I’m not sure what the problem is, but for the last month, my Sprint cellular signal strength has dramatically dropped when I am inside my home. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except for the fact that my mobile phone is also my home phone and my business phone as well; in other words it simply has to work.
Conveniently enough, I had a product waiting in my queue which promises to “Increase Your Cell Phone Reception 8 Times!”, “Eliminate Dropped Calls and Dead Spots”, and “Enhance Voice Clarity”. If it can really deliver upon its promises, then sign me up for two, because nothing makes me madder than being in the middle of a call and either hearing static or losing the connection altogether.
The product I will be looking at today is not one of those glorified circuit board stickers that you stick to the mobile phone’s battery door, it is the ARC Wireless Solutions Freedom Antenna, an actual piece of hardware that connects to the external antenna jack on this list of compatible phones. If your phone isn’t on the list, don’t fret; you can also purchase various adapters for other phones.
I was sent two Freedom Antennas and a Palm Treo adapter.
Is it reasonable to expect the Freedom Antenna to deliver upon the promises printed on their packaging? I think so, and so I decided to go into this review as an average customer might: I would follow the included directions, and I would expect to see a dramatic improvement in signal strength – including fewer dropped calls. Before I get ahead of myself, let’s talk about what’s included in the package…
The package includes the Freedom Antenna, an attached 35″ cable to connect to the external antenna jack on the mobile phone, instructions, and two suction cups for mounting. My package also included a 20″ connection cable with a Treo adapter on its end.
The Freedom Antenna measures approximately 5.25″ tall x 3.25″ wide x 0.5″ thick, and it weighs 3.8 ounces with the Treo adapter installed. The antenna is composed of textured black plastic, and it has what almost looks at first glance like a copper fan blade behind the vented cover on the front. Faux perforations on the bottom front of the device lend to the idea that something might be going in at the very least, or perhaps escaping at some point.
On the bottom of the antenna, there is a removable gray plastic base which helps the unit stand upright on a desk. If window or wall mounting is desired, the two suction cups can be affixed to the round indentations on the back side of the device. You’ll notice that there are two round rubber plugs near the antenna on my Treo, the one that needs to be removed is the larger one.
Once the rubber plug has been removed, a receptacle is revealed that can best be described as similar to that of a cable TV plug. Also similar to a cable TV plug is the antenna connector that plugs into this receptacle: it has a middle stem which enters the small hole inside the phone’s.
Now it’s time to stop and read the directions, which are as follows:
1. Determine the correct adapter cable that fits your phone, see package side panels.
2. Securely attach correct adapter cable to antenna cable connector.
3. Power off wireless device.
4. Locate your antenna port, this is usually located on the upper back portion of your phone. You may need to remove a rubber plug.
5. Carefully plug adapter connector into antenna port on wireless device. Press firmly to ensure a good connection, do not twist. Using too much force may destroy your phone.
6. Power up wireless device
Simple enough. But first lets conduct a few vaguely scientific tests…
To determine if the antenna truly improves the phone’s reception, I figured it would be smart to first see what kind of signal was being received without it. Sitting at my desk, I get two bars. This is certainly not the four bars that I would like to see, but it is better than the zero bars I sometimes see. Come to think of it, my phone was on Roaming last night when I was in the back of the house. grrrrrr!
Using PocketMax’s PhoneAlarm, a program which provides a numeric signal level, my result was a fair 63%.
I then powered off the phone, carefully plugged in the Freedom Antenna, and then powered the phone back on. I made sure that the antenna’s plug was in all the way, and as the instructions dictated – I did not twist it or use too much force.
I was a bit disappointed to learn that I was still only getting two bars! But perhaps the percentage would be better…
Talk about a bit of a surprise. My signal strength had actually dropped to 50%, and placing the antenna on a windowsill did not noticeably increase reception.
Knowing that Jerry used to be a Ham Radio Operator, I called him up for a quick lesson in antennas and how they work. He said that the bottom line is that “the only thing that helps any reception – with any antenna, for any radio – is to get it higher and above obstructions. Antennas always need to be matched to the size of the waves that they are receiving, therefore an antenna with a longer length, or larger surface area, will not have improved reception. In other words, if a cell phone antenna is meant to receive a particular radio wave length, increasing the antenna’s size will not make it receive better. The only thing that will improve reception is getting the antenna higher or getting it away from obstructions.”
So in other words, the benefit to tethering your mobile phone to this antenna might be that you could extend the antenna by putting it higher up or getting it away from obstructions; but the converse would be that lengthening the antenna might un-match it from the wavelength that the device was intended to receive.
I can obviously say that I did not receive any benefit in my indoor testing. I understand that indoor testing may have imposed an artificial restriction on the device, so to be fair I took it outside and got the following results. Without the antenna attached, I got three bars and 76% reception. With the antenna attached to my Treo I alternated between three and four bars and also alternated between 85 and 100% reception.
So based on my layman’s testing, I can say that the Freedom Antenna will most likely improve your outdoor cellular reception, but indoors…probably not. The hyperbole on the packaging is definitely misleading, which is disappointing. However, based upon the increase in signal strength I received when testing outdoors, I think that the Freedom Antenna would be a good thing to keep in vehicle’s glove box. Perhaps it will improve cellular performance in fringe areas, but the Freedom Antenna did not help where I most needed it…inside my home.
The ARC Wireless Solutions Freedom Antenna is available from this list of retailers.
What I Like: Definite improvement of mobile phone reception when outdoors
What Needs Improvement: Did not improve reception inside, I actually saw a decrease; Hyperbole on the packaging is misleading; ads a tethered chunk of plastic to the mobile phone