Choosing the best cell phone booster
We performed 40 hours of research on 20 vehicle-optimized cell phone boosters to find the best booster for you and your drive. Our recommendation for the overall best cell phone booster is the weBoost Drive 4G-M. It provides five reception bars even when you’re driving through mountains. It covers five frequency bands, has 4G support and boasts the most powerful signal amplifier allowed by law for mobile boosters. The Drive 4G-M keeps you connected no matter what’s trying to block your signal.
The weBoost Drive 4G-M is our pick for the overall best cell phone booster because of its flexibility. Its five bands of frequency coverage span the widest range of any product we reviewed, supporting 4G LTE, 3G and 2G. It is compatible with all U.S. networks, including recognizable brands like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. Additionally, the it has a 50 dB amplifier, the most powerful amplifier for a vehicle allowed by FCC regulation. That means that the wireless coverage area created by the 4G-M can support multiple devices with its signal-enhancing boost.
This booster is easy to set up, with two nondescript antennas attached to the signal amplifier via 10- and 14-foot coaxial cables. These are long enough for large vehicles, such as vans and RVs. The exterior antenna is sturdy and nondescript with a 2.62 dBi gain. Lower gains equal less forward range but better peripheral range. This makes the 4G-M ideal if your signal is more often interrupted by physical barriers like buildings or mountains rather than by distance.
Best for rural areas
The SureCall TriFlex2Go gets our recommendation as the best cell phone booster for rural areas because of its configurable frequency controls and high-gain, 12-inch antenna. It covers three bands of frequency coverage, each with an independently adjustable control. This control makes the SureCall TriFlex2Go an excellent choice if you’re an advanced user. The Auto Gain Control setting also covers you in case you don’t have the savvy or desire to manually adjust the controls, which makes it a viable option for beginners as well.
The TriFlex2Go can handle 4G, 3G and 2G. It features an amplifier with the max legal gain of 50 dB, which is powerful enough to cover larger vehicles. Its outside antenna gain is 5 dBi, which is one of the highest available. This forward range is longer than most other cell phone boosters, but at the cost of a weaker peripheral range. The TriFlex2Go’s long forward range makes it ideal for rural areas and anywhere around the edge of your service provider’s coverage area, especially if you use the adjustable gain controls to maximize the boost to fit your needs.
The downsides include a slightly higher noise figure than the average for cell phone boosters and no live chat support. You can still contact SureCall via phone or email for any questions, however.
Best for RVs
The SmoothTalker Mobile X1’s long coaxial cable and 14-inch, 5 dBi antenna make it ideal for setup in an RV or other large vehicle. Its magnetic outside antenna also makes it easy to move the setup from vehicle to vehicle without damage. The X1 is one of few cellular signal boosters we evaluated that boosts 2G, 3G and 4G signals. Most of the products aren’t compatible with the 4G frequency bands. The 4G compatibility, however, is limited, as the SmoothTalker booster only works with two frequency bands: 800MHz and 1,900MHz.
It is an effective device due to its high-gain antenna and 50 dBi gain, which is the highest max gain allowed by the FCC for mobile signal boosters. The two components work together to catch far-reaching signals and rebroadcast them to the entire vehicle. The antenna is 14 inches tall. This is helpful since antennas are more effective the higher they are. It is capable of picking up signals at great range thanks to its 5 dBi forward gain, which is among the highest available in this category. This makes it a great cell phone booster for camping trips or other activities that are far from cell towers.
Best 3G booster
With great range and a powerful amplifier, the weBoost Drive 3G-X is a powerhouse, but its lack of 4G coverage puts it well behind the times. But 4G compatibility isn’t a necessity if you primarily use your phone for calls and texts. 3G networks are also more reliably available across the U.S., particularly in rural areas. This all makes a 3G booster like the weBoost Drive 3G-X a great option for drivers who don’t need coverage for data applications while on the go.
The 3G-X’s signal-boosting amplifier has the maximum gain allowed by the FCC for a mobile booster, which is 50 dB. This provides a wireless boosted signal to your whole vehicle. Alongside its powerful amplifier, the 3G-X uses a high-gain, 12-inch antenna that magnetically attaches to your vehicle. It is simple to install and easy to transfer between vehicles. If you’re in need of a signal boost in a rural area but don’t particularly need 4G coverage, the weBoost Drive 3G-X is a good option.
Best High-Gain Antenna
The weBoost Drive 3G-M is a 2G and 3G cellular signal booster with a 12-inch, high-gain antenna. Its lack of 4G compatibility dates this booster a bit, but 2G and 3G signals are still widely available, and this device may be more useful in far-flung, rural areas that lack 4G compatibility anyway. The biggest downside for lacking 4G is not being able to use data effectively; 3G is sufficient for most calling and texting needs. Like many other wireless boosters, the 3G-M makes use of a 50 dB amplifier to cover the inside of your vehicle with the boosted cell signal, though during times of weak signal the amplifier can lower its range to within about 18 inches of the inside antenna.
