As a former cellular retailer, I've been through this many times with
my customers. I'll expand on the comments shown below, and add a few
things from my personal knowledge.
The first thing you need to do is establish whether your difficulty is
related to your area, your carrier, your house, or your phone. The
remedy to your problem will depend to some degree which of these
proves to be the difficulty. The steps given below by
alienintelligence-ga are pretty comprehensive.
If signal is good outside your house, your coverage is likely not at
fault. If coverage is good-but-not-great outside your house (most
phones will show you on their display how good a signal you've got),
then you may be on the fringe of your carrier's coverage area. Try to
organize two friends: one with a different carrier, one with the same
carrier but a different phone. If the friend with a different carrier
has excellent signal, you may be on the fringe of Sprint's coverage.
If another Sprint customer with a different phone gets good signal, it
may be your phone. If everybody's signal is fine outside the house
but bad inside, then you have an issue with the house itself.
Some types of construction are worse than others. As
alienintelligence has learned, concrete has "rebar" inside, which
interferes with the signal. Stucco walls typically have wire mesh
inside them, which also is a problem. Aluminum siding, of course, is
self-explanatory. If you have no obvious construction-related issues,
you probably are getting interference from something within the house.
These are always difficult to track down. Regardless of the cause of
your problem, improving your signal strength will usually clear it up.
Using an external antenna on your house is the option most likely to
improve your signal. If you are simply in an area of poor signal, it
might be the only thing that will work. This involves an investment
not just in the antenna, but usually also an adaptor kit to allow your
phone to use the antenna. You may also choose to have the antenna
professionally installed, in order to ensure proper grounding (and to
"pass the buck" for any liability to the installer). This is costly,
however, and you'd specified that you wanted to keep the price low.
Those little gizmos that attach to your phone are not a very viable
option. Like the others, feedback I've received on them has been
poor. The principle they use, however (Passive Repeater) is genuine.
Specialty cellular outlets usually carry the "proper" repeaters,
though your mall electronics store may not. They will typically look
like either a small antenna, or a flat patch that goes onto your
window. Essentially they focus the signal in their immediate
vicinity, giving your built-in antenna a "leg up", so to speak. Be
aware that while these are a legitimate and well-recognized product,
they do not work in all cases. Before you buy one, check the return
policy clearly. These will usually cost less than antennas.
A third choice is to purchase a higher-gain antenna for your cel
phone. Most manufacturers make a "Hi-gain" or "Fringe Area" antenna
for their handsets, which may be easily changed in-store or by the
user at home. These work well, and typically cost much less than
external antennas. Again, be sure of your return options in case you
do not see an improvement.
Older "bag" cel phones are more powerful than handhelds. These are
essentially car-mount cel phones made portable by the addition of a
carry case, and either a battery or a plug-in power supply. If you
can acquire one of these cheaply, most carriers allow a second phone
on your account for a minimal extra charge. Simply forward calls from
your handheld to the bag phone while you're in.
Finally, I will suggest one more option: if you have a landline
(regular phone phone)in the house, just forward your calls! The cost
is usually modest, even if your local telco charges for call
forwarding. You may also be able to get it bundled with one or more
features you already have, getting the forwarding for relatively
This pretty much covers the options you have available. I can't
guarantee any of them, but with ten years' cellular sales under your
belt I can tell you it's a reasonably comprehensive list.
Good luck, and hopefully one of these suggestions will do the job for