Cellular pioneer Motorola continues to be a player in the marketplace, with a broad range of Android-powered smartphones including the feature-rich Droid series. Like other modern phones with internal antennas, Droids occasionally experience dropped calls or signal problems, depending how their users grip the phone. If you experience this problem periodically, or live or travel in an area where coverage is spotty, using an antenna booster can sharply improve your Droid's reception.
Cellular phone signal boosters come in two varieties, active and passive. Passive boosters consist of an antenna that creates a small area of strong signal around its base. They're of limited use, since the phone must be physically close to the booster and the signal fluctuates sharply with any movement. Active boosters also include an antenna, but amplify the signal they receive and rebroadcast it to the phone. They also offer powerful transmitters, repeating the phone's outbound signals at a much higher power level. Active boosters are available for both home and in-car use.
Although styling and design vary between manufacturers, boosters for home use are typically the size and shape of a modern wireless router or cable modem. The base unit plugs into your wall for AC power and usually displays its status through indicator LEDs on the front. Most have a high-gain antenna to send and receive cellular signals from the nearest tower and a smaller antenna to relay the signal to your Droid. Often the main antenna is intended to mount on your roof or in the attic to improve reception. Before purchasing an in-home booster, ensure that it is compatible with your Droid device.
In-car boosters fall into two general classes. One type consists of a flat box, similar to home boosters, while the other type is designed to act as a hands-free cradle for the phone. Before you buy a cradle model, it's important to ensure that it's compatible with your Droid. Some Droids, especially the Razr series, are thinner than other smartphones and might not rest securely in a generic cradle. Cradle-model boosters have a low-power transmitter in the cradle itself, which relays the signal to and from your Droid. Non-cradle models transmit over a small area, like home boosters. Both types must attach to an antenna on the car's exterior. Boosters that attach to a windshield are generally not effective.
Using a Booster
If you travel frequently, a booster in your car might literally be a lifesaver, enabling your Droid to get a signal in marginal areas. Home-based boosters are also useful in remote or mountainous areas where coverage is tenuous. Some models can be used in either setting, providing the maximum versatility from your investment. When installing a booster in either your home or car, try the antenna in several positions to assess which one provides the best signal. Bear in mind that too much signal can also provide poor audio, so amplification can be reduced or turned off on most boosters.
- Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images