I was fiddling around trying to find a good position (on a desk) for my iPhone yesterday in order to get good reception for a phone call, and it reminded me of the “old days” when I was first an amateur radio (“ham”) operator.
Can’t tell you how many hundreds of hours I spent fiddling around with antenna positions in order to get good reception. In those days they were mostly long wires strung from buildings or trees, but the principle is the same for a mobile phone antenna. It all depends on the direction the antenna’s pointing, the distance from “ground” (actual earth or metal objects below the radio’s antenna) and other factors that are just too hard to predict. And so we “fiddle” until we get it right.
In the case of a mobile phone, which is also a radio transmitter and receiver, the variables are pretty much the same. They include whether you’re holding the phone in your hand or not, whether it’s near metal objects, whether you’re inside a steel or concrete/brick building, and your orientation with respect to the cell you are currently connected to. So when you hear “can you hear me now?” what’s going on is that you and your callee are each adjusting or moving your radio and antenna to get better reception. We have all become amateur radio operators!