The Android HT

I’ve been watching all of the innovative work going on in the smartphone and tablet arena and wondering how we could get more of that going in ham radio. To be sure, there are always radio amateurs developing creative technology. Some examples are adaptations of D-STAR, IRLP, improvements on APRS and sound card modulation modes. However, amateur radio is missing a standardized platform for handheld communications. Such a radio platform could open up lots of software innovation in this space.

What I have in mind is a dualband (2M/70cm) handheld transceiver that is built on top of the Android operating system. (Sorry Apple Fan Boys, iOS is a non-starter based on Apple’s walled garden philosophy.) This radio would have some of the hardware features we now take for granted in smartphones: GPS, WiFi, USB, maybe even a camera. I’d also include APRS hardware built-in, similar to the Yaesu VX-8GR or the Kenwood TH-D72A. I’ve hacked together a concept photo shown on the left of this post (click to enlarge). We would probably want to maintain some of the most important direct hardware controls such as PTT, volume and channel select. The rest of the user interface would be done via a touchscreen display, where the power of the Android OS comes into play.

While this hardware configuration is exciting, the real power comes from having a software developers kit (SDK) with a stable Application Programming Interface (API). This would unleash the creativity of all those software-oriented hams out there and a plethora of apps would emerge. There are plenty of ham radio apps available on the Apple and Android platforms…it’s just they are missing the radio as part of the package. An obvious area for innovation would initially be in APRS or maybe D-STAR. We could actually have the equivalent of SMS text messaging on ham radio, backed up via the WiFi connection. (Yeah, this kind of exists already but it is really cumbersome to use due to the braindead menu-driven user interfaces of current radios.) Just think how easy programming the radio would be with a touchscreen approach.

This is the type of product development that requires significant investment, but the technology is readily available. I suppose a garage shop operation could get this done but one of the big radio manufacturers could easily pull this off. Maybe one of those upstarts from China might want to take this on. Whoever does it, just send me $5 per unit and I’ll be happy :-) .

That’s my best idea for this morning. What do you think?

73, Bob K0NR

Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

4 Responses to “The Android HT”

  • Ken / WA3FKG:

    I love the idea! I also feel that you are correct that such a hardware platform in the mainstream ham radio market would spark a boom of software development not seen since the inception of the SDR. An idea that should be promoted.

  • The challenge is connectivity. We don’t have any sort of high speed ubiquitous data network in amateur radio, and the way the rules are written you can’t really carry typical Internet data through amateur radio.

    From a user interface perspective, it’s a great idea. I’ve been wondering when someone is going to develop a rig that’s fully touch screen operated, like an HF rig that essentially has an iPad on the front end.

  • Chad KJ4VYI:

    been thinking this too!! i dont see how hard this could be at least from the big boys kenyacom !! — and as far as aprs network why not have one of these in every hams house — could this be used for more data or upgraded to make a data point ??

    it seem easy enough to cram a ts into a radio and have a really easy gui to do all of the programming — your local repeater the offset the tone — im always having to wip out my phone look up the mdl number of the radio and try to figure out what multi button to push to get it programmed all while holding both the phone and the radio !! — im an apple user and thinking of switching du to all the other great things that andriod can do — i do like some of the apps on apple like freq finder — its a location based freq finder and works very well for vhf repeaters — while traveling i can have my wife look up what repeater is close to us program the mobile radio and chat with some great hams out there on the road!! — this would be great to have as a function that would pop up telling you that you are near ” 145.490 milton arc repeater do you want to set freq and qso ?” — there would need to be a vast database stored on the radio memory or just something like the app running in the back ground — if you select yes it will automatically tune the radio set the tone and offset and your talking — of course you would be able to turn the notifications on or off or set how you want to to be notified — as for aprs — there should be a set time that it will call out either once every 2 5 10 min and if your in a qso wait till it is cleared

    there are so many things that can be done in software and a gui front end

    only thing is you should have a ham license to work with the sdk

    i got to start writing my thoughts down on this

    price should be less than 250 and be made out of aluminum


  • Michael KB3HCG:

    You could always look to kickstarter to see if you could get funding for such a device. Also to the person talking about the data connectivity. It does not always have to be connected, it could go the route my tablet does for data connectivity when the internet is involved, and just put WiFi on it, and you can connect to WiFi when needed the software could be smart enouph to route the traffic to the right system, just have to put a specialized api on the system for communicating with the Amature side and there are ways for checking if an API exists (this is how it is being done for photo software that makes use of the HTC 3-D camera) Java Reflection is a powerful tool.

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