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Tech Myths: Boosting Reality

Return to Horse Poop Hollow

Myth: You can boost your cell phone reception with little more than a modified pop can. True or false?

Some of you might remember my prior Tech Myths foray into nature from a few weeks back. Being summer and all, my friends and family had another chance to return to our Cascade Mountains camping spot, named Horse Poop Hollow after the site’s equine resident. We’d noticed during the prior visit that our cell phone reception was none too impressive. My wife and I typically get three bars on our BlackBerry 8310s. My friend Joe (he of the oft-drowned and thus low-end cell phones), generally gets one bar or fewer on his little Nokia. When we visit this spot, that’s our reality: terrible cellular reception. But can reality be easily boosted?

I went digging around on the Internet for answers. Sure, if you want to buy specialized parts, dive into some soldering work, and so on, you can build something very similar to the “cantenna” often used for improving WiFi performance. You might have read the past Tech Myths where we took this same idea and achieved good results with foam board and chicken wire. You’d think that something similar could be done for cell phones.


Eventually, I stumbled upon this choice YouTube video called “Howto: Directional Signal Booster (Cell Phone).”  The on-screen and shirtless wonder-geek breezes through transforming a 24-ounce can of Arizona tea into a parabolic reception dish that allegedly will improve handset reception (although the video never explicitly states this). At least one forum poster reported impressive results from trying the technique, so I figured, “Cool! What a great survivalist technique! I’ll try that in the woods using only stuff we have in camp!”