Manufacturer needs feedback on new signal boosting cradle for iPhone

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by John566, Sep 4, 2008.

  1. John566 macrumors member


    Mar 6, 2008
    Manufacturer needs feedback on new signal boosting cradle for iPhone

    I’m looking for feedback from members in hopes to provide a better product to the iPhone community of which I'm also a member. I work for a large cellular antenna/amplifier company and we are producing an amplifier specifically for the iPhone. It is still in the design phase so it is still possible to add features.

    Current Features:
    - A mobile cradle for either 2G or 3G iPhone (phone slides right in)
    - A 2G & 3G supported charger (no charger warning screens)
    - A female connector on the bottom so that you can still use all your current accessories (Remotes, Audio/Video Out, Stereo Bluetooth dongles, FM Transmitters, Etc.)
    - And most importantly, a cellular amplifier that works on both Edge and 3G. An external antenna is also included (mounts on the top of vehicle). The internal antenna and amplification circuitry is all contained within the cradle.

    What I would like to know is if forum members have features they would like added and how important those features would be to you (is it worth driving up the cost of the unit?)

    The biggest feature in question is a speakerphone because the signal amplifier will require the iPhone to be in the cradle for the amplifier to work and the built in iPhone speaker is to quiet for mobile use at arms length. I’m unsure if building a speakerphone into the amplifier cradle is worth the cost and bulk. If we don’t add it in, people will still be able to use wired hands free headphones, wired headphones with mic., Bluetooth headsets, Bluetooth speakerphones, etc. Would the lack of a built in speakerphone be an issue for any of you? What do you currently use? I personally have always used the iPhone wired headphones with mic. and it works very well for me. One more note on building a speakerphone into the cradle is that it would require a 3.5mm plug hanging off the side or back of the unit that would have to be plugged into the top of the iPhone (unfortunately the Apple dock connector doesn’t have pin-outs for the microphone or phone call audio – only music audio).

    One other issue is that any cases on the 2G or 3G iPhone will have to be taken off to use the cradle. We have made sure the tolerances will allow for screen protectors and body wraps like those made by invisibleSHIELD but anything thicker will need to be removed. Is this a deal breaker for any of you? We toyed with the idea of using clamps on the side to hold the phone, which would allow for cases, but these mechanisms are more cumbersome and unreliable.

    I’ve attached a sample picture of the unit to give an idea of what it will look like. The material will be lightly textured black plastic. The tilted W logo will have a chrome insert and the text's font will be modified slightly. The lines going around the edges will not be on the final product. The hole on the front of the case to the left of the W is for the amplifier power and status light.

    Thanks to all who take the time to give feedback. I would like to offer a couple of review units (which can be kept) to those who post the most constructive comments and suggestions. Constructive criticism is also welcomed. :)



    Attached Files:

  2. bluenoise macrumors 6502a

    Jul 16, 2008
    First of all...



    I like the idea and have looked into such products in the past. However, I now spend most of my time in a well-covered area such that a booster or external antenna are no longer needed. I like the form factor. I don't know if I'd need the entire docking connector exposed, but it would be nice to provide a line-out for audio and perhaps a connection for an external microphone as well.

    ETA: I just reread the description and see the idea for a microphone is right out. Regarding the cases/skins, you could make the unit behave like a clamp with foam pads on the clamping faces. That would allow a firm grip, regardless of cases. I had a phone holder that attached to a vent in my old car. It held my phone with such a clamping action.

    ETA2: Dang! I can't read. I forgot about the clamping mentioned in the OP. Nonetheless, I think you'd need to be able to adapt at least to most of the common cases. While I wouldn't expect to put a thick leather case into the device, one of the rubber-style cases would be too cumbersome to remove each time the device is to be used.

    Apologies for the edits. :)
  3. swr2000 macrumors member

    Aug 21, 2008
    As I don't have great radio reception, I often stream AOL Radio on my phone so I'd prefer a speaker on the bottom. It wouldn't be a dealbreak but I think that long term people would prefer the speaker so they can charge their phone but also not have to be within earphone cord length of the phone.
  4. macmikey2 macrumors regular


    Jul 6, 2008
    West Chester, PA
    Bad cell area

    I live in a marginal to bad cell area and spend most of my time here. A cradle would be a great idea. I have no need for a speakerphone as I always use the phone or my buds.

    I like the look of it, but is it to scale? it seems rather bulky. Streamline it some and it will look sleeker.

    I would definitely buy this, if reasonably priced.

  5. Lightbrazer macrumors member

    Jul 27, 2008
    Why would you need a speakerphone to plug into the jack? You can simply put a receiving mic under the iphone speaker that picks up the sound to be amplified out the docks speakers. Given the proximity of the mic to the output speaker you won't degrade much if at all the sound.

