Are Cell Phone Boosters Worth It?
Cell boosters aren’t cheap – some companies charge $600 to $900 for a residential signal booster. Commercial or industrial boosters can be even more expensive. Not only the money, but they can take a little effort to install. You might have to drill a permanent hole into your RV, affix an antenna to your vehicle, or run cable through your home. So, you might understandably ask yourself – are cell phone boosters worth it?
There are several types of cell boosters, from the sticker that is placed on the back of your phone to the homemade cell booster, or even the mobile app that boosts cell phone signal. So, let’s cover some of those varieties as well as the powered booster products like the ones we have available on our website.
Pros & Cons of Different Types of Cell Signal Boosting Products
Some companies cell stickers that appear to have a metallic design at the center. They’re placed on the back of your phone and supposedly boost your cell phone signal. They were one of the first “cell boosters” available and you may have purchased one with muted skepticism. The sticker antenna costs almost nothing which might lead many people to try them out before purchasing a more expensive cell phone booster product. Read this study if you want to understand why sticker antennas don’t work and are a scam.
External Antenna Boosters
Antennas that are separate from your phone and placed in an outdoor location, like the roof, and aimed at a nearby cell tower. These would improve cell signal outdoors, but not inside without attaching the exterior antenna via an external antenna port to an interior antenna, which requires adapters and cables, and still would not amplify the signal, only bring the existing signal indoors more effectively. External antennas are only capable of boosting one device, where powered cell phone boosters can enhance signal for multiple devices on various networks.
Microcells boost cell signal by using your internet connection and do not interact with cell towers. Read more about these devices in our article Microcell Vs Cell Booster. These devices can create more problems than they solve, and are equally expensive as powered boosters unless you obtain one for free from your carrier. If you live in a remote location with zero cell service, this would be a good option for you, and your cell service provider would likely give you one for free if that’s the case.
The cell signal-boosting app sounds promising, especially if the app is free. Well-meaning app developers are working hard to help you improve your cell signal, and maybe they will have an affect on our cell service someday. There are hundreds if not thousands of cell booster mobile apps in your devices store/app gallery, and most of them do perform useful tasks that improve the performance, speed, or security of the device itself, but have no effect on cell signal. Although modern phones are very, very “smart” they still obtain their service from old-fashioned technology – radio waves from cell towers. And although you can customize your phone, cell signal is independent of it; your phone is only a receiver, incapable of modifying the wavelengths it takes in. There are some useful apps and platforms that can help you better understand your signal – check out our articles How to Measure Your Signal Strength or Find Nearby Cell Towers.
Homemade Cell Boosters
A homemade cell phone booster could just be tinfoil wrapped around the external antenna of the phone, which is now nearly extinct. Today most of our phone antennas are inside of our smartphones, giving our devices that sleek tablet computer feel. Even the tinfoil can disrupt cell signal and negatively impact its quality. On modern phones, the best you can do is try not to block the internal antenna by keeping the back of your phone unobstructed. Learn more about free ways to improve cell phone signal.
Another “hack” DIYers are using is the Bottle of Water trick. Supposedly, if you rest your cell phone on a flat surface which a bottle of water placed at the top, and then turn on airplane mode or turn the phone off (to disable any signal transmissions), your phone will then begin a new search for signal or a closer tower and the water will amplify its transmission. We’re not so sure the bottle of water is helpful as much as resetting the signal is, but you don’t want to have an emergency in a remote area and rely on a bottle of water for service!
If you’re really crafty (basically an electrical engineer) you could try to rig up your own internal and external antennas out of coat hangers or coffee cans and cables. You could buy the supplies to install your own external antennas or powered boosting system and still spend $400-$800 on supplies before you even put any time into setting everything up. By the time you get it all set up, it still might not work properly. If you’re a MacGyver, you might try the old paper-clip-shoved-into-the-internal-antenna-hole method, which can cause serious damage to your phone and is not a long-term solution.
Another homemade cell booster option would be “dish” or “parabolic” boosters. If you mount your phone over the eye of a satellite dish and aim the dish at the closest cell tower, you can improve your cell signal, at least until you need to pick it up to use it.
Powered Cell Phone Boosters
So, your original question, are cell phone boosters worth it, was probably addressing powered cell phone boosters that plug into a power supply and utilize an amplifier, as well as indoor and outdoor antennas. We haven’t always understood technology as well as we do today. Cellular devices have come a long way from bricks with foot-long extendable antennas. And obviously, our understanding of antennas has improved significantly over time as we’ve seen improvements in design and efficiency of antennas for cell phones and televisions. There’s no longer any need to use the bunny ear antennas with tinfoil on your TV when there are simple, more effective solutions available, although they might have a little more cost involved, they make our lives much easier.
A cell booster uses an exterior antenna faced toward a cell tower, which acquires cell signal and sends it to an amplifier via a coaxial cable, and the amplifier boosts the signal and transfers it (via cable) to an indoor antenna, which rebroadcasts the enhanced cell signal. This equipment is designed by engineers with decades of experience in the telecom industry, so it comes with much fewer problems and frustration than the DIY methods. Even in remote locations, as long as some cell signal is available, even if it is severely low, a cell phone booster can amplify it.
Benefits of Powered Cell Boosters
1. Good service is good for your health! Cellular devices put off less radiation when they are securely connected to a cell tower, and more radiation when they are searching for signal. Furthermore, frustration or aggravation resulting from weak cell service can lead to health problems like high blood pressure or anxiety.
2. Phones are investments. Mobile devices are becoming increasingly expensive, costing us up to $1,000 just for the device and hundreds or thousands more for their service. These are serious investments that we put even more money into accessorizing. These expenses are useless if we don’t have proper cell service and optimal use of our devices.
3. Cellular communication has become essential to the safety and security of ourselves and loved ones. Reliable cell service is important for our jobs and families.
4. Your phone’s battery life is shortened by weak cell reception; when the internal antenna is searching for signal it places more drain on the battery. Strong cell phone signal improves battery life.
5. Cell phone boosters improve coverage area for multiple phones simultaneously. Anyone nearby that picks up the signal would not be able to “connect” to your network like they would with a microcell.
6. Cell boosters maximize the service you pay for from your carrier – many causes of bad cell signal are out of their control. Switching to a carrier with “more coverage” is not likely to improve your signal by very much.
7. If you buy a quality cell phone booster system, then it is a one-time investment. There aren’t any monthly fees to rent equipment or payments for services/subscriptions.
So, Are Cell Phone Boosters Worth It?
Do they work? Yes. Millions of people use them, on a consumer scale and industrial scale. Our parent company, Berk-Tel Communications, installs industrial/commercial cell boosters in hospitals, government facilities, distribution centers, entertainment venues, stadiums, etc. We created our products and website to cater to consumers who are faced with thousands of low-quality cell booster products that are difficult to understand. If you have access to a minutia of cell signal, then our boosters will work in your vehicle, home, office, or RV. Other methods can work for you temporarily, poorly, or inconsistently, but a professional cell booster can give you long-lasting, reliable service throughout your entire space, on any carrier or device. Powered cell boosters are legitimate, FCC-approved technology.