The best thing about the 3G-M is its 12-inch, high-gain antenna. The antenna is omnidirectional and has a forward gain of 5.62 dB, which is much more powerful than the 4-inch antennas featured on many other weBoost products. The high-gain antenna makes the 3G-M a great booster for places that are far away from the nearest cell tower.
The weBoost Drive 3G-Flex is an interesting device. It can function both as a mobile and stationary cell phone booster. Its flexible form factor and small size make it very portable for transitioning from your car to your home. It lacks 4G coverage but works with 2G and 3G signals, making it perfect for calls and texts in areas with otherwise lackluster service.
The Flex does not use the maximum amplifier gain allowed by the FCC. Its amplifier broadcasts the boosted signal at 45 dB, which is 5 dB below the legal limit. This still gives the device a boosted signal range of about 6 feet, enough to cover the inside of your vehicle, but it isn’t ideal for home use.
The Flex comes with both a DC vehicle adapter as well as an AC wall power adapter, though it only includes one amplifier, antenna and coaxial cable. The magnetic-mount antenna also comes with a window mount for home installation. The antenna is four inches tall and has a forward gain of about 2.62 dBi, which is only half as strong as some others we evaluated. This makes it better at short ranges, even when there are physical obstructions like buildings, but not very helpful to connect with distant cell phone towers.
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Cell phone boosters: what to look for
Wireless vs. Cradle
There are two types of cell phone boosters for vehicles: wireless boosters and cradles. Both work, but depending on your needs, each has advantages over the other. Wireless boosters create an amplified signal within a wireless coverage area, so both you and your passengers can take advantage of its effects. Cradle boosters only provide amplified signal to the connected device but are much cheaper than wireless products.
Signal boosters for cars max out at a 50 dB gain, in accordance with restrictions laid out by the FCC to prevent over-amplified signals from interfering with cell towers. All but one of the wireless boosters we reviewed feature 50 dB amplifiers (and the one still comes close at 45 dB). Cradle boosters generally provide lower amplification that is still perfectly serviceable for the one connected device.
Another signal-boosting factor to consider is the range of frequency bands supported by the signal booster. The best ones cover five bands and support 4G.
Cell phone boosters have both outside and inside antennas. The first sends and receives signal from the nearest cell tower and the second transmits the boosted signal to your phone. High-gain (5dBi or higher) antennas have a long range and are ideal for rural areas where distance is the main factor weakening your signal. Lower-gain antennas are better for mountainous terrain and places where there are physical barriers blocking signals.
Cable length is key when determining where to install each component of your signal booster. Wireless boosters have two antennas that connect to the signal amplifier with coaxial cables. Longer cables make installation easier in larger vehicles like RVs. Cradle cell phone boosters house the amplifier and inside antenna within the cradle, so the only thing to consider is the length of the coaxial cable for the outside antenna.
Help & Support
Most of the cell phone boosters we reviewed have a two-year warranty and helpful informational materials available online. The best products’ manufacturers offer phone, email and live chat communication for help registering your device with your cellular provider, technical difficulties or any questions or concerns.
Home cell phone boosters
We focused on reviewing in-vehicle cell phone boosters, but a stationary cell phone booster is also a great investment if you lack bars in your home. Bad cellular signals aren't just a problem in rural areas that are far away from cell towers – signals are also interrupted by physical obstructions like trees, mountains and buildings. Home and vehicle signal boosters look similar. They both consist of an outdoor antenna that communicates with the cell tower and an indoor component that broadcasts the boosted signal and communicates with your devices.
However, there are a few fundamental differences between car and home cell phone boosters, most important of which is the booster’s range. Stationary cell phone boosters are allowed up to 70 dB gain, while mobile devices are limited to 50 dB. These rules are set by the FCC to ensure your booster doesn’t interfere with the network, and 50 dB is enough power to boost signal coverage for your vehicle without messing with signals for the cars around you. Some vehicle boosters pair with an AC adapter to provide extra power when stationary, which is ideal for RVs. Home cell phone boosters can extend the signal to cover much more square footage, which is necessary in a larger space like an apartment or house.
Another difference between the two types of boosters is the antenna. Most car outdoor antennas are magnetic and compact. Home booster antennas are meant to be installed more permanently and are therefore larger. Also, since the installation is permanent, you have to take much more care when placing your antenna to get the optimal signal. Generally, higher is better, with as few obstructions between the antenna and cell tower as possible.