    Take a look at the Brandon iPower cradle, if i'm not mistaken this is how it amplifies the speakers as well.
  6. Stargaze macrumors member

    Aug 26, 2008
    Nice Looks Good Concept.

    Hi, Looks decent love the idea of a range booster would come in handy when im in those areas that barly have Cell phone reception..

    The Aftermarket Case thing is not a huge issue however could you make a Removable Plate and include 2 or 3 different plates that work with 'Most' Cases i have a Marware Silicone case on my Iphone and several of my friends have the "griffin" (hope im spelling that right) cases and they all seem to be relatively same in thickness and just offer different feel

    Another feature i think would make this product stand out is if it inculded a "extended battery" to help extend the battery life of the phone as when using this phone for surfing 3G or anything like that the battery dies quickly...

    I would pass on the speaker phone, This phone offers bluetooth headsets and the Mic jack right on the phone and i agree that a "mini jack" cable attachment would just add bulk and cost to somtihng that is really not needed

    Edit: Is this somthing for just in the car or is this somthing that i can use outside of the car.. maybe i misunderstood "mobile cradle" and that would make the internal battery idea useless if i have a cigarette lighter charging port.


  7. thearne3 macrumors newbie

    Sep 4, 2008
    Speakerphone - No, Good FM Music/Car speakerphone - Yes!

    I am currently using a booster in one car and it is a very effective product, which works for all phones in the care. Assuming that your proposed booster affects both sending and receiving, I think a unit that holds, charges and boosts is a great idea!

    Re speakerphone: I actually have my phone mounted close enough so that the internal speaker phone can be used - but it's not very loud! I think the bluetooth speakers/headsets are the best alternative.

    Another idea - Music over FM: When it comes to playing music, the FM devices are all dependent on where the car's antenna is located, both to identify 'blank' frequencies and then get clean output to the radio. Since you are using your own antenna, perhaps you would be in a position to overcome this problem! The electronics and controls could easily be integrated into your unit. This would still require a cable to the headphone jack, of course.

    Finally, it would be awesome to use the car stereo for a speakerphone!


    Good luck!
  8. hazza.jockel macrumors 6502

    Aug 2, 2008
    in a swag
    sounds good but definatly needs to be able to accomadate thicker cases. that is a deal breaker for me
  9. SayWhat?! macrumors newbie

    Aug 17, 2008
    Asking User Input? - Brilliant!


    I have searched high & low for an iPhone 'cradle' with having all the right interfaces, so it is encouraging to see this development.

    We are a 3 - iPhone family, 2 - Original, & 1 - 3G. The 2 - Original will be upgraded some time in the future. So, it is important that the 'insert' slot be able to accept either body style, as they are dimensionally different.

    Personally, I do not have a problem removing my iPhone from it's case (Griffin Holster). I can't imagine a cradle design universal enough to accommodate a variety of cases. Maybe you should consider a case of your own? Perhaps a split case where the bottom is removed to allow insert into the cradle, and replaced when removed from the cradle? As I holster my iPhone, I would likely not use such an arrangement. But, my wife & daughter might, as their iPhones wind up in their purse when out of the vehicle, and they have protective cases.

    I like the pass-thru (M-F) connector idea so other devices can be attached as you describe.

    As my vehicles already have mounted external antennas, I would not be interested in trying to add another external antenna. Ideally, the ability to attach an existing antenna cable connector, in lieu of a provided external antenna (for those who do not have one) is best. Along these lines, a 'standard' antenna jack located thoughtfully (eg, adjacent to the iPhone connector at the bottom) may be best.

    I currently have an HD car radio/CD which accommodates an external mini-phone plug input from my iPhone stereo jack. Having such a jack on the cradle, preferably exiting the bottom (trying to keep the exiting cables 'bundled').

    As far as a speaker phone goes, my non-luxury cars exhibit a disruptive amount of win and road noise, so a speaker phone is not good for me. Others complained about too much background noise being picked up by the iPhone microphone. Instead, I have a good quality noise-compensating bluetooth headset which works great for me.

    You do not describe the mounting or attachment method to the vehicle. This is a problem for some vehicles as 'flat', accessible reach real estate is a premium. If you give me some idea of your plan, I can share my thoughts with you on this.

    One last thought. I have observed my iPhone 3G gets quite warm when using the Maps/GPS function (& of course 3G). While I have a charger connected, I understand that charging will stop if the device temperature gets too warm. As such, be sure to incorporate flow through air ventilation slots at the back body (or 'heat sink' if not cost prohibitive) to optimize cooling.

