Hi, my name’s Gabe and I am over-caffeinated.

Mobile Testing at Twin Peaks

Testing the network at the top of Twin Peaks in San Francisco, which is notorious for having the worst reception in the city due (presumably) to ridiculous fog, Dr. Suess-like hilly landscape and altitude. And yes, we take the phones out of the foam carrying case while testing just to make absolutely sure we’re not adding interference.

Why am I over-caffeinated you might ask? Because I’m teaming up with TechHive and OpenSignal to collect some standardized data across the U.S. of A. Part of that data collection is finding out how well different carriers work in all the places you might use your phone, including inside buildings. And what better place to pop inside to run some tests for a minute than your local coffee shop? I just started collecting data a few days ago, but so far, it’s taken me to at least ten different Starbucks locations in San Francisco (as you may have suspected, they all look the same, with the fascinating exception of the large-unstealable-item-that-the-restroom-key-is-attached-to).

I’m taking along eight phones, four iphones and four android devices, each with service from one of the four major US carriers. At each location I’m using a modified OpenSignal app to collect all the data we can about things like signal strength, tower location, and upload and download speeds.

Aside from the fact that I find this raw data totally fascinating, it’s important for OpenSignal to have a baseline for the kind of data we’re crowdsourcing as well. Because I’m using the same devices in each area and tightly restricting any other variables, we can get the kind of unbiased scientific information that can be used to check the crowdsourced information as well as truly quantify claims like “best nationwide network” and “best 4G coverage” that marketing departments tend to toss around. We’ll also be comparing it to similar data collected in previous years to see what has changed.

In the coming months I will be in about 18 more cities, and many, many more coffee shops. As much as I appreciate the amazingly consistent Starbucks atmosphere, I appreciate a bit of variation. This week I’ll be in San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Are there local cafes you like? Tell me, dear reader, where I should go.

Also, feel free to tell me where not to go. I’ve already found out that standing around downtown with a bunch of phones in a portfolio will invariably be met with generous and not-so-generous offers of cash. I’m guessing that if you’ve ever had a phone lost or stolen, this is probably how it found its next home. I won’t single out a specific city for this, because it has happened literally in every downtown stop of every city so far. I’ve also come across a few shop owners who wanted to be reassured that I was not there to do some kind of strangely conspicous surveillance. I can only wonder about what is there to be surveilled.

You can also see where I am by following me on Facebook (OpenSignal Gabe), FourSquare (OpenSignal) where I’ll be checking in periodically. I’ll also be blogging about my epic road trip here on the OpenSignal Blog.

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3 Responses to Hi, my name’s Gabe and I am over-caffeinated.

  1. Pingback: OpenSignal - The Importance of Outliers

  2. Pingback: How to use WeatherSignal for Quantified Self tracking - OpenSignal

  3. baskhana says:

    Sprint has been setting up 4G in the cities and has been changing it’s towers for the rest of us who are not in the big city. As a result, where I have been receiving decent cell and 3G coverage at my home, I now has almost NOTHING. As my devices end their contract, I will be leaving Sprint!!!! I have been on Sprint for over 10 years. It is frustrating to see that the Sprint Coverage map shows I should have full excellent coverage but very little exists. This changed in 2013. I am now in the process of searching for another carrier. Currently T-Mobile month to month is working fine at my place where Sprint no longer bothers to cover. Guess it was a simply ‘business’ decision to not sweat the areas where there are not as many customers per square inch?!

    Unfortunately, my phone devices can only be used on Sprint………. another reason to not bother with Sprint anymore.

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