Vodafone Sure Signal
You've got a Vodafone contract, you've moved into a new home an then realised that the coverage in your house isn't as good as you would like it to be.
That means either you spend most your time dangling out of a window, your front door or in a "special" spot in your house, trying to get the best signal. Failing all that you switch operators and possibly lose the exclusive phone you want.
In steps the Vodafone Sure Signal a box that you connect to your broadband router to help boost your mobile phone coverage in your house.
Of course the sceptics amongst us can see Vodafone's evil plan from the get go. They get you to pay for the shortcomings of their network while at the same time boosting your phone's capabilities in your home or office so you'll use it more. Using it more means they get more money from you at the end of the month because you've found a new sense of freedom when it comes to making calls or surfing the Web.
While that is probably true, the benefit here is that you don't have to move house or provider because you can't make or receive a damn call.
As it happens Pocket-lint towers is based in such an area where there is a switch between a really good 2G signal and a really poor 3G one. So that trying to make a call on the 3G network involves the call failing randomly, normally after we've been on hold to the electricity company for 20 minutes.
The short-term answer is to remember to turn off 3G when you get home, but that's rather dull and rather annoying. Months of annoyance, and multiple phones later (we kid you not), our problem seems to be solved thanks to the Sure Signal.
Set-up is, depending on what router you have, either incredibly simple or incredibly hard. After going through some details and registering your box in the shop, all you've got to do is come home and plug the Sure Signal into your router and the wall to power it.
Sounds simple, but in practise we couldn't get it connected. It wasn't until many conversations later with Vodafone that we realised the problem lay with our Belkin router rather than the Sure Signal itself. One new router later, the setup process was as easy as getting a haircut.
For those interested, the technology behind the Sure Signal is actually called a femtocell and it basically acts like a mini mast in your house stealing your broadband connection and providing it to your phone.
Femtocells as a technology have far more exciting possibilities beyond making sure you get a decent signal, however with such a radical technology it's clear that Vodafone don't want to confuse too many from the start. Services and features that the technology can offer include detecting when a phone comes home, for example pinging you a message (handy for tracking the kids), or the ability to have your phone upload or sync information with your social networking sites. It could also lead to possibly cheaper calls when you're at home compared to when you are out and about.
To make sure that all your neighbours don't suddenly start enjoying the fruits of your labour, the Sure Signal is locked to your phone and up to three others (four in total) and all in all the experience is very easy and dare we say it enjoyable.
As for range we comfortably used it in a three bedroom Victorian house without any issues.
So does it really work?
Since installing it we've yet to drop a call on the 3G network, while upload speeds - i.e., the time it takes to send a picture for example - have increased. We used to drop around 90% of our calls and now we don't.
At £50, for those paying £25 or more for their monthly contract, if you suffer from poor reception in your house this is well worth the cash.
Yes, you might begrudge having to pay for the improvement to a service that you should already be getting, but until that happens, this should do you nicely.
Vodafone Sure Signal is available for individual customers, with a one-off £50 (or £5 a month for 12 months) for price plans of £25 or more or a £120 one-off cost (or £5 a month for 24 months) for price plans of less than £25.