(Pocket-lint) - The first iteration of the Vodafone Sure Signal was a big unsightly box that plugged into your router, nabbed a power socket wherever you were plugging it in, and wasn't exactly great at telling you what was going on. So can a new version fix all the problems of the first one? We've been living with the new Sure Signal to find out.
What does it do?
The idea of the Vodafone Sure Signal is to boost your Vodafone phone signal by connecting into your broadband and using that connection to boost the phone signal in your home.
It connects to your broadband router at home using an Ethernet cable and once you've registered the phones you want to use with it on Vodafone's website, the Sure Signal then routes calls and text messages to and from your mobiles over your broadband instead of your mobile connection. It's like a mini mast in your house but without all the "supposed" risks that sensational newspapers are keen to tell you about.
Gone is the boring router look and feel, and in is a more compact design that is based around a plug that simply plugs into an available socket.
Now, instead of nabbing a power socket all for itself, it has a pass-through so you don't lose one power socket. That might sound petty, but we spend entirely too much time scratching our head looking for an unfilled socket.
Visually, it looks like one of those old-fashioned timers that makes people think you're home by switching on a light at exactly the same time every night. You might remember them, you know, from that time just before your house was burgled because it was obvious you weren't in.
Above the socket is a set of indicators that give you information on the status of the device: whether it's connected, whether it has a signal, and whether there is a phone connected and benefiting from it.
That's all helpful initially, but we suspect that once you are happy with it working you'll tuck it away somewhere and forget about it. And that's kind of the attraction, it's supposed to help without you needing to give it a moment's thought.
Plug it in and then go through the simple set-up procedure. We had no problems getting the Sure Signal to work and used it in Ascot, a place where Vodafone signal is a little touch and go, depending on where you stand. You can register up to 32 numbers on your Vodafone Sure Signal and eight of those numbers can benefit from the system at the same time.
The Sure Signal has worked perfectly ever since we turned it on in our office. We haven't dropped a call since. It really is that simple. Don't expect it to save you any money though - you may be routing your calls through your broadband, but calls made from a Sure Signal-connected phone are still charged at the same rates as if you were using your mobile connection.
So, to clarify, you're paying Vodafone for your mobile contract, you pay for this device and for the power for this device and for the broadband which provides this device with the bandwidth to cover the holes in Vodafone's network. It's a smashing deal for them, and once you're stuck on a two-year contract you'll have little choice but to use it.
So while the product is good, and we found it very useful, it does sting a bit that you have to pay for everything. Perhaps if you're in an area with poor signal you should just give Vodafone a ring and ask for one at a discount.
It's also worth mentioning that the Orange "Signal Boost" system was a bit more clever. And while it was limited to some handsets only, it didn't require extra hardware, just an app on your phone that send calls and texts over your home network. As far as we know though, EE hasn't adopted this system yet.
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At £100 it is rather expensive, considering you are boosting a poor Vodafone signal in your house, however anecdotally we've heard that depending on your negotiation skills you should be able to get it cheaper from Vodafone if you haggle. If you are struggling with your Vodafone signal in your house this is certainly one way to boost coverage and means you won't need to hang out of a window, or shin up a tree.