Though cell phones have become much more than simple communication devices, even the most high-end and feature-rich handset is only as good as the calls it makes. Of course you can't blame just a phone for a bad connection, as the strength of a carrier's signal also plays a role in the equation. And while you can always swap out your phone, increasing your carrier's signal isn't so easy. Besides waiting for new towers in your area, you can try a variety of signal boosters that promise to bring better reception to areas with poor coverage. In the past, we've reviewed the Spotwave Zen and the Wilson Electronics SignalBoost Cellular Amplifier. While both devices performed as promised, they are expensive and have a complicated setup. That's why we were interested to try the new Arc Wireless Freedom Antenna, which offers a cheaper and simpler arrangement. While setup is exceptionally easy, the Freedom Antenna won't win any beauty contests, and it uses a wired connection to your cell phone. And while it worked well for the most part, there were other instances where we didn't notice much of a change. But at $39, you might as well try.
We'll be clear from the start that the Freedom Antenna is a tad unsightly. Yes, we get that there's not a whole lot you can do to make a signal booster attractive (not that you really need to anyway), but the Freedom Antenna's circle-on-top-of-a-square design makes it look like a prop from a bad sci-fi film. What's more, the plastic body gives it a cheap feel, and the removable base is easily lost. On the upside, it is rather compact at 5.8 inches tall by 3.25 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick, so you can transport it easily between your home, office, and car. It also comes with a suction cup for securing it to a window.
Setup for the Freedom Antenna is quite simple, and we liked that it doesn't require any power. Inside the box are three parts: the antenna and cable, the aforementioned base, and the adaptor for your phone. The All-in-One pack comes with a variety of adaptors, but you also can buy a version with an adaptor for just your handset. For a complete list of supported phone models, see Arc Wireless' Web site. To connect your phone, turn the handset off and find its antenna port. Typically, it's covered by a small rubber plug in the same area as the main antenna. The plug can be tricky to pry out, but a paper clip or sharp fingernails help. Then, after connecting the adaptor to the Freedom Antenna's cable, you have only to secure the adaptor to the antenna port and turn on your phone.