Hey, Internets! You know what I want right now? I will tell you! I will tell you for free, Internets, and then you can make it for me and I would even pay you for it, after giving you my awesome idea for free. That is how much I want this thing:
I want a device, approximately the size of a cell phone. It could be a little bigger, if it had to, but it wouldn't need a display or a keypad or anything. The cell phone would contain the standard internal workings for each of the major wireless carriers (ideally, actually, it would be modular, so that you could build the device to spec for each customer, but that's not a requirement, it's something that would be nice to have). It would also contain some memory -- it wouldn't need much, just a few MB, really.
I would rent this device for... a time. A few days, maybe a week. And I would carry it around with me, like I do my cell phone. And every 5 or 10 minutes, the device would check its signal strength (for phone and data) for each of its chips, and record that in memory. And at the end of my rental period, I would bring the device back to its home base, and plug it in, and be presented with a graph, charting signal strength for each of the major carriers (or the carriers I chose to track, if it's a modular device) across the period of my rental. For special bells and whistles, I suppose the device and its resulting graph could do other things, like tell me the device's physical location at each reading, but that would take a bit more memory, and anyway, it's not all that necessary: I know where I've been and approximately when, over a week's span. And if I were renting this device with the specific purpose of trying to make sure that I'm going to get a cell plan that will work everywhere that I'm going to be, then I would be extra certain to make a note of when I'm at a place that I'd especially want the phone to work.
'Cause here's the thing: I love my iPhone. I really, really do. And in 9 out of 10 locations that matter to me, my signal strength is just fine. But that tenth location, Internets? That tenth location is my office, where I spend something like half my waking hours. And when I'm in my office, I get no signal. About once a week or so, on particularly clear days, sometimes signal will eke through long enough for me to receive a text message. But it doesn't last long enough for me to send a reply. If I want signal when I'm at work, I have go to out to the lobby and wait five minutes or so for the phone to realize it's found a (weak) signal again, and then make my call or send my message.
I've been living with it, because I do love my iPhone, and anyway I had a 2-year contract with AT&T. But that two years is ending in about a month. And the new iPhone 4G is shiny and all, but it didn't blow me away. There are other smartphone options now. Some of the Android phones look pretty slick. Braz has an EVO 4G, and it's very pretty.
So I've been asking around my office, and have gathered that T-Mobile's signal sucks in the building, but the people with Verizon and Sprint are both pretty happy and can make calls inside and everything. Though they aren't making them in my office, which is not only windowless, but it doesn't even have a wall on the exterior of the building. I'm in a tiny little shielded cinderblock cave -- which will be awesome if ever there's a tornado or a radiation leak or something, but as far as cell signal goes, pretty much blows chunks.
And even if I can get those people to bring their Verizon and Sprint phones into my office so I can see signal bars there -- then I'm faced with wondering how their signal is at the places I spend the other half of my waking hours. Like my house, say. Or the gym. Or my parents' house. How about down at KT's? How about elsewhere along my daily route? It sure would suck if I got a flat tire halfway to Alex's daycare and didn't have a signal on my phone to call AAA with. And I'm pretty sure my officemates aren't going to loan me their phones for a few days so I can check it out.
Why doesn't this device exist, Internets? Or does it? Help me out, here, Internets!