    I hope my feedback helps, and appreciate the opportunity to offer some constructive input (albeit lengthy).
  10. SFStateStudent macrumors 604


    Aug 28, 2007
    San Francisco California, USA
    Well, I'm yet to see a "signal booster" that would work inside my house or on my street for that matter. I'm hoping that this "signal booster" (kinda' looks like one of Frankenstein's siblings without those big bolts protruding from the sides), can actually work. I remember back in the day when they were selling these signal boosters that required they be applied to the back of your batteries and they were selling for $5-$25 per installation. Then, you could buy a signal booster for your house at $425, and that turned out to be another paperweight that I couldn't give away on CL or EB. I think it depends on your location and the ability to boost an already poor signal would be a Godsend to those of us that have tried everything else (they would have to give it to me on a trial basis!)...:eek:
  11. Lightbrazer macrumors member

    Jul 27, 2008
    Yeah, I'll be honest if you wanted this thing to really be a big seller I'm going with it also being an external extended battery as well. think of it like a mophie but that ALSO boosts the signal now that would make it pretty killer. Also, if you made it wrap up the sides and sold it with a static sheild then it would alleviate the need to accomodate cases as it would then become a case. Imagine a case that extended the battery, protected the unit and boosted the signal. I think you'd have mucho sales at that point.
  12. Rybold macrumors 6502a


    Jun 23, 2008
    California, USA
    A signal booster is always a welcomed accessory for any radio product. I have a rubber case on my phone though (InCase, sold at Apple Store) and most of my friends have rubber cases on their phones also, so I am hoping that the "cradle" aspect of your product will be adjustable to accommodate an increase in phone volume (like drink cup holders slide to accomodate different size drink cups). A louder speaker phone would possibly be a selling point for me. I don't like headsets and the speaker volume that came on the iPhone3G is FAR too quiet! For me, simply a holder/charger/antenna-booster/speaker phone would be all I would need. :)
    (actually, if I could plug it into my car stereo, that would be an added plus - the user would have the option to either charge or plug in a car stereo)

    What I REALLY want though is a signal booster for the key fob for my car alarm! :D:D:D I'd pay $50 for that! For the iPhone holder, I'd pay perhaps $29.
  13. sdsvtdriver macrumors 65816

    Jul 31, 2008
    Southern California
    Hi John,

    I'd like to suggest that some type of speakerphone functionality is provided with the cradle. Since many will be using this in the car, the lack of a speakerphone would be problematic once (if?) turn-by-turn navigation becomes available.

    If one can't hear the directions, the point of TBT is negated. :)

    What frequencies will the cradle support? Both 850/1900?

    Thanks for soliciting input.
  14. Galaxer macrumors newbie

    Aug 5, 2008
    A very good accessory idea!

    There are very few professionally designed auto cradles in the market. I would like to have one and I am ready to use my business connections to make it available for markets in Russsia and Europe.
  15. Stargaze macrumors member

    Aug 26, 2008
    I have used a few FM tuners with my Ipod Nano and have had very poor results, One Belkin, on MONSTER and one off make brand one and all were extremely ineffective in actually getting a quality signal to the Radio in my car.

    Several cars were tried in this expirement.... 2007 Toytota Yars, 2007 kia Memphis 2001 Mazda B4000, 2007 Toytota Matrix all expirenced, hissing, Crackling, and pops and interference..

    A Line out Jack rather than a cord so we can just go to a local electronics store and output it that way would be nice so that you can plug it into the "in" on your car radio if your lucky enough to have one! there should be room for that Audio out port on your device as i see the audio out on many Apple Docks
  16. stlblufan macrumors regular


    Jul 14, 2008
    New York City
    Great idea. Two general comments:

    First, I would reduce the prominence of the "Wilson" label. The logo is fine but with the label it would dominate the otherwise clean look of the iPhone. Maybe put the label on the back?

    Second, assuming that this cradle is meant to be used for all purposes and not just in a car, there needs to be a hole for the camera.

    Also, on the speakerphone issue, why not have two (or more) models? You could have a base model as described, a step-up model with a built-in speakerphone and maybe a third model with a built-in battery. Presumably the latter two models would add bulk and certainly the latter would add weight, but you could cover a good deal of the potential market that way.

  17. daniels macrumors member

    May 13, 2006
    I could care less about a speakerphone. I'd rather not have it included in the device so that it would be cheaper. Most iPhone accessories don't work with cases anyway and I don't foresee that as a problem. This is definitely a product I would buy as I get a terrible signal in my home. If you need testers I'll definitely volunteer and provide feedback.
  18. Scooterman1 macrumors 6502a


    May 15, 2008
    Houston, Tx

    1. Accommodating different cases (like the silicone) would be a Primary factor.
    2. Another BIG sales item would be a Cradle that does all that you state, AND acts as a Repeater when the phone is NOT in the cradle. In other words, the repeaters currently available for phone/EDGE are in the $300 U.S. range with usually an antenna in the attic. If you could also make one that was a cell repeater for the cell/EDGE/3g that is a LOT lower in price, you would make all kinds of sales. There would be a Hugh market if something like this could be around $100. I know, it's asking a lot, but you asked for feedback.
  19. savar macrumors 68000


    Jun 6, 2003
    District of Columbia
    Really cool idea for a product!

