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Antenna booster stickers fail to impress

January 1, 2005

in All Articles,Cellphone reviews,Viruses / malware / scams

(Also see Andy’s full booster sticker analysis, photos, and detailed expert interview.)

I don’t get mad easily. Being a computer-gadgety guy, dealing with temperamental hardware and glitchy software, I’m naturally patient. I can count slowly to one hundred with the best Shaolin Kung-Fu master.

But I can still get cranked the wrong way, as when advanced technology is sold by companies who know it to be a scam. Just because people will buy it doesn’t mean it should be sold.

An example is cellphone antenna booster stickers. These are little stickers advertised to increase the signal strength on your cellphone, giving you clearer calls and fewer dropped conversations. They’re nothing new, available for years, but to my knowledge have never been properly tested.

I put the antenna booster stickers to the test: I bought two stickers, and got my eager hands on several cellphones from multiple carriers.

I prepared a test environment with special characteristics: It was randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled. This is just a fancy way of saying I wouldn’t know the results, or even what I was testing, until everything was complete. This allowed me to test without my opinions affecting the results.

I drove around Grand Rapids. I measured the signal strength for each cellphone with and without the antenna booster sticker. It was a lot of fun, driving around a cool city, listening to books on CD, drinking highly-caffeinated liquids, and now and then stopping to juggle a bunch of cellphones and other gadgets.

The results were clear: Antenna booster stickers do not work as advertised. They give no noticeable improvement in signal strength.

I spoke with Matthew Fogle and Sam Kidman from They specialize in cellphone reprogramming and custom modifications. These, your honor, are my expert witnesses.

Fogle and Kidman make their point clearly. “Booster stickers will not work, and worse, may cause harmful interference… As harmful interference isn’t reported by the large user base… these stickers are simply decorative.”

While does instruct on building custom cellphone antennas, Fogle and Kidman also recommend paying attention to your environment: “Radio waves do not travel as well through concrete, iron, trees, stone, and dirt as well as they do through air. For example, a cell phone will typically get better signal placed in a hands free mount on the dashboard above the windowline rather than below, as there is less obstruction to the signal.”

At its simplest, this is a test of a retail item that doesn’t live up to its claims. Look closer, and this test has nothing to do with antenna booster stickers.

This is a recommendation to not take any claim at face value, particularly when those claims may affect your life or cost you money and time. Test the claim. Or see if the claim is based on peer-reviewed, repeatable science. Critical thinking and skepticism are powerful tools. These are needed with our free market economy. Anyone can sell almost anything. It’s a great freedom, but that strength of our society lends itself to abuse.

At first, I wanted to say something meaningful with my newly acquired antenna booster stickers. I was going to ramble philosophical: “Even though I think antenna boosters are a scam, I still left one on my phone. Not because it works, but as a reminder.”

Then I realized the best thing to write would just be a clear recommendation: “Throw that thing away.” No sense in being foolish about it.

Cellphone Nirvana comes at a cost, and antenna booster stickers won’t pay the bill.

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