radio vs cell phone, continued discussion…

We often are asked by friends, family and clients about the status of 2-way radio in a world where everyone seems to be carrying their own personal communications device, a cell phone. Here are some of our thoughts and thoughts of those in this industry concerning this subject.

Most people would admit they could not function without their smart phone, the computer attached to your hip. But in reality, as a communications device, a cell phone is still a device for making a phone call to another person. You dial a number, let it ring, wait for an answer, hope to talk to the person you are calling, possibly leaving a voice message. The process takes at least a minute of your time or more just to connect. And following this routine, you may end up having a conversation for several minutes.

When using a two-way radio you simply press the push-to-talk (PTT) button and instantly speak to your group (or one-to-one depending on your radio system). You can give a brief message or instruction, receive an immediate response and finish your task accordingly. The entire process typically takes a few seconds. It is fast and efficient, saving time and money. In the realm of public safety and businesses such as construction, it can save lives. In addition, radios are highly effective in high noise environments, built rugged for long-term use, offer an intuitive one-touch user interface, and feature a battery designed to do a full day’s work.

Nearly all business models of two-way radios are repairable and have replacement battery packs available. The life expectancy of a two-way radios is up to 10 years, with many exceeding this mark.  Computing the cost of purchasing a typical business 2-way radio (Motorola CP200d) over 10 years including replacement batteries every two years and 1-2 repairs, it would calculate to under $10/month to own/operate the radio. Much less than the overall cost of cellular for the same time period.

Cellular devices are generally speaking rather fragile. The majority are too lightweight for work environments. Battery packs are often non-replaceable.  If you talk to those in the cellular industry, you will find the life expectancy of a phone is about two years. At the 2-year mark, the cell carriers are ready to make a deal with you where you can get the next model “free” or inexpensively to keep you as a client. The industry is reliant upon the monthly fees we all pay. We’ll let you do the math on what a maintaining a cell phone will cost you over the course of 10 years.

Radio communication is instantaneous with the simple use of a PTT button. The person needing information  receives it quickly. Requests for assistance are heard by everyone monitoring the frequency. This is essential in many industries and especially in public safety. Radios designed for public safety can also have other features such as an emergency button or a mandown feature where the radio will notify dispatch of an officer who is no longer vertical. In construction when giving instructions to a crane operator PTT radio technology is the quickest form of communication.  Think about restaurant hostesses or retail clerks communicating with others on their team. This type of communication is done more efficiently using a radio versus a cell phone. It would be hard to imagine the public safety or business world without 2-way radios.

And up to now we haven’t mentioned the downside of using a cellular device instead of a radio, things such as surfing the web, playing games, making personal calls, just aren’t a problem when businesses use two-way radios for their onsite communications. So when choosing between using your smart phone and 2-way radios, you can see where the two devices differ both in features and overall long term cost. Both have their place where they can work to the best advantage. It’s up to you as a business person to choose your communications device wisely. ~cl

a humorous arrival…

at the radio repair center

You never know what might ride along to the radio repair facility with the two way radios. This week we opened up a box to find this rubber chicken (and a handful of other novelties) along with several Motorola MagOne BPR40 two-way radios for repair. And just in case you were wondering why a customer would have a rubber chicken… they are in the novelty business. They use radios aka push-to-talk (PTT) technology to communicate. From time-to-time them and another West Coast client will send us a little surprise in the box. We’ve received plastic spiders, switchblade combs, stickers, magnets, finger puppets, and an ostrich puppet, just to name a few. It definitely adds a little humor to the day and a smile to everyone’s face.

The novelty company’s handy little BPR40 radios have been repaired and are on their way back across the country to California. We kept the chicken.  He has found a temporary home in a drawer at the radio check-in desk. I’m sure we’ll come up with a humorous use for the plucked fellow. According to Wikipedia: A rubber chicken was customarily kept behind Johnny Carson’s desk on NBC’s The Tonight Show as a comedic talisman, as it was believed that “A rubber chicken always gets a laugh.”

It definitely got a laugh here. (Thank you Scott.)

~cl

early indications of Spring…

Our customers in the Nursery and Greenhouse business are starting to prepare for Spring. Radios which had been set aside from last season are beginning to arrive at the radio repair center to be tuned up and repaired for the busy season ahead.

Many in the growing industry use push-to-talk radio technology instead of cellular for on-site communications. A variety of reasons include: two-way radios are dedicated primarily to voice capabilities, which support immediate person-to-person and group communications; and while smart phones provide many features and Apps, it is the simplicity of two-way radio that makes it attractive for situations where simple communication is important. Simply push the button and talk! It’s easy with no learning curve, or games and Apps to get distracted.

Two-way radios are designed to be rugged, and take the punishment of a 40-hour work week. Nearly all models are repairable and have user replaceable batteries. This is why many nursery and greenhouse owners rely on basic push-to-talk technology to save the steps of many workers while providing communication throughout their facilities. One of our growers explained one increased productivity benefit this way, “You don’t have to worry about an employee calling or texting his girlfriend on his radio… unless she is an employee too.”  Guess that can be listed as another side benefit of 2-way.

