -50 and -75 is considered excellent.  Because of how decibels work, movement from, say, -95 to -90 is a bigger move than -85 to -80 (study up on decibels here or just trust me, closer to zero is better).  You can always tap on the decibels and it will revert back to bars.

1.  Go into Phone and, as if you were dialing a phone number, hit *3001#12345#*

2.  It will go into a field test mode.  Tap the decibels/bars in the upper left corner and you can see it switch between them.

3.  Hold down the power button (top of iphone) until the “slide to power off” appears.

4.  Don’t power off.  Now hold down the Home button (circle) until it drops you back to your main home screen.

5.  You can now flip between decibels and bars.

5th Circuit Holds Cell Phone Data Not Protected by SCA

The federal Stored Communications Act (SCA) does not protect text messages, photos, and video on a cell phone since the phone is not a “facility” nor an “electronic communication service” as defined in the federal statute.  An employee had her phone taken from her work locker and inspected for potential violations of policy.  She was fired.  She claimed, among other things, a violation of the SCA but lost on summary judgment.

The Fifth Circuit affirmed finding that the (undefined) term of “facility” did not include personal computers or cell phones and are more often the ISP or cell provider.  The personal devices enabled the use of the “electronic communication service” (ECS) and not what the ECS providers use to store and maintain data.  Likewise, the data on the phone was not “electronic storage.”

The case is Garcia v. City of Laredo et al.

A comprehensive background on the SCA is Orin S. Kee, A User’s Guide to the Stored Communications Act and a Legislator’s Guide to Amending It.