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It’s a familiar situation: You’re stuck in some place and you have a whole bunch of online tasks that need to get done. Emails need reading, texts need responding and a variety of social media needs updating. Luckily, your Smartphone — your assistant, your calendar, your main means of communication and, let’s be honest, your best friend — has a full charge, so you can take the time to tick a few items off of that to-do list. Unluckily, however, when you open your phone to tackle said list, you notice a complete lack of bars up in the corner. No reception, 3G or Wifi.

Maybe you’re too far from the nearest tower, or maybe there are too many obstructions interfering with the signal, but, either way, before you reach for pen and paper and resort back to the way we did things pre-1990s, try one of these to boost your reception.

1. There’s an app for that

In today’s digital age, how smart can a smart phone really be if it can’t fix itself? Well, when it comes to boosting reception, your phone does have a few in-house tricks to offer. OpenSignal is a free app that helps you to increase your reception by informing you where the tower your device is using is located, what percentage of reception you currently get and where you can go to make it better. Knowledge is power.

Price: Free.

Efficacy: 3/5

2. Make a parabolic antenna with some tinfoil

If the issue is with Wifi, then the solution might already be in your kitchen. With just a few feet of aluminum foil you can use the science of parabolas (yay science!) to get more range out of your Wifi. Tear, fold, place behind the router facing the direction you want to send the signal, and Instagram the awesome DIY fix you just discovered.

Price: Mere cents.

Efficacy: 2/5

3. Pick up a signal-boosting case

Perhaps you already have a case that improves battery life. Another housing option is one that increases 3G and Wifi, like the Linkase, which has extendable antennae that use electro-magnetic waves to enhance signals. Maybe it’s finally time to replace that Hello Kitty cover.

Price: $35.

Efficacy: 3/5

4. Buy a cell phone signal booster

Your best bet might be to spend a bit of money on one of these gadgets. By working to increase the incoming signal as well as finding ways around obstructions, this solution requires an outdoor-mounted antenna that works in connection with an indoor one. If you’re stuck in a certain dead zone for a long period of time, these may be worth your consideration as they can permanently increase incoming and outgoing reception.

Price: Starting around $250.

Efficacy: 4/5

5. Use an empty can

Put your recycling to use with this quick and (relatively) effective fix. All you need is an aluminum can (a pop or beer can works perfectly), a pair of pliers and about five minutes. This might be the best fix, all in all, so long as you don’t mind the slightly tacky look.

Price: Free.

Efficacy: 2/5

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