So this is your reminder to check your radios over before the busy season and get them in for repair if needed. Also, now would be a great time to replace batteries during the Bulk Battery Deal. If you order at eradiostore.com during February 2014 use the discount code ITSNEW at check-out to get a nice discount.

~cl

crispy Motorola CP100

Just take a look at this CP100 radio that arrived at our repair center. Definitely crispy! No explanation as to how this one became so melted… just a note with the customer’s info in the box. Sometimes this is just how it happens… a radio randomly arrives in a dirt little brown box without a repair form, just a business card tucked inside.

This box arrived at the Radio Repair Center and was opened to discover this melted CP100 radio. The radio check-in person probably thought the radio was a lost cause. But upon examination by one of our electronics technicians, surprisingly the component board was not in too bad of shape following the meltdown of the external housing. Our miracle working technician was able to replace the front and back housing along with a few other key components to get this radio back to factory spec.

We are often amazed by our techs who seem to defy odds and get seemingly hopeless radios back to good working condition. We have to be honest here, not all crispy radios can be repaired. However, just when you think all is lost… your radio may indeed be repairable. We just wish we could have been on the other end and see the face of the radio owner when they opened their box from the repair center.  ~cl

2020 note: Repair parts are no longer available. Batteries and some accessories are still being offered.

superglue + radio = no

Glue damaged radio arriving at the repair facility.

Glue damaged radio arriving at the repair facility.

Sometimes a well meaning radio user will use a superglue like adhesive to glue items to their radio, or even attempt to fix an internal component. As nice as we can, we’d like to say… please do not do this. Why? you might ask… When a radio comes in for repair the electronics technician repairing the radio utilizes the radio’s accessory jack to connect his test equipment. If glue has been used to attach the remote mic or other audio device to the accessory jack then the two must be broken apart. This generally causes damage to both devices. This can be an unnecessary expense to the customer. As you can see in the picture both the radio housing and the accessory’s plug were damaged getting the two apart.

On the CP200 style radio a simple solution is to use an audio accessory retainer. This is a device that screws onto the side of the radio to hold the plug in place. On HT750 and other HT Pro Series radios this screw on device is built into the accessories. On many other radio models which do not have this feature the accessory’s plug should fit tightly enough in the jack to keep the plug in place. (If not your radio likely needs a new jack.)

Internally you should never use glue or solvents on the component board of the radio. Superglue-like adhesives are an explosive/fire danger to a technician with a soldering iron. When touched with a hot iron components can actually be blown off the board causing a danger to the eyes, face and hands of the repair technician. Our techs are trained to watch for these types of substances, however, with the substance being clear it is sometimes hard to detect. So please keep this in mind the next time you or a well-intentioned employee thinks to glue something to a radio. Just say no! It will save you an unnecessary expense during your radio repair.

~cl

 

new year, new digital radio…

The newest radio to come along is the Motorola CP200d. It is part of the widely touted MOTOTRBO digital/analog line of radios. Trbo radios are a great transitional radio into the digital world. You can add them into your fleet as an analog radio to match your existing radios, and then one day when you are ready they can be upgraded or reprogrammed to be digital. Or even be digital or analog on a per channel basis. Much like the existing CP200 radio, the “d” model is available in either VHF or UHF and has 16 channels.

The CP200d is available from Motorola Channel Partners (a fancy way of saying authorized dealers) in two versions:
1. Analog only model, upgradeable later to digital (upgrade MSRP $83).
2. Digital/Analog model. Straight out of the box the radio has both features.

The advantages of digital are much like you would have experience when changing to a digital cellphone a few years ago, 40% longer battery life, clearer transmissions, and a small to moderate increase in range. Good news is the radio uses the same batteries and chargers as the standard CP200. Some audio accessories will be backwards compatible such as the PMMN4013 remote speaker mic. Many other audio accessories are available for the digital models. Watch for the digital symbol to be on the accessory to insure good functionality with the digital radio.

The analog model is priced pretty much the same as the standard longstanding CP200 radio. The digital version of the CP200d is $50 higher. Also new on the scene are the CM200d, CM300d, and XPR2500d mobiles.

At this time the standard CP200 you have known for several years is still available, and we continue to repair this model in our Radio Repair Center for a flat rate repair of $85.

Have a great 2014!
cl

tips on avoiding radio repair…

CDM1250 radio in for repair

CDM1250 radio in for repair

While we enjoy helping people and repairing radios, we also know how frustrating it can be to have your radio fail and need to come into the repair center.  We’ve compiled a list of ways to help you keep your radio out of the radio repair center.

