Smartphones

I was prompted to write this because of the latest poll on eHam.  It's about smart phones and Amateur Radio apps.  Of course, it devolved from being anything useful into a bunch of curmudgeons blasting the topic to smithereens.

"What do you need a smart phone for anyway? I detest them, they are the mark of the Beast - the Devil's plaything, they are everything that is wrong with society! I use a real radio that has knobs ...... remember what those are?"  I am paraphrasing, of course.  ;-)

And so on, and so on, and so on.  Sigh - heavy sigh.

It's a tool, guys ...... just another tool in the Ham radio arsenal, get it?

I have a pre-owned (sound so much better than "used") Samsung Galaxy S3, which I recently picked up on eBay.  It's my first personal 4G cell phone. (I know, forever behind the times.)  Even though it's an older model, it's in excellent shape and I'm familiar with the S3, as my work-issued cell phone used to be an S3.  For work, they recently upgraded me to an iPhone 5s, which I don't like (or use) - but this post is not about that.

My Galaxy S3 is a great companion for portable QRP ops. It's works much better than the Motorola Droid 2 that I previously used. It has more system memory, so it doesn't lock up or lag on me, like the Droid 2 used to. I have the following Amateur Radio apps on it:

HamLog
SOTAwatch
Morse Trainer by Wolphi
QRZDroid
DX Cluster


HamLog is great! It's easy to use and has a lot of features. If I'm not in a pileup situation (ragchew mode, or even causal sprint operation), it's easy enough for me to type in my contacts. In a hectic pileup situation (think activating NPOTA or the Skeeter Hunt), where things are happening fast and furious, I get flustered a bit. I can start out logging on the cell phone, but inevitably, I end up getting fumble-fingered and have to resort to old school - paper and pencil.  If I'm near a wi-fi source (I have a very limited monthly data allowance, so my data connection is always off), it will even look up the names and QTHs of the operators that I am currently working.  I can easily export the log to an ADIF file, so that I can add my portable ops contacts to my main log on Log4OM.

SOTAwatch - turn it on and it shows you the current activations. Call signs, peak, frequency and mode. It has other features which I haven't even explored yet.

Morse Trainer - This is one of the best Morse Code trainers out there IMHO.  It will allow Morse to be sent as fast as 60 WPM.  I keep mine set to a speed of about 40 WPM and have it send regular words.  I try to listen to some code practice several times a week in my never ending goal to become an even more competent CW op. Boy, 25 WPM sure sounds easy-peasy after listening to 40 WPM for a while!

QRZDroid - QRZ.com in an app. Easy call sign look up.

DX Cluster - Very helpful in tracking NPOTA stations.  The only drawback with DX Cluster is that you can filter it for either all HF bands or mono-bands. It would be nice if I could filter say, 20 and 17 Meters in one shot. But, hey, if wishes were nickels, I'd be a rich man. Wish I was smart enough to write apps like these, then maybe I would be a rich man!

The bottom line is that a smart phone can be a useful tool to compliment and enhance your overall Amateur Radio experience. It's not a replacement or any other kind of bogeyman. It is what you make of it.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!
Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

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