This page contains the reader responses to the cellphone antenna booster sticker test article. See the original article for detail, or keep reading for good reader questions and debate.
Greg is an electrical engineer, and compliments the testing while adding more information about true signal boosting antennas: Those that actually plug in to something!
Doug wonders about the testing methods:
Yes, measuring in this way would add a lot of detail. However, I chose not to do that, for a couple reasons:
1) The bar measurements are what are claimed by the booster sticker companies, so I'm directly testing those claims. They give quotes like this:
Here are two photos taken from a booster sticker reseller:
They're very adamant the stickers will have a noticable increase, not just minute changes. The sticker resellers claim noticable increases in signal strength when measuring at the bar level, so this is what I tested.
2) The detailed measurements are too sporadic where I live. In my city, in multiple places, the numbers would vary by a few points every other second. I assume this is normal, but doesn't lend itself to taking a spot-measurement of signal strength. I'd have to estimate. And therefore I used the bar measurements, which (as it was less detailed) were more stable.
Doug also recommends a proven way to boost a cellhphone signal: Install an external antenna:
Robert has a question about pull-out antennas:
I sent this question back to Matthew Fogle, one of our antenna experts. Turns out that pull-out antennas do indeed work, but not in the way you might think:
I did look at the study, located at home.pacbell.net. I'm not linking to it here, though, as it contained links selling antenna booster stickers. I don't trust its objectivity. I also have a few points of contention with it:
1) The article made a lot of statements but gave no supporting evidence, no detailed data results, no additional references, no names, or any details that can be independently verified or replicated by a third party. Even the "Electrical Engineer from the University of Illinois" wasn't named. News channels were referenced, but no links were given to the stories, making verification and analysis difficult or impossible. All this kills credibility, as the reviewer is essentially saying, "They work because I say they do. You'll just have to trust me." I, because of the reasons stated, don't.
2) Statements like this: "They reported that this [a static-free conversation] was not possible before the antenna booster was installed." From this, I infer the tests done were not double-blind. This is critical, which is why I was very careful to design a double-blind environment in my own analysis. The testers must NOT know if they're testing a phone with a sticker, because subjectivity can significantly influence these types of tests.
Perhaps, but 1) my own study showed no noticeable difference in reception even if the sticker was made out of (highly conductive) aluminum foil. And 2) the stickers I had were thin metallic gold-colored tracings embossed on plastic adhesive with paper backing. The paper peeled off before applying the sticker, so when a sticker was properly installed, no paper was involved.
What is the science supporting your opinion? [This section will be updated when I get a reply from Jim. Making a claim is fine, but for it to mean anything you have to be able to support it.]
Excellent - try to do the test "blinded", so that when you're testing, you DON'T know if what you're testing is the booster sticker, or something else (in my case, tin foil or a piece of paper). This ensures that your own opinions and preconceived notions don't get in the way of testing.
If that's your intent, fine. But if the test is done correctly, their effectiveness will be proved/disproved, and you'll be able to share the results with others, and others will be able to duplicate your results.
No, it doesn't necessarily work. If you put the sticker on and get plus two bars, then take it off, and get minus two bars, and can repeat this sequence as long as you want, and have a stranger come over and do the same thing, then yes, it probably works. But in my own house, my cellphones often go from zero to three bars within minutes or seconds. Atmosphere, house location, additional radiation, phone position, my body position... all these things and more can affect cell phone signals. Shall I then assume that if I put a sticker on the phone and the signal improves, this is the result of the sticker? No.
Your second sentence is the type of thinking that can affect test results. This is another reason to do your analysis double-blind. If you hope for certain results, you are more likely to find them than someone with the opposite opinion. Double-blind testing rules out human nature seeing what we want to see.
When I was designing the testing methodology, I needed to come up with a way to make the test repeatable, to have multiple antenna booster stickers be applied to multiple cellphones. Otherwise, if I mounted the booster stickers directly on phones, individual variations between phones would make the testing impossible. So I needed to have a test that had "removable stickers".
To do this, I made sure I still "mounted" the stickers in the way the distributor recommended - with the right side up, vertically aligned with the antenna. Taking a quote from AntennaBooster.net website you quoted, we also see this:
According to that, my testing method should've been more effective than the battery-case mounting technique, as the stickers were actually closer to the antenna electronics.
