Neighbors for Neighbors

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Help map cell coverage in JP! Plus: how to improve your cell service

Hi neighbors!  I'm something of a GIS nerd, and I discovered that you can download apps for iPhone and Android devices to record and map cell phone signal strength.

I've been using Sensorly on my Android phone for a while now, but I noticed some areas I never travel through in JP haven't been mapped, or don't have a lot of sample data.  I was thinking it'd be a fun nerdly activity for some neighbors to download and install these tools.  Then, among other things, our neighbors can make better decisions about what cell provider to pick, or (in the case of AT&T's own app which reports back to them), carriers can improve coverage in their areas.

Here's a map of a good chunk of JP, according to Sensorly, for TMobile.  Note that zoomed out this far, some coverage holes don't show up very well, but you get the basic idea. Yellow means 3G or 4G (Sensorly doesn't yet distinguish between them- reportedly it'll be done within a month or so), green means 2G:

 

You have a lot of choices!

  • CellMapper is available for Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and Android devices.  This one's definitely the nerdiest, showing where each tower is (and what area it covers!), recorded signal strength samples, the whole nine yards.  Great maps are viewable from your desktop too.  No coverage of JP yet.
  • Root Metrics is available for iPhones (via App store) and Android (open their mobile site on your Android device for a download link.)  Lots of coverage (it looks like) of JP.
  • Sensorly is available for Android phones; open the Marketplace app on your phone and search for "Sensorly".  Once it is installed, it's called "Map Viewer", which is slightly confusing.  Maps are only visible in high resolution from the App.  Decent coverage of JP, at least for TMobile.  Less so for AT&T.
  • CoverageMapper is available for Android phones.  Very little coverage of JP so far.  Note: CDMA phones (Sprint and Verizon) are reportedly newly supported.  Here's a link to the T-Mobile coverage map (enter "02130" in the search box.)
  • Lastly, if you have an AT&T iPhone, you can download Mark The Spot, made by AT&T themselves, that is used to report coverage and dropped call problems.  Apparently they do a lot of analysis with the data, and it looks like you get an automatic notice if they decide to roll out better coverage in an area you've made a complaint about.  Cool, eh?

Some of these apps have a lot of options for how and when they record data and send it back to help you control how much battery power and data usage they consume, so be sure to check out those options.

For best effect, I suggest you install an app, then let your phone get a good GPS lock outside (open up google maps and wait until the blue circle gets very small, less than a block) and then wander around your neighborhood for a coupe of blocks on various streets.  You could use it when you go walk the dog/cat/pet rock, take it on your next jog/run/bike ride, go out for a walk with a neighbor and get to know them.

Lastly, if you DO have lousy cell phone service in a particular area, call your cell phone company and let them know!  They do actually use these reports to help with planning and adjusting cell towers, and since very people know they can do it or bother, you've got a real chance at affecting coverage in your area.  It will help if you can compare the service to other providers (for example "Hi _______, I have barely any signal at home and all my calls are very choppy, but my friend has great signal with _____.  Can you put in a request to check out my area?")

 

Post in the comments about your experiences with these different apps, where you find some random dead zones, etc!

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