Wilson iBooster – In vehicle signal booster for iPhone
I love my iPhone. It is a very good product but I am not happy with its signal reception. On my 20 minute commute to work,it will lose reception in 3 seperate locations, making it nearly impossible to carry a conversation on my drive home. I had been looking for some way to get better reception. I had also been looking for a cradle kit for my car so I could drop my phone in it and listen to my music from my cars audio system, while being charged. In my search I found Wilson Electronics. Wilson Electronics Inc. is a company, based out of St. George, Utah. They design and manufacture a wide variety of amplifiers, antennas and related components. These products improve cellular signal reception, and transmission, in both mobile and “in building” applications. The Wilson product that caught my eye is called iBooster.
The iBooster is a “plug and play” cellular booster kit for the iPhone. It will work with both the first generation iPhone, and the iPhone 3G. When I received the iBooster, the first piece that I removed from the box was the cradle. The cradle has several mounting options, so it will mount in most any vehicle. I chose to use the adhesive mounts with the ball socket, that swivels in any direction. The kit also contained an adhesive mount that swiveled either up/down or side/side, depending on how you mounted it, and clip mounts so you could clip it on your vehicles vent slats. Clipping to the vent slats makes for a good temporary install that you can remove quickly if you need to switch to another vehicle. The cradle comes with an insert, so your phone fits snugly in the cradle. If you remove the insert, the cradle will accomodate your phone with a case on it. The bottom of the cradle has 3 different jacks, one for the power, one for the antenna, and one for your 30 pin connector to pass audio. The next item I removed from the box was the charger. The charger plugs directly into a cigarette lighter/charging port, and the other end plugs into the bottom of the cradle unit. The charger also has a power switch on it so you can turn the power off if your charging port is “full time” (so you don’t drain your vehicle battery). The final item I removed from the box, was the antenna unit. The antenna is magnetic mount so you just place it on top of your car for the best performance, route the wire, and plug it into the bottom of the cradle unit. When all is installed, power up the unit and put your phone into the cradle, put your stereo on aux. and you are set. Now you are charging, listening to audio, and not worrying about you signal dropping!
I have set my phone up so I can actually see what my signal strength is by numbers using the field test. The numbers normally range from -50 to -100, with -50 being strong signal, and
Now that I have told you how good this unit is, let me touch on some negative aspects that I have ran into. First the cable for the magnetic mount antenna is not long enough to install in a more permanent fashion. It is long enough to get it through the door to the top of the car, but I would like to install it permanently towards the rear of my car on the roof. The length of wire on it is not long enough to be able to tuck under trim and run through the trunk and around the back window gasket. This will not be an issue for anyone just running the cable through their door in a normal temporary install though. Second the connection from the mounting brackets to the cradle do not lock into place. This means that sometimes the cradle comes off the mount during normal road driving due to vibration. I could probably fix this with some glue, but it does not happen often enough for me to worry about doing this. Another concern was GSM noise on the audio pass-through. I was able to resolve this using a ground loop isolator, but you need to keep the audio cables seperated from the signal/charging cables. After that the audio was very clear and I no longer have the GSM noise. My final concern has to do with the ability for this unit to accomodate my iPhone case (Otterbox Defender). My case is too large to fit into the cradle without the insert. This means that I will use the insert, and keep my iPhone bare, until I find the right case! No huge deal, just a minor issue for me.
Overall, this unit works very well and resolved the signal issues I had. It also put an end to my search for a quality vehicle mount dock. Wilson also makes in vehicle kits for the Blackberry Curve and a Universal kit to boost voice and data coverage with unique signal amplifier, charger and cradle combo.