Wilson iBooster for Apple iPhone: First Impressions

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Monday, 13 April 2009

iBooster for Apple iPhone: First Impressions

Wilson Electronics' Newest Product May Be the Ultimate iPhone Car Accessory

NOTE: The iBooster is NOT recommended for the iPhone 4 - click here to read more. iPhone 4 users should consider the Wilson Sleek instead.

The iPhone may not be EVDO-compatible, but we have to admit that we are iPhone fanatics here at One of the few problems that we have with it is the lack of an antenna port to connect an external antenna. Without an antenna port, the only way to attach an external antenna to boost signal strength to the iPhone is via a passive antenna adapter. Unfortunately, these passive adapters are not very effective at all when used with an antenna alone, meaning in order to use one with your iPhone you really need to use an amplifier and an antenna - more gear, more money. Another drawback of those passive antenna adapters is the way that they attach to the iPhone, which is with Velcro. To attach that Velcro, you need to use the provided adhesive strip. The iPhone is a beautiful product, and personally I wouldn't want to glue an ugly piece of Velcro to my iPhone and have to carry one side of the Velcro around with me.

These are just a few of the reasons that we are very excited to be introducing a new product from Wilson Electronics designed specifically for the iPhone.

It's called the iBooster, in keeping with Apple's naming scheme, and combines a wireless amplifier with a passive antenna connection and an iPhone charger and cradle.

The iBooster wins's pick for ultimate in-vehicle iPhone accessory. Not only does it boost your iPhone's signal strength for both voice and data, it charges your iPhone at the same time. The pass-through Dock Connector allows you to simultaneously plug in your iPhone accessory of choice, such as an FM transmitter to use with your car stereo, or to plug in to your iPhone-ready stereo. If that wasn't enough already, the iBooster allows you to use your iPhone's speakerphone for completely hands free calls.

In the package you get the iBooster, iPhone case adapter, Wilson's Mini Magnetic Mount Antenna, 12v Car adapter, and an assortment of mounting options for the iBooster. The iBooster also comes with an installation guide on how to properly install everything. The iPhone case adapter is a sleeve that can be inserted when using the iPhone without a case, and taken out when you want to use a case. When not using the iBooster case adapter, most standard iPhone cases will fit. We tested this with the Incase Slider Case, and the phone fit well, with just a slight wobble from front to back, but nothing that a small piece of foam or folded cloth couldn't easily rectify.

ibooster package contents
The iBooster comes with the charger/amplifier cradle, magnetic mount antenna, power cord, and multiple mounting options

Installing the iBooster was incredibly easy (there is nothing permanent to install), and using and testing the iBooster proved to be quite enjoyable. The included mounting brackets let you put it wherever is convenient, using adhesive tape to put it on your dashboard or windshield, or using the vent mount for a less permanent solution.

Installation of antenna under door seal

Vent Mount for iBooster

Connecting the cables on the bottom

Installation Complete!

DC Adapter Plug

iPhone in Field Test Mode
click thumbnails to view larger photo in new window

To test how the iBooster works, we first put our iPhone into Field Test Mode so that we could see how the iBooster affected the RSSI. Doing this is a fairly simple procedure. Open the Phone application and dial "*3001#12345#*" (minus the quotations), and press "call". Entering field test mode changed the signal bars in the top left corner to RSSI in dBm's.

Once in Field Test mode we were able to see just how well the iBooster works. Our RSSI was -81dBm without the iBooster (already a good signal), and it improved to -67 with the iBooster on (remember, closer to zero is better). 14dBm is a pretty impressive improvement, particularly since we were testing in the city where signal was already strong - had we been in a weak signal area, we are confident that the increase would have been just as strong if not stronger. We also noticed quite a significant speed increase when using the iBooster: download speeds jumped from just under 900kbps to over 1400kbps, and upload speeds jumped by 100kbps, from 230 to about 330kbps. Since AT&T's 3G coverage is not nearly as widespread as one might hope, travelers in particular will love being able to get more out of their data service!

Not that we need any more convincing, but the iBooster has some other cool features. Similar to the SignalBoost MP it has a port on the back into which you can plug an adapter cable (cable 359909) and use a high-gain indoor antenna, such as our Booster Antenna to broadcast the boosted signal to more devices. When using the iBooster in this configuration we were able to receive amplified signal when standing as far away as 8ft from the iBooster. The packaging claims that the iBooster's range to the iPhone can be up to 2ft. In our tests we found this to be closer to 1ft. So, if you think you may need more than 1ft of separation from the iBooster, check out 3gstore"s review of the SignalBoost MP for more information. Like the SignalBoost MP, the iBooster has an SMA antenna connector. In order to use this with other Wilson Electronics antennas from 3gstore you will need the adapter 971119 to connect. This adaptability can come in handy if you want to use the larger, more powerful 12" MagMount antenna from

Overall we are thrilled with the performance of the iBooster, and our only complaint is that it has taken so long for someone to come up with this product. We feel that anyone who has an iPhone and drives a car will benefit greatly from the iBooster, no matter where you live.

Check out our iBooster for iPhone unboxing and demo videos!:

Unboxing the iBooster:

Demoing the iBooster:

Related links:

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 30 June 2010 )
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