Can you connect an antenna to your cell phone?

Once upon a time, cell phones had huge antennas. Take a look at that Motorola DynaTAC, one of the first commercially successful cell phones. That thing had a big antenna on the top that made it seem about as big as the Chrysler building. A decade later, phones with extendable antennas came around. Take a look at this Motorola StarTAC, one of the best sellers of the early ’00s.

It wasn’t the only phone with this sort of antenna. It was very common at the time. The antenna slid into the phone when it wasn’t being used. This, of course, led to literally every person on the planet grabbing the antenna with their teeth when they needed to take a call quickly. You can see it in movies of the period all the time.

The permanently hidden antenna

By the early smartphone era, antennas were built-in. You still had the option of an external antenna on many of these phones. There was usually a rubber stopper on the back. If you took it off, there was a push-on connector behind it. You could connect an antenna to it if you wanted.

Unfortunately, most phones since the iPhone have done away with the antenna connector in an attempt to get smaller and thinner. Most people didn’t use it and they don’t miss it… until they do.

Why people used to use external antennas

Obviously the big draw of an external antenna was better reception. Reception issues were a big problem in the days before digital cell phones. Back then you’d find cell towers were further away and cell phones needed big antennas to get to them. Compact cell phones looked great but sometimes you wanted that extra oomph.

Another reason people used external antennas at the time was to connect to a permanently-installed car phone system. This was, after all, in the days before Bluetooth and you needed a hardwire connection to use a phone safely in the car.

Would you really need an external antenna today?

Yes, I would say that there are going to be times that an external antenna would really help most people. The trend today is to have the antenna around the edge of the phone but unfortunately that’s also where people hold their phones, and that makes the antenna less useful. Try it yourself. The next time you’re having reception problems, don’t hold the phone higher. Try taking your hands off the phone and putting it up high, making sure the edges aren’t being blocked. Chances are it will work a little better.

Unfortunately there really isn’t a way to connect an external antenna to any modern cell phone. If the phones were designed to do it, you could probably connect to the charging port, but that’s not how phones are designed. Besides, if you think about it those ports are probably the next things to go away now than wireless charging is catching on.

What’s the alternative?

The alternative is a cellular signal booster. A cell booster system is more than an antenna. It’s actually like a mini-cell tower that takes in weak signals from outside and amplifies them at least 1,000 times before rebroadcasting them. Cell boosters make up for the lack of external antennas and then some. They work with more than one phone in an area and of course there’s no wired connection to the phone. They really are a better solution.

If you’re ready to upgrade your cell service with a cellular signal booster, check out the great selection at Solid Signal. Confused about which one to pick? Call our US call center at 888-233-7563.

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.