Saturday, January 02, 2010

The APRS dilemma

Tim, G4VXE, recently wrote about an update to the iBCNU APRS application for the iPhone, which has reawakened my hankering for one of these Apple mobiles.

Using a mobile phone for APRS would meet my objective of being able to have my position plotted on a map that my XYL could see at home, and avoid the need to run my own APRS gateway. That would solve a number of problems - not least that I am not actually supposed to run the gateway when I am not at home because UK license conditions don't allow me to do so.

Not running the gateway would allow me to use my K3 with a transverter to work 2 metres instead of my FT-817ND. Although the K3 can do FM it is less convenient to use as it doesn't have a dedicated Packet mode and although it has a better receiver for some reason the audio output results in less reliable decoding of packets than when using the '817. This is probably something to do with audio de-emphasis or filter bandwidths - I have never got to the bottom of it.

Using an iPhone for APRS would allow me to sell my VX-8E. I still have my TH-F7E dual band HT which I kept because its HF SSB/CW receive capability is unique and useful. The only thing I don't like about the Kenwood is that it doesn't have a drop-in charger, so I have to mess about with a wall-wart and a trailing cable whenever I want to charge its battery.

Using an iPhone for APRS would also mean that I can be tracked and use APRS messaging wherever I am instead of just within radio range of my home QTH - which is pretty limited due to the hilly terrain and the fact that I am not located on a hilltop.

The arguments for using an iPhone for APRS seem overwhelming, apart from the fact that it seems like cheating to use the mobile phone network instead of amateur radio. It feels a bit like the first step on a slippery slope towards getting rid of the radio gear altogether and using HamScape or CQ100. But is it worth persevering with APRS over amateur radio in an APRS desert, when an iPhone would deliver much better functionality?
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