Telstra Blue Tick Part II – reader’s experiences are not good (smartphone)

Telstra Blue Tick Part II. Reader Anthony T wrote following our Telstra Blue Tick article to describe his experience with a Telstra Blue Tick phone, which ‘signifies a mobile device has been thoroughly tested and delivers superior voice coverage in rural and regional areas’. His call – BT=BS!

Hi Ray

Re: Is Telstra Blue Tick accurate for rural phone reception?

I live in Poowong, Victoria, 3988, about 115k from Melbourne CBD. Phone reception is unreliable at best. I contacted you last year, and you recommended I install Network Cell Info Lite and Wi-Fi (Android app only) to get some data on our local signal strengths. It showed that 94% of the time, we were getting a fair (usable) 3G signal and 96% of the time, a poor (unusable) 4G signal—never a 5G signal. We are f*&%d now that 3G is being turned off.

The app also showed our signal strength in bars and RSRP (you call that—dBm) and power in femtowatts (I’ve never seen a picowatt here). In town, we get Telstra at -95 to -100dBm. Anywhere outside of town, the -dBm is -100+ and 0-40fW (unusable).

According to AMTA/RFNSA, we have (distances from Poowong town centre)

  • Telstra (3988001) with 3G (850MHz), 4GX (700, 1800, 2100, 2600MHz) and 5G (850, 2600, 3500Mhz) at the water tower about 2km away
  • Optus (3945001) with 3G/900MHz, 4G/700/900/2100MHz, 4G+/1800MHz and 5G/700/900/2100Mhz and Vodafone (4G/850MHz) at Loch 8km away,
  •  Telstra (3987001) 4GX/700MHz and 5G/850MHz at Nyora 19km away.

So, I spoke to our nearest Telstra store at Warragul (25km away). They were not remotely interested apart from recommending a Blue Tick phone. I could not afford a 2023 S23 Ultra, so I settled on a $700 2023 Samsung A54 with an Exynos 1380 processor that I bought outright (as I wanted to use a lower-cost pre-paid Woolworths plan).

Despite the Blue Tick assurance, it was worse than my 2019 Nokia 7.2 with a Qualcomm SD660 processor. In town, it found tower 3988001 at -95 to -100 and 500 to 1pW, but where we live, it was -105+ and <30fW – unusable. It did not find any other towers.

Telstra was not interested in a refund—the phone works. They suggested upselling me to the 2023 S23 Ultra on a $72/180GB 5G plan. I explained that 5G was not even on Telstra’s horizon where we lived. The cheapest plan they could offer was $62/50GB. I also wanted a full refund guarantee if it did not reach usable strength. They could not provide that. BT=BS!

That is when I contacted you.

You recommended any Qualcomm processor in the 7 or 8 series. You suggested the Motorola ThinkPhone (SD8 Gen 1) or OPPO Find X5 Pro (SD8 Gen 1). I bought the OPPO with an RCM C-Tick at $679 on a Black Friday deal for my wife. I purchased the Motorola ThinkPhone with an RCM C-Tick for $666 for my use. Yes, we trusted your advice. But just in case, we asked the two suppliers (Harvey Norman Warragul and JB Hi-Fi Pakenham) to guarantee a refund if the phones did not have adequate reception. No problems, but bring it back within seven days in as-new condition. Bloody Tel$tra.

We put a $25/22GB Woolworths sim in the OPPO. And on your advice, a Boost Mobile $35/25GB in the ThinkPhone because we wanted to see if the coverage was any different (Telstra’s Retail Vs Wholesale mobile plans – the catches you need to know). We could not tell the difference – Boost may have had a very slight advantage.

You also recommended a $399 Moto g84 5G (SD695 5G) which we purchased for our daughter. It has remarkable signal strength for the price, and we are telling all our friends about the Qualcomm modem.

Many thanks for being the only reviewer who cared about phone reception and quickly answering our emails.

CyberShack’s view – Telstra Blue Tick Part II – I am sure there will be Part III and more.

Yesterday’s article was driven by another reader, Trevor, and his experiences. He was concerned that Telstra recommended the $700 Blue Tick Samsung A55 with an Exynos processor but could not offer a refund if it did not work in his circumstances.

As we test and review phones, we get a pretty good idea of what constitutes a regional and rural phone. These include Qualcomm SoCs and modems without fail. The phone maker then adds antenna systems, and some are better than others.

It is a pretty safe bet in 2024 that the following Qualcomm Snapdragon (SD) processors will get the best possible reception.

  • Good – SD690 5G, Better – SD695 5G, and Best SD 6 Gen 1
  • Good – SD750/768/778G/+, Better SD7 Gen 1, and Best SD7+ Gen 2 and SD 7 Gen 3
  • Good – SD865/+/870/888/, Better SD 8 Gen 1, SD8+ Gen 1, and Best SD8 Gen 2 and SD 8 Gen 3.

That does not knock recent modems from MediaTek Dimensity or Samsung Exynos, as these have seen considerable improvements in antenna signal strength. However, the fact remains that they only found one tower in our tests, which is perfect for cities and suburbs where you have good tower coverage.

If you want to share an experience, please contact us at [email protected]. I can feel a sequel coming to Telstra Blue Tick Part II.