Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Cell Ranger to the Rescue: A product that actually works

It is perhaps a measure of contemporary consumer cynicism that many of us regard strong product claims with suspicion. Consider the Cell Ranger that I recently purchased in hopes of regaining cell phone service up at the cottage (our provider is AT&T and my wife's Blackberry normally has 2 bars indoors--my Treo often has 2 bars as well, but lately has been failing to reconnect to the network after I return from trips down to the post office, which lies in a dead zone).

The Cell Ranger web page proclaims: "Boost your bars!" Then it asks: What Frustrates YOU About Your Cellular Service?

  • Dropped Calls?
  • Poor Call Clarity?
  • Late VoiceMail and Text Message Notifications?
  • Slow Data and Music Downloads?
Amazingly, Cell Ranger claims to "Solve ALL These Problems!" And the unbelievable part comes when you check the price: $149.99. Now that might sound like a lot of money for two bits of plastic and a wire to connect them, but there is more to the product than that. Consider the price of other products that claim to boost signal at your house and you will be hard pressed to find anything under $250, and those products tend to have a fairly industrial look to them, suggesting that implementation might require hand tools.

So I took a chance and ordered one, the USB-powered Port version. When it arrived I stuck the small magnetic antenna on the charcoal grill that sits on the porch and plugged the other end into the nearest wall socket (I happened to have a USB-to-mains connector handy). Then I conducted my first test. The Blackberry went from 2 bars to 5 when I held it near the plug. The Treo connected to the network, which it had refused to do for weeks, and then it hit 5 bars. It retained connection in all rooms of the house. In other words, Cell Ranger works!

In the next few days I will test it on a trip to the post office. If I get signal there, I will be very impressed. The setup works best if you can use your phone near the plug end while keeping the plug far away from the antenna, which ideally sits on a metal surface or object outside the house/vehicle.

The boost effect is clearly quite localized. It is stronger when you are 30 inches from the device than when you are 30 feet away. I expected this but I think the Cell Ranger web site could make it a little clearer that the device will not light up your entire house (that said, it's boosting signal nicely throughout the cottage's modestly-sized living area ).

Is it worth the price? For me the answer is yes, especially if it boosts signal in the car. I really don't want to go through the hassle of changing carriers and handsets (that is a whole other world of consumer dissatisfaction). And although I've heard that Verizon works on our hill, there is no way of telling unless they loan me a Treo for several days to test it. (Note: This thing does not currently support Sprint/Nextel networks.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting! Why not check out my main blog?