Is your cell signal never as strong as you'd like it to be? While cell phones are massively popular, even the best smartphones (opens in new tab) can struggle if you live in an area where the cell network is weaker than on average. Such issues are particularly prominent if you live in a rural area, but even the most urban of locations can still have problems with coverage depending on your choice of provider.
While we'd always suggest checking out our list of the best cell phone providers (opens in new tab) and sticking to one that has great signal in your area, there are times when a cell phone booster could be useful. These include any time you end up moving to an area that has weaker signal, or even when you're vacationing. We've also taken some time to look at just how effectively cell phone boosters work and whether they're worth your time.
What is a cell phone booster?
A cell phone booster, also known as a signal booster, is a device that works to amplify your weakened cell signal so that it reaches a point where it can work effectively for you. Essentially, it's a box that does all the hard work for your phone and your SIM card. It gives it a helping hand in a location that has a weaker signal than it's used to. A phone booster is able to boost anything from 2G to 5G signal, depending on the type of device you purchase, providing you with a far more reliable connection than relying upon conventional means.
Crucially, to use a booster, you need some kind of existing signal already there. It won't produce a brand new signal. It solely amplifies an existing weak connection providing there's at least one bar of coverage already available.
How does a signal booster work?
Most signal boosters consist of a three-part system. There's an outside antenna to capture the weak cell signal, followed by an amplifier which boosts the weak signal. Finally, an inside antenna helps to rebroadcast the enhanced signal inside your home so that you can enjoy the benefits of a better signal.
The thinking then is that it helps eliminate dropped phone calls, slow data speeds, and the risk of unsent SMS messages.
Are there different types of signal boosters?
To an extent, the only key types you need to know are in-building signal boosters and vehicle signal boosters. As the names suggest, one is designed for homes and office buildings, while the other is focused on boosting a signal within your car or truck.
Typically, amplifiers designed for small homes can cover areas up to 2,500 square foot while you can also buy some that cover from 5,000 square foot to 7,5000 square foot. Some businesses may adopt commercial amplifiers which work for areas up to 100,000 square foot.
What are the pros and cons of signal boosters?
Crucially, they boost your signal! Besides having a far better service than before, it means you don't have to worry about switching to a different network. This is particularly important if you're tied into a contract, but it also gives you greater flexibility to find the best deal for you.
They're not miracle workers, though. If you have absolutely no signal then the signal booster can't help with that. You need some kind of signal, even if it's just one bar on your cell phone.
Also, you’ll need to consider the expense of purchasing one. Some cell phone networks may provide one for free if you can demonstrate you have problems with your signal but it’s not guaranteed.
Do signal boosters work with any network?
Yup. There's no compatibility issue here. You don't have to pick out a specific signal booster for a specific company meaning there's plenty of flexibility if you plan on switching networks any time soon and you know you're in a remote area for any kind of cell coverage. You don't necessarily have to stick to Verizon Wireless (opens in new tab) or AT&T Wireless (opens in new tab) for your cell needs.
Do cell phone boosters actually work?
For the most part, yes! Following our guide on how to boost the cell phone signal in your home (opens in new tab) is a good starting place but, ultimately, a good quality signal booster can make a world of difference.
Of course, as mentioned, you'll need to make sure you have some kind of cell signal at home for it to work. They're easy to set up, fortunately. You can simply install it at home within minutes. Just find a good convenient location that won't get in the way of anything. Most retailers suggest that the attic or mounting it on a wall is a good idea.