New setting in Android P will let telcos control the LTE signal bars on your smartphone and that's not a good thing

While the network icons on top right corner of your Android smartphone may not be accurate to a T, they still do give you an idea about the quality of the cellular network in your area. According to an XDA find in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), things may get a bit complicated with the upcoming Android P milestone software update, where carriers get to define what we see on those LTE network bars.

Representational image.

Representational image.

Over time, many have questioned how accurate the representation of these network indicators really are. The same was the case with Apple's Antennagate where the tech giant simply fixed its low network hardware problem on the iPhone 4 with a simple software update. So the big question right now is how accurate are those network indicators actually are?

To make things more complicated (or worse) commits in the AOSP have revealed that carriers might get control over what a smartphone owner (or subscriber) perceives is the signal strength (e.g. one bar means low strength) on their smartphone in terms of the network bars.

XDA reports that the carriers mentioned in the commits include "Vodafone Libertel in the Netherlands (20404), Verizon Wireless in the United States (311480), and Telstra Corp. in Australia (50501, 50511, 50571, 50572)".

In theory, carriers with Android P will be able to adjust (read tweak) the bars to better reflect the signal specific to a location. This could be for regularisation of what network strength really means to different countries. For example, what is excellent strength (full four bars or a full triangle) in India may be average according to cellular networks in the UK.

Of course, this also opens up a can of worms if or when carriers try to mask the network bars on your smartphone to show that the signal is excellent, while what you are really getting is far from it.

Thankfully, as XDA reports it's not complete control, as third-party apps in the Play Store are currently able to bypass the software controls to and access the hardware without any restriction,  to reveal the true signal strength of the networks around you.

Currently, only the carrier-specific (or carrier locked) smartphones that currently allow for such tweaking. As for the rest of us, the signal strength thresholds can only be defined by our smartphone manufacturers.

Updated Date: Feb 09, 2018 07:59 AM