If you're having problems with your cell phone reception, sometimes the best way to complete your call is to create your own homemade cell phone signal booster. There are commercial signal boosters on the market, but some of these are less effective than others and they can be expensive. There is also something to be said about the raw satisfaction to be derived from making something with your own two hands... and it's useful to boot!
Before proceeding, it is important to note that any homemade solution is purely experimental and there are no guarantees that your cell phone reception will be improved in any way. Before resorting to a homemade cell phone booster, you should investigate other avenues like commercially available signal boosters, different mobile phones, or different service providers.
Make a Coffee Can Booster
The people at PopSci discovered an interesting signal booster solution that uses a metal coffee can. Your phone must have an external antenna port for this to work. Newer smartphones may not have this port.
- Get two empty metal coffee cans approximately 13 ounces (384 milliliters) in size.
- Get other materials needed, like a can opener, solder, a soldering iron, antenna connector, and a "pigtail" connector.
- Remove the bottom from one of the cans using a can opener.
- Solder the two cans together to form a long cylinder. Copper tape is a suitable alternative to solder too.
- Cut a hole approximately 3.8 inches (97 millimeters) up from the closed end of the cylinder.
- Insert a short length of copper wire into the receptacle of the antenna holder and solder in place.
- Attach the antenna holder to the hole you cut in the can, securing in place with a nut. The copper wire should be on the inside of the can.
- Attach the pigtail connector to the antenna connector.
- Remove the rubber cover from the rear of phone, likely under the battery cover. Under this should be a port for an external antenna.
- Plug the pigtail connector into the external antenna jack on the phone.
- Aim the open end of the can toward the closest compatible cell tower.
Near the end of the video, Mike Haney mentions that this signal grabber is designed to nab the 1900MHz band, so it's probably most effective with providers that use this frequency. Check with your mobile operator to see which band/frequency they use.
Use a Paper Clip
This is a really simple signal boost hack from Techwalla using a basic metal paper clip.
- Bend one end of the paper clip so that the clip has an L shape.
- Place the bent end into the antenna hole or SIM card slot. Make sure you do this slowly and don't force it.
- The other section of the clip should be pressing against your phone so it's parallel to it.
- Using a clear piece of tape, secure the clip to the phone.
Connect Some Magnet Wire
- Take the back off your phone and find the hole to hook up an antenna.
- Cut about a 12-inch (30 centimeter) piece of the wire.
- Use emery cloth or sandpaper to take off the coating around the tip of one end.
- Put this end into the antenna hole and bend the wire outside so it lays against the phone.
- Using the ruler, cut the wire so that it is about 1.3 inches (3.3 centimeters) past the length of the phone.
- Tape the section of the wire by the antenna hole down and then put the back of the phone back on.
A Note of Caution
Remember that you use these signal boosting hacks at your own risk. Some phone warranties may be invalidated if your phone is damaged in any way using these DIY options.
Improving Your Reception
There are usually several reasons your cell phone reception is poor, and most commonly it's because walls and other structures block the incoming signal. Some cell phone networks also have better coverage in certain areas than others; consider getting new equipment or changing to a provider with better reception where you use your phone the most.