Help me improve my cell phone reception (electrical engineers?)

My apartment has metal siding, thick walls, you name it… my cell reception sucks. I own a samsung I330 palm phone. The reception is not so great either.
I am looking to make some sort of antennae or amplifier in order to increase my reception. Missing calls due to no signal has been causing problems.

So, I have an External antennae port like the one seen there.

I am planning to somehow create a temporary wire antennae that will by mounted outside on the balcony which is connected to the port. I am not willing to pay 20$ for that adaptor. Are there other ways to connect an adaptor to the ext. antennae port aside from just wrapping a wire around it? What would be the best material (metal) to use in order to get the best reception?

In general, what materials should I use to make this antennae? Help me build one!

Now for the electrical engineers: Are there any schematics for a phone reception amplifier so I will not be restricted by a wire?

I don’t think you can do what you want to do for $20 or less.

Just stringing up a wire isn’t going to work very well, unless you get really lucky. Antennas need to be a multiple of the wavelength to be effective. If the antenna isn’t a multiple of the wavelength, then it’s not going to receive incoming signals effectively and when you try and transmit a lot of your transmitting power is going to be wasted reflecting part the wave back into the transmitter (your phone).

As for the amplifier idea, you’re not going to do this for $20 worth of parts from Radio Shack. First of all, cell phones transmit and receive, so you don’t just need an amplifier, you need something that’s going to amplify in both directions. Second, RF stuff is pretty much all voodoo anyway. There’s a lot of things that experienced RF engineers know that works and doesn’t work just based on years of experience in dealing with this sort of stuff. This includes things like exactly how do you route the wires around the board. Even if someone did give you a schematic of a working amplifier, there’s a really good chance it wouldn’t work just because you don’t have this experience and don’t know how to lay things out so that they will work. Those little tracks that hobbyists assume are just connections from one component to another become waveguides, capacitors, and tank circuits at RF frequencies.

You can buy off the shelf amplifiers for this sort of thing, but they aren’t cheap.

Something you can try that might work is simply using a directional antenna. You can use a yagi aimed towards the nearest tower and get a significant gain both TX and RX. The trick is going to be to use good coax for the high frequencies involved and to try for a clear line of sight to the tower. This all-passive setup is going to be about the cheapest possible solution you’re likely to find.