Why not get rid of the bars?

by Justin Horn on Jul 2nd, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

The bars are there because people don’t need to know that they are at -63 dBs. I agree, that would be dumb and would be meaningless to most people, but why not just show it as a percentage of strength…like Apple does for the battery now.

The total range goes from -51 dB (best signal) down to -113 dB (lowest signal you can still make a call at). Let’s calculate the percent strength for entire range of dBs (step 2). Strength to Bars data from AnandTech.

% Strength = (Current Signal dB – low of dB range) / Total dB range

% Strength = ( (-51 dB)  – (-113 dB) ) / ( (-51 dB)  – (-113 dB))  = 100%

dB Signal % Bars
-51 100% 5
-53 97% 5
-55 94% 5
-57 90% 5
-59 87% 5
-61 84% 5
-63 81% 5
-65 77% 5
-67 74% 5
-69 71% 5
-71 68% 5
-73 65% 5
-75 61% 5
-77 58% 5
-79 55% 5
-81 52% 5
dB Signal % Bars
-83 48% 5
-85 45% 5
-87 42% 5
-89 39% 5
-91 35% 5
-93 32% 5
-95 29% 5
-97 26% 5
-99 23% 5
-101 19% 4
-103 16% 3
-105 13% 2
-107 10% 2
-109 6% 1
-111 3% 1
-113 0% 0

Using the percentage indicator it will never be the case, as it was with iOS 4.0.0 on iPhone 4, where 23% signal strength was represented by 5 bars!

Yeah, by showing numbers instead of bars, it does make it a bit more technical, but if someone is spending $300 on a phone I hope they know how percentages work. Plus, if you really miss your bars, there could be a toggle switch in the network settings, just like the battery in usage settings. Although, if enabled the bars should represent the underlining signal more fairly:

5 bars -> 80 – 100%
4 bars -> 60 – 79%
3 bars -> 40 – 59%
2 bars -> 20 – 39%

Hopefully this is what iOS 4.0.1 will do.

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View 4 Comments
Antenna Issue, iOS 4, iPhone 4

Comments

    1.
  1. Tommy.S
    July 10th, 2010 11:49 am

    The bars should go. They are good when they are big and they are few (3-4) and their meaning is correct (the context/device where it is used).

    The % would be much better, altough the update speed should be reasonable.

    The algorithm seems to be reason why signal drops. It just do not boost enough the signal when it really should. If that is the case what Apple used to give better battery life, then it is bad news for old iPhone users. But it is very important that algorithm what is responsible to update graphical info (bars) about signal strenght and give power boost to antenna is accurate so the -10dB – -15dB normal drop of signal when taking phone (any phone) to hand would not cut the signal because the algorithm does not boost enough the signal to compensate the drop.

  2. 2.
  3. Tim
    July 11th, 2010 9:01 pm

    I agree that we should get rid of the bars, but get rid of all of it.

    Just tell me if I do or do not have reception. I’m going to make the call and judge the call quality myself regardless.

  4. 3.
  5. Ed
    July 11th, 2010 9:29 pm

    dB is a logarithmic unit, therefore you can not calculate signal percentage that way.

  6. 4.
  7. Mike
    July 11th, 2010 11:06 pm

    Ed is correct!

    It would have to be a much more complicated calculation. It has been a while since I have taken a math class, but it has something to do with for every 10 dB increase, it is actually a ten fold increase (X * 10) not X + 10. A 20 dB increase actually means a 100-fold increase (X * 100) not X + 20.

    Very confusing, but some nerd out there should easily be able to convert this to a range of 100 that can be used as a percentage. I think it is a great idea.

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