Could a cell booster fit in your pocket?

As longtime readers of this blog know, I love talking about cell boosters. This is a technology that should be in every home and every commercial building, yet fewer than 4% of people have a cellular signal booster. That’s pretty amazing since over 90% of people experience bad cell service every day.

You can get a cell booster for home, for your office, for your car or RV. There’s one designed for long-haul truckers. You can get one that acts as a cradle for your phone, making it easier to see while driving and letting you go hands free.

But you can’t get one that fits in your pocket. At least not yet.

Is a pocket cell booster even possible?

It’s possible, but probably not easy. First you’d need a power source. That’s not too hard. Something like one of our 10,000mAh power banks from Solid Signal would probably be enough to power it for a day. After all, vehicle cell boosters run off the 12 volt power from your car and they work.

The other issue would be a little harder to deal with. One of the most important rules for cell boosters is, the further away the two antennas are, the better result you get. Obviously there’s a limited amount of real estate on an average human. You would want the “broadcast antenna” (the one that usually goes inside) close to your phone and the “donor antenna” (the one that usually goes outside) to be 6-8 feet away from that. This would require some sort of elaborate headgear and would probably make you look like this guy.

If you were to try to put the two antennas closer, they’d be less effective. Why? Because they would need to reduce power to avoid interfering with each other.

One scenario

So, I can imagine it actually working, if you’re an average sized human. It could be possible to create a hat/antenna combination that wasn’t incredibly ugly. It would have to be self-powered, carrying its own batteries or perhaps getting some energy from the sun.

From there, a secure wireless link could be used. This is how boosters from Cel-Fi work, so the technology is there. Then, you would mount the amplifier and some sort of phone cradle to your leg, as low as possible. This could possibly give you the separation you need, and you could use Bluetooth earbuds to connect so you’re not covered in wires.

Of course, you’d still probably look pretty dorky. You’d also have something pretty heavy on one leg and nothing on the other. Maybe the system could come with an ankle weight for your other leg.

Or maybe…

Honestly I hate to say it but the answer isn’t a cell booster in your pocket. The answer is for manufacturers to start building in ports for an external antenna. I don’t think there would really need to be additional real estate needed. It wouldn’t need to be the old-school external antenna port you used to find on 2000s era phones. I can imagine the antenna technology could be built into the Lightning or USB-C port so that when you needed better signal you just connect an antenna to your charging port.

The problem is that this would require companies like Apple and Samsung to admit that their current designs don’t get good reception. Of course they don’t, because putting the antenna on the outside or back of the phone isn’t that efficient. People cover up the phone with their hands, they hold the phone lower, and this means that signal just isn’t getting to the antennas. Then, the antenna is smaller and weaker than it was on a 2000s phone.

Antenna design is going to be more and more important as we begin to see cell companies implement 600MHz technology. This tech will actually require bigger antennas — as you increase the frequency the antenna size goes down. A lot of cell signals are at 700, 800, 1900, and 2100MHz and going down to 600MHz is going to require larger antennas to get optimum signal. And since a strong signal is what drives faster data speeds, you’ll want a phone with the biggest antenna you can.

Will this mean that phone makers will give us an external antenna option again? All I can do is say, “I hope so.” And when they do, you’ll find those antennas at Solid Signal.

 

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 5,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.