LAS VEGAS — Companies often make spurious claims about the effectiveness of their products, but there's no doubt that weBoost's new antenna and amplifier for cellphone reception really work. That's because at CES 2016, weBoost put its new product inside a Faraday cage and invited me to try it out.
The self-installable device was able to boost reception on my phone from zero to five bars faster than you can say "Can you hear me now?" It will be available in the spring of 2016 for $349.
For those unfamiliar with what a Faraday cage is, it's essentially a structure, typically made of metal wires, that blocks all electronic signals from entering or exiting. For CES, WeBoost built one out of copper mesh, and for good measure, added a metal-lined latching door that looked like something you'd see in a meat locker.
Inside the cage was the WeBoost Eqo ("Echo"), which is made up of two pieces: The main amplifier/base station, which was connected to an antenna outside the Faraday cage, and a satellite amplifier, which helps to fill out any gaps in coverage inside the cage. After closing the door, and with the Eqo turned off, the bars on my Verizon iPhone 6s dropped to nothing; at one point, it even said "no service." I then turned on the Eqo, and within a few seconds, full service had been restored.
The Eqo differs from WeBoost's earlier products in that it's much easier to install. Instead of having to get a professional to come out, it's a simple matter of affixing an antenna to some place on your house that gets cellular service, and then attaching the antenna to the Eqo base station. Then, you place the second amplifier somewhere else in your house, at least 8 feet away from the base station.
The Eqo works on all five major LTE bands in the US and Canada, so regardless of your phone provider (AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, Rogers, Telus, Bell), you'll be able to get better service. However, the WeBoost's range is limited to about 1,200 square feet, so if you have a McMansion out in the boonies, don't expect to cover your entire house.
The Eqo also can't work miracles — if there's no signal to begin with, it can't magically create one. Still, for those who live or work in places with thick walls (such as our office in New York), the WeBoost Eqo could be very useful.