Can you use a cell booster with an old cell phone?

If you’re still rocking one of these bad boys… let me first congratulate you on your level of commitment. These candybar-type phones were all the rage in the early 2000s and you know what, they were smaller and lighter than most phones today and would last about a week on a charge. Of course they were about as dumb as dumbphones get by today’s standards.

Most of the phones made since 2002 will work with the current cell system. If you’re still able to make calls, then it doesn’t matter how old the phone is. The question is, however, will it work with a modern cell booster? And the answer is yes. The underlying technology of cell boosters works just as well with any phone that’s still usable today.

Any way to know for sure?

I wish there were some sort of enyclopedic list of every cell phone where you could just check its compatibility. The closest thing you can do is look for information about the phone and try to pick out details that might tell you the answer. If you see these terms applied to a phone, it either won’t work at all or might work in voice-only mode.

  • EDGE, used for internet on high-end phones from the 2000s
  • TDMA, used for almost all AT&T phones until about 2004
  • AMPS, the “original” cell phone technology. Like, brick phones and whatnot.
  • 2G, another early internet technology that isn’t used (except on T-Mobile.)
  • 1XRTT (sometimes just called 1x) Verizon’s old internet tech
  • GPRS A very old internet technology
  • Nextel, A once-popular phone system bought by Sprint and shut down

Most of these terms apply to cell phone data which is still evolving more quickly than voice technology. However, if you have a phone with AMPS or TDMA, there’s really no way to use it with the current systems in place. This means your dreams of going all Zach Morris on everyone with a big white brick are pretty much doomed.

Unfortunately, a cell booster isn’t going to help you with that, since all the infrastructure required to use those phones has been taken out of service.

Why are you holding onto that phone? Be honest

I’ll start. I have a Motorola RAZR V3 in a drawer somewhere. Honestly it’s just too good of a piece of engineering to get rid of. It’s full of sleek and handsome lines, etched aluminum and (what used to be thought of as) a big screen. It’s a great looking phone that still looks futuristic almost 15 years later. Even after carrying it for a few years it’s in perfect condition. Since it’s not internet-enabled anyway, I could probably buy it a battery, pop in a SIM card and party like it’s 2005. Not that I would, but hey. At least maybe I’ll donate it to a museum at some point.

If you’re looking for a new phone or a new line of service, call Solid Signal at 877.312.4547. They can help you get the latest phones and great AT&T Unlimited service. Just… find a phone that works before you call.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.