The biggest hurdle in purchasing a new cell phone has got to be determining which carrier has a strong signal in the areas that you intend to use the phone. If you get this one wrong you are going to be stuck with a phone that frustrates you at the least. And for a two year period at that!
In previous articles here I talked about the importance of carefully selecting your carrier before buying a phone. (http://realtytechbytes.com/what-cell-phone-should-i-buy and http://realtytechbytes.com/how-to-choose-the-cell-phone-that-is-right-for-you-2)
While the information in those articles was good then and still is now, there was a lot of room for interpretation…in other words, it is difficult to accurately determine whether or not a carrier had a good signal available at any given location.
A new website, http://opensignalmaps.com, uses the many Android phones that are out there to gather information about cell tower locations and signal strength to draw two maps. One map is of the location of cell towers and the other map is a heat map showing signal strength overlaid on geographical maps.
You simply plug in your zip code and you get a map back that shows you whether or not your carrier will work in the area you have chosen. You can plug in zip codes, one at a time, for every area that you think that you’ll be traveling to or through to compare carriers.
The site is easy to use and it is the best one that I have found for determining signal strength. The only better way would be to get phones on all the major carriers and drive around yourself and compare bars!
If you have an Android phone, and you want to contribute to the project, they have a free app that you can download and install. They claim to gather no personally identifying information in the process. And you don’t need an Android phone to make use of the site. Sounds like a good deal to me!