I know what you’re thinking and no, unfortunately no one has created an app to access the D-STAR digital amateur radio network from an iOS (iPhone, iPad) device. At least not yet. But there is an app to help you know who’s online and what repeaters are near your location. The app is called DSTAR and is available via the iTunes App Store. Now please sit down and brace yourself for the cost. Yes, the D-STAR app for iOS devices is $9.99 USD.
Yes, I know what you are also thinking. I would have to agree. The app is a bit pricey. While I certainly don’t expect someone talented enough to develop an app and make it available for free. There is a certain spirit of amateur radio which I do agree with. This spirit is of sharing and helping. After all the Echolink app for iOS devices is absolutely free. I even blogged about this app here. But I digress, after all this blog post is not about the absolutely free Echolink app, but about the D-STAR app.
Before I get started, please allow me to add a brief disclaimer. The review I’m providing was not solicited by the developer/manufacturer of the product. I purchased the product the exact same way anyone else would and whether or not the developer/manufacturer of the product reads this blog posting is none of my concern. I do not rate products by assigning it a value of x number of stars and I typically do not suggest whether you should consider buying or avoiding. I provide as detailed of a description as possible and let you decide if is something you can’t live without.
I guess I’m a sucker for amateur radio related apps. I practically live by my iPhone and iPad and every few weeks I do a search for amateur radio and ham radio in the iTunes app store. I typically download and test just about everything free and if something catches my eye that is not free, if I think I can use it, I’ll buy it. This is how I came to own the D-STAR app.
The D-STAR app opens to the menu screen and you’ll see seven different menu options. These options are Last Heard, Last Heard Map, Repeaters Near Me Map, Repeaters Near Me List, All Stations List, Settings and Disclaimer. By the way, the app is the same regardless if you are using it on the iPhone or iPad.
Let’s explore the Settings option first. The screen is fairly self-explanatory. My Call is your callsign and My Repeater is the local repeater you typically connect to. For some reason the app doesn’t appear to retain the My Repeater information. Auto-load on start is on and Minutes of data I also left at the default setting.
Since the local repeaters in my area are all located in the Rocky Mountain foothills (about 40 miles or so from Denver) I had to adjust the “Near me radius” out some from the default setting. I opted to set it at 100 miles just in my testing. Finally I turned on the “convert Km to Miles” as being an American…that just works better for me. Again, other than My Repeater, the app remembers the rest of the settings each time I launch it.
The next few screens I’ll show you are all fairly self-explanatory as well. The Last Heard is simply a list of the stations “last heard” on the D-STAR network. This is the same data which populates on the d-starusers.org website, which has always been a good resource to check which users are active etc.
One note about the Disclaimer screen (which I’m not going to show). The developer of the app reminds us “the information we see on the Last Heard page is made possible by the system admins who have installed the DStarMonitor program on their gateway computer systems.” I guess some system admins may not have installed this software and therefore the ability for you to see active users or even yourself may not work. I guess it is safe to say if you see this data on the d-starusers.org site, then all should work on this app as well.
The Last Heard map provides a visual representation of users based on location. If you touch a pin, it’ll provide you the callsign and the location of the station.
The Repeaters Near Me List (not shown) looks much like the Last Heard list. It just lists out the D-STAR repeaters near you based on the settings you established in the settings screen (near me radius). The Repeaters Near Me Map (shown left) might be more helpful to review first. You’ll see your location based on the green pin and the repeaters near you in red. Clicking a pin provides the repeater name and frequencies. You can then switch to the list view for even more information and repeater capabilities.
By the way, both the Last Heard List (of stations) and Repeaters Near Me list can be easily exported from the iOS device and sent via email. Also, you can drill down into a individual station and even touch a callsign for QRZ.com details about the individual station. This just simply opens a browser screen and you see the QRZ profile data just the same as you would from a regular PC.
I believe I will find more use for this app when operating mobile or traveling. When operating from home, it’s just too easy to get this same data from a regular PC when I’m in the shack.
In closing, the price of this app is going to seriously turn a lot of hams away. Yes, I realize most everything having to do with D-STAR already has more cost associated to it than non D-Star equipment. It is perhaps unfair for me to suggest what this app might be worth. After all, I did pay full price for it. But perhaps the developer would actually sell more copies of the app for a less expensive price and actually turn a larger profit. But this is simply just my opinion.
I’ve owned the app for about two months and the developer has pushed out one upgrade which contained some bug fixes and the enhancement to export the list data via email. I’m hopeful this means the app is still being developed and while I’ve found no bugs in functionality, future updates might contain additional functionality.
Until next time….Thank you for reading.
73 de KD0BIK/AE