How to Boost Your Smartphone’s Signal Strength

by Barrett

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean your smartphone is.  And even though you’re trying to get away from it all, you probably still want to receive that important phone call…

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean your smartphone is. And even though you’re trying to get away from it all, you probably still want to receive that important phone call…

This past week, I’ve been adjusting to the sad reality that summer is behind us. All that’s left are the fun memories, a thousand photos that need organizing and a few cautionary tech tales.

Like what to do when you find yourself more disconnected than you originally planned…
(Cue “The Twilight Zone” music…)

Losing It at the Log Cabin
It was billed as the perfect vacation getaway…

  • A road trip up to the Berkshires
  • A little log cabin in the woods (with ‘most’ of the comforts of home)
  • A babbling brook nearby (okay… it was more like a roaring river)
  • Time set aside for a little R&R at a little lake in Great Barrington, MA

It was supposed to be perfect.

Until I asked the day before we left if there was decent cell phone coverage at the house.
(Granted, it was a little late in the game to be asking.)

The response:
“You can probably get one or two bars on the back deck.”

That sounded decidedly like code for a different answer…

When we arrived, I whipped out my iPhone and discovered the truth.
There wasn’t a morsel of a signal bar on my phone as I walked around the entire house, grounds and deck.

I was cut off!!

…and I started to panic.
Think. Think. THINK!…

I spotted the broadband modem in the kitchen.
We were not entirely in the digital dark!

Skype to the Rescue?
Yes, at least there was Wi-Fi in the house.

So, we got the modem working,
(First, we needed to reboot the frozen box, downed by a recent power outage.)

I immediately tested my Skype app.

So now people could Skype me, but I was still concerned I couldn’t receive an old-fashioned phone call.

The irony here is I had forgotten all about my online Skype number for my iPhone’s Skype app.
I was so proud to acquire it a couple years back, but the reality is I’ve rarely used it.

That would have solved the problem, as long as I stayed on my Wi-Fi tether.
(and if all my friends and family actually knew about my Skype number…)

Waiting for the Phone to Ring
So I kept searching for a solution to ‘MacGyver’ my phone to somehow access incoming calls to my mobile number.
(I could still receive texts via the Wi-Fi network.)

But if someone called me,
(like my 81-year-old father)
I really wanted to be able to pick up the call.

After a little Googling, I discovered the truth is out there.
You can actually create a few bars for your mobile phone using your Wi-Fi network.
But pulling the trigger on the solution would have to wait until I returned from my trip.

How to Generate Signal Strength
It’s called the AT&T MicroCell, and this little device acts like a mini cellular tower.
You simply plug it into a broadband modem via an Ethernet port and voila…!
You’ve got your very own cell bubble to use!!
(You do have to set it up first online, and you can register up to fifteen different AT&T Wireless cell phones.)

And how much for this slice of magic?
(Available at your local AT&T store… I couldn’t find it online.)


You can take the MicroCell with you wherever you go as long as you plug it into a broadband DSL or cable network and update your location change online.
(and as long as it’s within an AT&T wireless authorized service area)

And if you’re wondering, …
Yes, Verizon offers a similar product with its “Wireless Network Extender.”

Don’t Get Cut Off on Vacation
No, this isn’t a cheap solution, and I think the MicroCell probably is purchasd more to solve signal strength problems at home. But it certainly would have done the trick at our log cabin in the digital wilderness.

I’m not sure how many of you would want to pack a MicroCell with your socks every time you head out on vacation, but if you plan on receiving calls on your smartphone using your regular mobile number, you might need it!