The Ultimate Guide to Cell Phone Signal Boosters

End dropped calls for good in your home and on the road with these gadgets.

Cellphone signal
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A cell signal booster is a device that creates a stronger signal for your cell phone. This makes calls and data connections stronger and more reliable.

Signal Boosters: The Basics

Have you ever encountered the phenomenon of "dead zones" when using your cell phone? You know, the patch of area where you have no signal and therefore can't use your network provider's service to complete actions such as making a call, using an app, searching the web or sending a text.

Obviously, this issue can be extremely frustrating, and a good first step to avoiding cell phone dead zones is picking a provider with adequate coverage in your area by checking its coverage map (this is especially important if you live in remote, rural location).

However, even if your provider of choice offers coverage where you live, you could still run into dead spots with little to no cell reception in specific areas of your home, such as your home theater or basement.

This is where cell phone signal boosters come in: These gadgets use an antenna and an amplifier to boost your cell phone reception and get you more bars so you can use your phone as you wish. Keep reading for more info on why you might want to use a cell booster, along with how they work and what features to look for if you're considering purchasing one.

As mentioned above, cell phone signal boosters are intended to improve your phone's reception and the 4G LTE, 3G or 2G signal, counteracting issues that may be affecting cell reception such as building construction and obstructions, your phone's distance from your carrier's cellular tower and more.

You can purchase cell phone signal boosters from a wide variety of retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar, with prices generally ranging from $20 to $200 depending on factors such as bandwidth. 

Why People Use Signal Boosters

Simply put, you might consider buying a phone booster if your cell phone connection is sub-par or even nonexistent in your home or even in a specific part of your home where you spend a significant amount of time.

These products are definitely an answer to the issue of limited coverage, and in theory they're meant to help prevent annoyances such as dropped calls.

How a Signal Booster Works

Boosters employ an antenna to capture a cell signal. The antenna is able to capture a strong, reliable signal because it's placed (that is, you place it) in an area that does receive a signal. For home use, it might be the roof of your house or outside a window. Cell signal booster antennae are either uni-directional (used for exceptionally bad reception and/or to boost the signal of a single carrier) or omni-directional (used for moderately bad reception and/or to boost the signal of multiple carriers).

The antenna then passes the cell signal to what's called the amplifier or cellular repeater, which is responsible for the actual boosting of the cellular signal. After this step, the amplifier/cellular repeater passes the boosted signal to an inside antenna (located indoors), which is responsible for distributing the boosted signal to a given area in your home. 

Factors to Consider When Picking a Booster for Your Home

One of the first things to think about when considering purchasing a signal booster is your particular carrier.

Not all boosters work with all network providers (e.g., AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless, among others), so make sure to check that the booster you're considering is compatible with your particular carrier. Most retailers will list which carrier(s) a booster works with on its product page.

Aside from basic compatibility issues, you'll want to pick a booster appropriate for the specific size of space where you're looking to improve coverage. For instance, if you just need to boost the cell signal in your home theater, a booster that covers up to 1,000 square feet should be sufficient.

As is the case with cell network compatibility, you'll typically find details on how large of a space a booster covers in its product marketing materials either online or in a store.

Boosting Your Signal in Your Vehicle

What if you don't want to boost your cell phone reception in your home, but rather want to improve it when you're driving? There are signal boosters for this use case as well. But since you'll be mobile rather than stationary, there isn't as much of a focus on coverage area; instead you'll just want to find a signal booster that supports your carrier and the type of networks (3G, 4G, etc.) you use.