APRS On Your Phone

A lot has changed during my ham radio career since I was first licensed in 1989. The logging was manual, you received your DX news via a weekly newsletter that you actually received in the mail and packet was all the rage. Thanks to innovation of the ham radio community, now several technical generations later, we enjoy a very different hobby than we did in those days.

Periodically, I peruse the app store on my iPhone to see what new cool ham radio apps have been developed. I will admit it has been a while since I've done that so this is probably old news to many of you. As I scrolled through the apps I came across an APRS application for the iPhone. APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System), developed by Bob Bruninga WB4APR, combines packet radio technology with GPS technology to allow you to transmit your coordinates to a digi-peater that then posts your position on the internet. This allows others to know your location for any number of reasons, i.e., to follow progress up a mountain or simply for others to know that you are safe and to follow your progress to your destination. However, previously, to enjoy this functionality required a special radio with the GPS built in or a modification to add GPS functionality to your radio. However, with the apps now available you can accomplish the same thing with your iPhone. Of course you have to have cell service for the system to work and it can use up battery power, but the functionality can now be used without a radio.

So if you are a SOTA activator and have avoided the expense of getting a VHF APRS set-up, you can now accomplish the same thing with your phone. You can avoid battery degradation by only turning your phone on at intervals and allow the system to register your position, then turning it off again.

Very cool.

One of the APRS Apps for the iPhone
(I have no commercial interest in this product, nor have I actually used it)
Mike Crownover, AD5A, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Texas, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

5 Responses to “APRS On Your Phone”

  • Lawrence KI6ZQY:

    Kinda. Problems is unless the Igates allow position info from the internet to rf the rf will not know you are there. Many do not do such reverse gating. The bandwidth may not be there on rf. What happens when cell service or Internet goes down?

  • Cai, W6CAI:

    On the Android side, you can use the APRSDroid app and a bluetooth TNC like Mobilinkd to turn your smartphone into a true RF-only APRS node; the phone provides the interface, maps (on- and off-line) and GPS. It’s pretty slick.

    Unfortunately, this option isn’t available for iDevices though. Apple doesn’t allow serial devices like a TNC to use bluetooth.

  • Craig - N7LB:

    Been using OpenAPRS on my iPhone since my 3GS (now on the iPhone 5). One bit of advice is to keep a car charger handy, as the OpenAPRS app can really sap the battery quickly, especially if you want to update your location frequently. It is convenient however, especially on trips.

  • Lawrence KI6ZQY:

    On iOS PocketPacket can decide using the mic or headphone jack.

  • Alex, g7kse:

    +1 for APRSdroid. A great piece of software for us Android’s 😉

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