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Is there an app that will tell me where the nearest cell phone tower is when I am out of cell range?

I'd like something like this so that I can know which direction to go to get to a signal in the event I need to call or text someone.

Example: I'm in a U.S. National Park and want to know the best direction to hike or drive to minimize time to cell signal.

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    Do you want the nearest cell-phone tower, or the nearest cell-phone signal? Frequently, the fastest way to get a signal would be to climb a nearby hill, which will give you line-of-sight to a tower that may not be the nearest one. – Mark Jul 28 '17 at 1:26
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    It would have to be an offline app that regularly updates its map data for your current region before you move out of range. – RedGrittyBrick Jul 28 '17 at 10:11
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    I looked around a bit for a solution to this, there are a number of solutions if you have internet access, which adds no value in your situation. – James Jenkins Jul 29 '17 at 9:45
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This is a bit of a non-answer but is probably better than a string of comments. There are some ideas in here.

The problem is that you need line of sight rather than to be near a tower. You could work that out from a contour map with the towers marked - get electronically or on paper. But tower locations aren't generally published, at least not in a convenient way. You can guess at some of them, so climbing a hill that will give you line of sight to a town should work - for which you need a topographic map and some old fashioned navigation skills.

A partial technical solution would be to log signal against location, to let you know the minimum backtrack to get a signal. This might get through quite a lot of battery. I know it would be possible to build such an app but I don't think one exists.

An automation app I use called tasker can report a list of cells it can see. The code names for the cells don't make it clear what network they're on, but if you're strictly considering emergency calls that won't matter. Although it's a very versatile app I don't know how you could make it log your location when cells are found, and reporting the list is a tool for building rules to preform actions when a specific cell is near. It looks like it can tell you when you've lost signal.

There are apps that upload your location when they have a signal. If you could locally access a log from such an app you might be able to tell where you were when you had coverage. But you probably can't.

You would still need to use your judgement about whether to go uphill to get line of sight, or backtrack. This depends on so much more than information about cell locations (such as the nature of the emergency and the weather conditions).

Finally signal propagation is strange. Sometimes you'll get a good signal without line of sight because of reflections. I've even known a wooded river valley with no signal (on my network) except at the base of a particular tree beside the path, where it was weak but repeatable.

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I'm not sure if OpenSignal has offline support for the maps portion, but per the Android app if you have enough signal to connect to a tower at all:

Shows direction of your connected cell tower - walking towards it, or out of the way of obstructions, can improve cellular connection

Do note that as the data is all crowdsourced, your results in a particular area my vary.

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I assume you have a solar cell or backup battery to recharge your phone. The manual solution suggested above - climb a hill and look - will be your low power mode.

  • This doesn't answer the question. It is more of a comment. – Chenmunka Aug 29 '17 at 12:37

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