Sometimes signal bars are not as useful as you would like them to be. Sometimes it would be more handy to see them represented in number form. There is a rather simple trick to do this right out of the box. It even works on the iPhone 5 running iOS 6.0.1.

To start simply launch the “Phone” app. Then dial the number *3001#12345#*

Once you press call, you will be transported into Apple’s internal “Field Test” app. You do not need to go into any of the submenus here. Of interest to us is the signal strength indicator is displaying a numeric representation instead of signal bars. At this point if you close out of the field test app you will be returned to the home screen, and your signal bars will be restored to normal. Interestingly enough the “Field Test” app has not been updated for the iPhone 5 display.

If you would like to keep the ability to see your signal strength in numeric value anywhere in iOS, just hold the power button (while still in the field test app) until your see the red “slide to power off” appear on the screen. Release the power button, and then press and hold the home button until you are back on the home screen.

That’s it! Your signal strength will remain displaying a numeric representation. You can switch to bars at any time by tapping the numbers, and vice versa.

Now you’ll need some basic knowledge of what these numbers mean. First the numbers displayed are negative. A higher number (closer to zero) is a better signal, and a lower number (further away from zero) is a worse cell signal. -105 is a worse signal than -80 for example. The numbers range from -120 to -40. As you can see my signal above is pretty bad. Above -80 would be considered full bars. Right now my phone is displaying -91 and translates to 3 bars. Also remember that your LTE signal strength means nothing of your ability to make a phone call since Voice over LTE  (VoLTE) is not supported just yet.

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