As you already know, RV’ing takes you into areas with weak or no cell signal. Since I work remotely while RV’ing, we have to avoid campgrounds where there is no cell service (and you cannot rely on campground WiFi!). We have both AT&T and Verizon iPhones, but even then we find ourselves wishing we had a better signal now and then.
Cell phone boosters are designed to receive weak cell signals and boost them so your mobile device can function better (fewer dropped calls, Internet becomes usable, etc.). You must have a cell signal to begin with, as you can’t boost something that doesn’t exist.
Boosters come in two basic designs:
Cradle Mount Boosters
These units will hold one phone, and the boosted signal will only help that one phone. This is not a big deal if you have Bluetooth and a hotspot option on your data plan. With Bluetooth, you can use a hands-free headset to make or receive calls. With a hotspot option, other devices in the RV can use the cell phone that is using a boosted cell signal. Also, as of Apple’s latest update to iOS 9, you can enable WiFi Calling. This is a SUPER feature that not many people are aware of! This allows you to connect via hotspot to the boosted cell phone to make or receive calls from the non-boosted phone. I have tested this using a Verizon iPhone 6 that did not have any service, which I connected to an AT&T iPhone 6S via hotspot. The AT&T phone had service, so the Verizon phone was able to make AND RECEIVE calls using its own phone number. That is an amazing feature! Therefore, if a cradle cell phone booster can only boost one phone, it’s not limiting Internet or cell service to just that one phone, and it becomes a cheaper option than the non-cradle mount cell phone boosters.
Non-Cradle Mount Boosters
These are basically a dell phone booster that mounts on the wall and broadcasts a boosted signal to a larger area than just one phone. While that’s more convenient than the connectivity options I mentioned in the Cradle Mount section above, it’s about 2X the price. I have not tested this type of booster, so I can’t speak to how well they work.
Test Results for Wilson Electronics Sleek 4G Booster
After reading many reviews on various models, I found that most of the devices didn’t get stellar reviews. Being optimistic and choosing a unit that got somewhat favorable reviews, I decided to go with the Wilson Electronics (aka WeBoost) Sleek 4G 460107:
The video below shows the test I performed and the results, but I’ve also typed the review just below the video if you prefer to read it instead.
I received the unit and immediately tried it out. I connected the antenna and placed it in the middle of the roof of our CR-V. I then put my iPhone 6S into field test mode (just Google it to see how), which lets you see a db meter instead of the regular signal bars. This is is a more accurate way to measure the signal strength. Before powering on the booster, I noted the db reading for a few minutes. It was pretty steady at -110db, which is not great, but enough signal for a call and Internet use. This kind of weak signal is exactly what the booster is designed for. I then powered on the booster…..wait for it….wait for it…..NO improvement! Ok, so I took off my phone case, not that it’s very thick, and still nothing. So, I called tech support and they had me turn the phone upside down, thinking the phone’s antenna may not be lining up with the booster’s antenna. Still nothing. They then had me put the phone into airplane mode and then back out of airplane mode, which will force the db meter to update, and that only briefly showed an improved signal. It returned to 110db shortly after. They decided it was a defective unit, so I returned it to Amazon and bought another one exactly like the first.
The second unit did exactly the same thing….NOTHING. Although this next time my non-boosted signal was 92db, and it didn’t change when I plugged in the booster and let it sit for a few minutes. It was at that point I decided to make a video, illustrating what I just typed, as I was very frustrated to find that the device was not doing anything for my phone. I even tried both AT&T and Verizon iPhone 6 and 6s, as well as an AT&T iPhone 6 Plus. None of them showed any signal improvement from either booster I tried. Refund please….
I really wanted this to work. I really did. I love gadgets, especially those that help with working remotely while RV’ing! Given that I tried two of these devices, both brand new, I’m now very skeptical about any cell phone booster, as Wilson Electronics is the most well known manufacturer of these devices.
Hopefully we will hear from our viewers regarding what cell phone boosters have actually proven to work as advertised, since I am still in the market for an affordable 4G booster.