A new commit in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) Gerrit suggests that a change could be coming to the LTE signal bars in Android P. The commit suggest that carriers would be able to manipulate how this is displayed on devices to be more specific to them an not quite as generic as they are today.
Before the conspiracy theorists out there start to percolate, let’s be clear: The carriers would not be able to hide the signal strength bars nor manipulate them in a why that gives false information. Google doesn’t allow that to happen already and has reinforced it with other commits for Android P. No, this change would give carriers the ability to change how the LTE bars are displayed to be more accurate for their coverage in a specific area.
Right now, the LTE bars are device specific based on the strength interpreted by the LTE antennas in the device. In this change, the strength indicator would theoretically change from SIM to SIM in the same area. For example, if I have a T-Mobile SIM in my phone and see 4 bars, I could pop in an AT&T SIM and see only 2 bars. It could prove to be more accurate on the actual signal strength than the somewhat blanket approach today on each device.
So why the change? It could be that Google needs to get Android in compliance somewhere in the world with how LTE signals are displayed and this makes it carrier specific. How or if this is actually implemented by any carrier is yet to be seen obviously but the ability looks to be there in P.
As I have stated before in other posts about reading commits, it is a tricky effort. Just because something is in the code doesn’t mean it actually get used. Further, it could never be enabled too.