  • Keep radios dry and free from dust and debris.
  • If your radio gets wet, do not transmit, take the battery out, dry it as much as possible and get it to the repair facility pronto.
  • Utilize dust covers provided to cover audio jacks and openings, do not remove them.
  • Refrain from operating the radio at full volume continuously.
  • Replace bad or weather checked antennas.
  • Use only the antenna, charger, and accessories designed for a particular radio model.
  • Always have the radio turned off when charging.
  • Never transmit when a radio is on a charger.
  • Charge overnight, not an extended amount of days (a weekend is okay).
  • Clean your battery contacts using a pencil eraser, never a sharp object or solvent.
  • Replace the battery every 2-3 years, or sooner if needed.
  • Safeguard your radio from crush damage, avoid back pockets and places people sit.

Please remember we are here if you need us, happy to help repair your Motorola radios, so you can put them back to work.

~cl

surrounded by batteries …

Boxes and boxes of new replacement batteries, we are surrounded! During September, October, and even into November, we have the rare opportunity to purchase batteries at a enormous discount from Motorola. We are sharing the savings with our customers.  Bulk Purchase batteries are available in 2-packs, 4-packs, and 8-packs. We’ve posted the popular battery models’ 4-pack pricing on www.eradiostore.com. If your battery isn’t listed just give us a call and we can give you pricing.

Just a reminder, be certain to dispose of any old batteries properly. These are considered hazardous and should not go in landfills. You can find your nearest battery recycling center by visiting http://www.call2recycle.org/locator/ Any radios sent for repair with bad batteries can have their batteries disposed of at the repair facility at no charge.  Just let us know and we’ll be happy to help by putting them in our recycling bin.

~cl

everything you need to know about CP200 batteries and more …

NNTN4497The Motorola CP200 radio has come with 3 different battery types over the past few years. The current CP200, CP200-XLS, and new digital CP200d come with the NNTN4497 Li-Ion 2250 mAH battery. You can expect this battery to give you a good full work day of 12-14 hours. Life expectancy is approx. 18-24 months. Li-Ion is less likely to suffer from the memory effect which is common to the NiCd chemistry of batteries. It is the preference battery by most users.

The current NNTN4497 Li-Ion battery and the earlier NNTN4851 NiMH batteries need to use the fast rate charger to properly charge their battery packs. The fast rate charger is easy to differentiate from the trickle charger. The fast rate charging tray has outlines of several batteries depicted on the bottom of it, while the trickle charger has only one outline of a battery.

The trickle (slow rate) charger is only useful for charging one chemistry of battery, the NiCd NNTN4496. Early models of the CP200 radio came with the NiCd battery and a trickle charger. Note: The NNTN4496 NiCd battery is no longer available from Motorola, but still available from after-market vendors. Older model CP200 radios can be upgraded to use the current Li-Ion NNTN4497 battery and a fast rate charger with no modification needed to the radio. You would simply need to purchase the Li-Ion battery and a fast rate charger.

The next step up in radios from the CP200 is a nearly identical PR400 radio. The PR400 radio can also use the same chargers/batteries as the CP200 line of radios. The PR400 comes standard with a slim Li-Ion 1600 mAH battery NNTN4970, which will also fit the CP200 radio.

The single unit and multi-unit fast rate drop-in chargers for the CP200/PR400 radios will accommodate any of the above mentioned battery types. The charger features a convenient insert which can be removed and turned around to fit the size of battery being used. This same insert has vertical rails which guide the battery into place, and will hold a battery alone or a battery attached to a radio in place during charging.

Tip: Always have your radio turned off when on the charger. And only charge your battery when it is 80% or more depleted. This will help you achieve a long full life from your batteries.

Most batteries will last approx. 2 years (or 3 years if you treat them really well). Use the manufacturers date code to determine the age of your battery. On a Motorola brand battery the first digit(s) are the year and the last two digits are the week of the year.  Example: 1226 would be 2012, the 26th week, and 226 would also be the same date (or if very old it could be 2002, the 26th week). Keep in mind using an old battery for an extended period of time can eventually lead to the radio needing repair. If you plan to use your radios for many years it is wise to replace your batteries every 2-3 years. This will help keep your radio in tip top shape.As always, call us if you have questions.

~cl

intrinsically safe …

HT750_whiteThis Motorola HT750 we’ll call “Old Paint” came in today for repair. It and 2 others from a manufacturing plant have been customized. These three intrinsically safe radios are on their way to Motorola for factory service. While most radio models are repaired inhouse at the Radio Repair Facility, we also offer forwarding of specialty radios directly to Motorola for factory repair. “Old Paint” and friends are on their way today to Motorola.

Radios manufactured to be intrinsically safe are labeled with “FM approved”  stickers and/or embossing. This will typically be a diamond shaped logo with green letter. Users of these FM approved radios must also use FM approved batteries. All audio accessories used must also be intrinsically safe. Depending on the industry the radios are being used in, there are different types of intrinsically safe ratings.

Note: Intrinsically safe (IS) is a protection technique for safe operation of electrical equipment in hazardous areas by limiting the energy available for ignition.  Areas with dangerous concentrations of flammable gases or dust are found in applications such as petrochemical refineries and mines.