    But the case is kind of a deal breaker for me... although other manufacturers have the same issue and they make the same choice as you.

    On my universal dock I just removed the plastic insert so that I don't have to take the case off of my phone. My attitude towards the case is that it doesn't ever come off unless I'm putting a new one on. I want to keep the phone pristine.

    I like the speakerphone idea too, but I wouldn't say it's a dealbreaker not to have it.

    Ironically, my biggest question mark about the product is the signal amplification... I'm not sure why I would need this in my car.
  20. gdeputy macrumors 6502a


    Jul 23, 2008
    New York
    Not a bad idea.. how will it be held in the car? For example, is it a snake type arm or ? More pictures would be awesome if you have some.

    I'm interested for sure as im still looking for an in-car solution.

    Make sure it will support talking without removing as well, in that, It should be able to line out the phone so you can hear over an FM Transmitter if it is added.
  21. John566 thread starter macrumors member


    Mar 6, 2008
    Wow, thanks for all the great feedback. I'm going to try to get detailed responses to each post by Monday evening. In the meantime I’ll make a few quick notes below.

    We printed out a 3D prototype on our new rapid prototype machine. I'll try to post some shots of my 3G iPhone in it so you can get an idea as to its size and fit.

    I’m hoping that I’m not violating forum rules by posting this thread. In the section on “Advertising/soliciting” it ends with “…, or similar purposes that do not benefit our forum community.” I’m hoping that if we can improve this product to meet the needs of this community that this post is of some benefit to the forum community and keeps it with the guidelines of the Forums rules. If any of the moderators can tell me how close to the line I am that would be helpful. I’d like to post links to our website showing diagrams of our current amplifiers and generic cradle and how they are installed but before I do or even mention the company name I’ll wait for a moderators ok. Thanks.

    Quick notes:
    - This is designed to be used in your vehicle with the phone left in the cradle. If the phone is removed from the cradle the signal amplifier won't function. We have other more expensive cellular signal amplifiers that have both an external antenna that mounts on the roof of your vehicle and an internal antenna that mounts near the driver's seat – these will allow many users in the vehicle to use their phones without needing to be against the cradle.
    - When we refer to mobile we mean In-Vehicle but there is no reason that this couldn't be used in buildings such as a hotel when traveling, but the phone would need to stay in the cradle. It definitely wouldn’t be something you would leave your phone in other than when you were using it to amplify your signal. We offer everything from antennas that mount on the inside of a window with suction cups to directional Yagi antennas that mount on a buildings roof and aim directly at a cell tower. The iPhone amplifier cradle is designed for vehicles but it could be used indoors as long as you had an antenna and an AC power supply, which we could provide as an option.
    - We have many mounting types that we use with our current generic cradle. I will try to post a picture of all of them on Monday. Some have a strong but removable 3M adhesive plus mounting holes for those who want a screw-in mount. We have a vent mount, and suction cup with an adjustable neck. It is undecided which mounts will be included yet but they will all be available as options. My best guess would be that we would include all but the suction cup neck mount.
    - SFStateStudent, I promise you this is nothing like the sticker “boosters”. The best you will get from them is a placebo effect. :) Not all amplifiers/boosters are created equal. We test all of our competitors and there are a number of them that have real problems and don’t give you any real benefit and some of them even impede your performance over just using the phone by itself. I have personally tested our generic cradle with my 2G iPhone and it generally added 2 bars as well as improved my data speed on EDGE significantly.
  22. John566 thread starter macrumors member


    Mar 6, 2008
    Here are some of the pictures of the 3D printed prototype. The plastic in the front will come up a bit higher to cover the bottom chrome on the iPhone. Keep in mind this is a prototype and there will be changes, but this should give an idea as to what it will look like. Thanks again for all the input and I'll address each of your comments on Monday.

    Attached Files:

  23. sdsvtdriver macrumors 65816

    Jul 31, 2008
    Southern California
    Looks good!

    Any thoughts as to the back of the cradle affecting cooling? The back of the iPhone can get a bit warm when in use and am not sure if the cradle would act like a blanket or more like a heatsink. Thoughts?
  24. wattmhite macrumors newbie

    Sep 5, 2008

    John I'd love to try the cradle, its just what I've been looking for!! I will write a full and in-depth review. Also I'm located in Ca
  25. IxStyleZ macrumors newbie

    Sep 30, 2007
    San Antonio, TX
    im thinking its gonna be hard for people to hear from the speaker, i dont think that small hole is big enough.

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