Thursday, May 17, 2012

Yaesu FT1D

I caught the gibgab about this today. Looking forward to more details coming out of the Hamvention. (I'm probably not going, water heater going out on me) seems to have the most information about it currently:
Price undecided
Silver color
The end of March or in the shortest
■ Compatible with dual communication mode analog / digital
■ common with the option VX8G
■ APRS function
■ featured wide-band receiver
■ Built-in AM bar antenna capable of receiving AM / FM
■ listening quietly vibrator function, valid at large noise!
■ Equipped with GPS logger
■ GSM (group message function)
Send and receive messages in katakana / up to 80 characters in the alphabet
of about 0.15 seconds
■ Snapshot Snapshot (image data transfer)
In the display screen of the machine about 20 seconds Handy time display
can not be sent in digital mode] [FDMA. Set (320 × 240) QVGA size
■ Convenient, etc. / clone image data storage backup / the contents of
memory equipped with a micro SD card slot
■ Connecting the camera microphone (terminal MiniUSB) USB data, the
connection between an external device such as a PC. Useful, for example, a
firmware update.
■ Easy! E20 support (Itsuo / Easy to Operation)
Redesigned the system operation as easy to use, multi-functional. Enables
one-touch operation of frequently used functions
• The one-touch button digital mode in the D
Wires X corresponding key button key, but also what features a digital
· GM GSM (group message) key
■ E-GPS (GPS data transmission feature easy)
GPS data can be exchanged easily with fellow ham. One-touch display at the
same time as the direction and distance of transmission.

Some of the later text is badly translated and I don't know what it's getting at but it's talking about the price. There's also this leaked ad in Japanese:

It almost seems like someone has been listening when I've been ranting about amateur radio being at least 20 years behind cellphones. My thoughts from this information:
  • 1200/9600bps - D-star handhelds (and mobiles outside of ID-1) top out at 4800baud, but even then you can only use 791byte/s, I like
  • SD card - though I don't know the purpose yet. I see GPS in the same block so it may only be to save your GPS tracks. I would hope that it would serve other purposes as well.
  • GSM texting - If I'm reading the text from the forum post right. This is a big one that Ham Radio could've been doing since the early 90's with APRS but never got right. Even D-Star didn't get this right and it handles data all the time!
  • GPS built in - Look, if I can buy tiny usb dongles for $20 or less with GPS there's no imaginable reason why this feature should be rare OR expensive besides stealing money from your customers.
  • USB - I'm hoping for a lot here. It may only be so you can read the SD card on the computer. But there's a lot that can be done here. Data link to the radio for digital-modes, memory read/write, radio control, GPS, SD card, etc. Maybe audio modes would be too much to ask but I will anyways. Then they can make it charge the radio too.
  • Camera Mic - I am not hot on this. One of the things cellphones do that Ham Radio is sadly behind on is pictures. Sure, we had SSTV years before cellphones were invented. No one has ever put it in a handheld radio. And they still haven't. It's in a mic that is probably optional, and expensive. I see no way that you will be able to view the pictures on that display which rules out two way pictures. Even an old Nokia color display might've fit the bill here. I'm not going to complain about the resolution, anything is better than nothing I guess. 320x240 even.
  • Eh, it probably uses an AMBE codec from DVSI to compress the audio which is pretty much encryption. Encryption is encryption, even if the decryption key isn't a password but dollar bills $$$$. I'd give Yaesu a pass on this if it turns out they are going to open this radio up to third party development (which has really blown the smartphone market wide open. Remember when the Iphone was going to be locked down and the only way to run programs on it was going to be via web apps? Yeah, what happened when people hacked it to run native apps on it? Billions of dollars for Apple. Learn a lesson here Yaesu!) If they opened it up then maybe one day Codec2 could run on it and people would be more inclined to buy a radio that isn't under the constant threat of not catching on and dying off.
Yaesu better watch the price on this thing too. I think they will be smart enough to be competitive (cheaper) than D-Star radios at least. They are starting out at a natural disadvantage. In my opinion the best route to go would be to emulate the Chinese radio model as much as possible. Drastically undercut the competition in order to give more reasons to buy your product over theirs.
$500-600 will buy you a brand new, top of the line cellphone running Android, with a large high-resolution color touch-screen, built in GPS, Wifi, Bluetooth, MicroSD card slot, 5 MegaPixel camera,maybe a front facing camera for video conferencing, accelerometer, magnetometer, 6-32GB built in flash, USB charge, USB mass media (Flash and SD card access), USB data, etc

Yes, some of that stuff is possible because of mass production and the ability of manufacturers to make stuff cheaper the more they produce, I'm sure I'll remember the phrase for that after I publish. But we can benefit from that as well by using incredibly cheap components originally produced for cellphones. CPUs, flash, ram, even chips that integrate GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth.

I hope the traditional manufacturers are feeling pressure from the flood of cheap Chinese radios. Decades of little to no innovation should backfire as China moves into the market and undercuts Yaesu, Kenwood, Icom and even Alinco with radios that do the exact same functions for significantly less. Now the big manufacturers will either have to innovate or die. You know they're not feeling any pressure to innovate from most of their customers.

I'm glad to see someone trying to bring out a 21st century Ham Radio, but I'm feeling it's more akin to 1999 technology. To be honest, it's underwhelming. If the price is sweet then I'll consider buying one. I doubt it will be any less than a top of the line 2012 smartphone though. Maybe something will come out at the Hamvention that I can't glean from this information which will blow me away but I'm not expecting much.

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