While watching one of my favorite horror movies of the 80’s April Fool’s Day I was wondering if it was set in the modern day, would the characters be able to use their cellphones on a small island not far from the U.S. coast? If you want to tell a story today and isolate a character, what spots DON’T have cell phone reception today?
Thanks for all answers,
Just look at a coverage map for the major carriers. Generally, places far away from population centers – e.g., some designated wilderness areas – won’t. But many places with a clear view of the sky will have satphone coverage.
The obvious solution is to just not give the characters a handset. Or jam electronic communications with an abnormal localized magnetic field, some fancy jamming device, unexplained localized solar activity, an angry bear that stomped on the batteries, blah blah.
I think you could probably go with some combination of dead battery/lost charger/no electricity.
There’s lots of ways for a cell phone to die.
They don’t have to go to such lengths to be so realistic. Cell phones constantly lose coverage for no apparent reason in modern movies, including sun spots!
Well, usually they want the phone to suddenly become usable momentarily.
The problem is getting a reasonable way to isolate a group at the beginning, one that isn’t of itself suspicious. Surely there are gaps in the cellphone system, people complain about coverage all the time.
My cell phone is hit and miss outside of any population center in Alaska. There are literally thousands of islands without cell phone coverage. I spent last week on Heceta Island and found coverage in one 5 square foot spot for the whole island.
Forgive me, but I’m from a different age, how long do you search an island for cell phone coverage if that’s the only spot?
Well theoretically there probably are more, but tricky cell phone locations are passed around in normal conversation up here. I know that the only place found on Zarembo Island is in St John’s harbor near the LTF. I know which road on Suemez Island will get you up on top of the hill with line to the cell tower near Craig AK. It’s a question of safety and survival.
My phone beeps when I get reception and in 10 miles of driving and 25 miles of hiking it didn’t beep except the only place I found reception, which was the same place everyone I talked to said to look.
I was without cell coverage in some areas of rural Appalachia. Towns in the Shenandoah Valley were good (e.g. New Market, Harrisonburg), I didn’t notice any loss of coverage down I-81, but traveling west into the mountains resulted in a less-than-connected feeling.
Being far enough underground will also result in a lack of signal.
You could show a storm taking out a tower in the prologue.
Neither the band hall in the local High School nor my daughter’s dorm room have cell phone reception. Apparently.
So will being in a submarine.
Watch some Star Trek. Wait for a subspace anomaly, black hole, Q, quasar, Borg Cube, or something else to interfere with communications.
We all live in a no-bar submarine, a no-bar submarine…
Say the characters have smartphones and inadvertently left a high-power app running, i.e. GPS mapping. That’ll drain your battery in a couple of hours, easy, and oh no! We forgot the charger at home!
This. DC’s metro, for example, has very good coverage for Verizon’s network, even between stations, but other carriers are limited to the station platforms, and a minority of them at that. There’s the germ of a good story here, actually - DC’s metro is notoriously glitchy. You could have some fun with a train trapped in a no-coverage zone.
Also, elevators will pretty often cut off cellphone access. And parking garages.
During Caribbean and Alaskan cruises, there were many times at sea where coverage wasn’t happening.
Some ships have onboard cell sites that communicate by satellite back to the rest of the network, but…
krak-THOOOM (ominous foreshadowing thunder as the waves and winds rise)
Ditto to MsWhatsit’s power-sucking phone. I generally recharge my iPhone each night, and the GPS mapping program will run it down in about half a day. So we get a scenario like this:
Brad: Okay, the GPS says we have to go down this road, but it’s getting narrower and narrower. What does the map say?
Cindy: Brad, it’s not on the map!
Brad: You sure? We–
Allen speaks from the back seat.
Allen: Guys! They’re getting closer!
Brad guns the engine and they start up the logging road. Five minutes later they are stuck.
Cindy: Now what, genius?
Brad: I’ll call for help.
Cindy: You should have done that an hour ago.
Brad: I couldn’t. The network was busy.
Brad picks up the phone.
Brad: Crap. It’s almost empty. I need to recharge. Where’s the charger?
Cindy: You mean the piece of crap that broke the second time you went to put it in the outlet? The piece of crap you threw out the window?
The first zombies come over the hill.