DROPPED CALLS AND ALL THAT STUFF

Dropped calls and poor cell phone reception have become the bane of the land, and naturally enough, we have a fix. (On the other hand, maybe you really didn’t want to talk to that person in the first place.)

We’ve found, through costly trial and error, that expensive cell phones experience fewer dropped calls and better overall reception. Not too surprising, we guess. The quality and reputation of your carrier counts too, and there’s a Web site — CellReception.com — that offers personal opinions about that, depending on your location.

And then there’s the antenna. You can kick up almost any cell phone’s reception by adding an external antenna. Some of these plug into the cell phone itself; others attach to the roof of a car or have suction cups that stick to a wall or window. We did a few Web searches and found over a hundred offerings. There’s no way we can test them all or even want to.

We looked at a two-unit combination to increase reception in a defined area, like inside a home or large office. This was the Spotwave Zen Z1900 signal booster. The unwieldy name is matched by an unwieldy price: $399 for improved call coverage estimated at up to 2,500 square feet, depending on the construction of the building. It doesn’t boost the signal from all cell phone carriers, however. In our ZIP code, it doesn’t work with Verizon or Sprint/Nextel, for example, two of the largest cell service providers. We checked many ZIP codes and couldn’t use Verizon or Sprint/Nextel with any of them. What it basically works with is Cingular and T-Mobile.

Looking at the exceptions is instruction enough to carefully consider which signal booster would suit you best. You can go up to several thousand dollars for signal boosters for manufacturing plants, office buildings and large areas like casinos and sports arenas where there’s lots of metal to interfere with reception. For a business, it’s worth it. Individuals are better off with a high-quality phone.

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