As for removing the paper backing from the antenna, that's not needed. As I mention earlier in my page, paper doesn't affect radio transmissions.
If you're establishing credentials, I need more detailed information than that. But if your field of expertise is/was antenna theory, please share any criticism for additions you have for the antenna theory experts I interviewed. What do you disagree with what they have to say about cellphone antenna booster stickers, or the technology and science behind the theory?
Brian wrote back:
And my response to Brian:
I see what you mean here. However, I wasn't able to design a way to test the stickers in a proper, controlled, double-blind, scientific manner. Having to stick the stickers on the phone means that phone gets that sticker, and I can't test the phone repeatedly with other control groups for comparison. The usage instructions put the user in a position where the sticker validity can't be objectively tested. Sneaky, that. For my test, I worked with the closest approximation I could get.
If the location of the stickers is more what you're addressing, then we can discuss that: Would you consider the test proper if I had placed the stickers in the battery compartment (though not adhered them)?
Yes. I not only admit it, I experienced it during my testing. I mentioned signal strength fluctuations in my results analysis section. The data points also show such differences between phones. That was one of the reasons I used multiple phones from multiple carriers - the booster stickers, if working, should've improved average reception over all phones.
If there was no variance between phones, I probably could've ran the test with only two phones of the same model and one sticker. From my experience, and talking to phone manufacturer tech folks, this isn't possible.
True. Though, I was hoping, not by much. See above for my question on location.
It is supported. This is what one of the experts said:
"If incorrectly placed, the sticker would resonate at the phones operating frequency and become a source of out of phase waves that could either drown out the original signal, or cancel part of the signal, out making it effectively smaller than it would be otherwise, depending largely on the distance from the antenna the sticker is placed."
They're saying the closer to the antenna you place the sticker, the more effect it was likely to have. I had checked schematics on all my tested phones before testing: For all of them, the battery compartment is farther from the antenna than the location I was using. According to the expert, there still shoud've been an effect.
While I don't know which irrational philosophers you mean, I agree with the rest 100%. In fact, I recently said the same thing to another one of my readers about another article. This is one of the reasons I did the test in the first place. It's one thing to make a claim. But what repeatable, measurable results do you get?
You were the one who brought up your credentials.
Fair enough. Let's discuss the testing I did. What changes would you make in order to give a double-blind, repeatable test of the stickers? As I mentioned, the antenna booster instructions themselves prevent proper objective testing. Is there a way to do a good double-blind, repeatable test? If the tester has to stick the sticker on a phone, they'll always know what it is they're testing, and could influence results. The test also wouldn't be repeatable for that phone.
I'm asking honestly here. I do appreciate your criticism, and am very willing to redo the testing under more accurate conditions. I'm open to saying I'm wrong. I know I'm not perfect. But this test was designed and implemented the best I know how, given the restrictions of the stickers and the requirements of double-blind analysis. If you think there's a better way, please let me know, or run a test yourself. I'd be extremely excited to see the results!
Thanks for taking the time to write!
>I was given a free signal booster sticker that is affixed under the back lid above the battery, she has none.
I specifically did *not* do this as part of my test. Here's why:
When I first planned my antenna booster sticker test, I figured I'd just purchase a bunch of identical phones, and put my stickers and test controls on a random distribution of those phones. So I started by purchasing two identical phones - these are the two TracFone Nokia 1100b phones you see as part of the antenna sticker test. And out of the box, they behaved differently - one would get say 5 bars of reception, and the other one would get 3. Both were the same model, and both had the same firmware. There were no physical differences between the phones. So I called TracFone tech support and told them of the problem. They helped me troubleshoot, with no results. So they sent me a replacement phone. And that third phone got a different signal than the other two!
The conclusion I came to was that running a test with identical phones is worthless - even though a phone may be identical to another, there is still enough physical variance to change signal reception. For the sticker test to work, the identical phones must have identical reception performance. That can not be guaranteed, so I changed the format of the test to account for it.
In your case, I expect that if you had taken the sticker off of your phone, it would have performed just the same. Similarly, if you had then put the sticker on your wife's phone, her performance would not have improved.