By: Mary and Dr. Jim Clary
While it is true that cell phone providers are expanding their coverage every year, there is still a need for two-way radios by sportsmen. Unless the country finds a way to provide coverage across the country via satellite, there will always be dead zones for cell phones. If you happen to be in a dead zone during an emergency or there are power outages, you are in a world of hurt. Given the affordable price of efficient and reliable, FRS two-way radios, it just makes sense to have them on every trip into the back country, even if you plan on using your cell phone for most communications.
We will be the first to state that you do not get any greater range out of a $150 radio than you do from a $35 radio. You do not get more radiated power from an expensive unit than you get from a bargain unit, due to FCC power output limitations (max. 2 watts).
All of FRS radios with fixed antennas have the same maximum potential transmitting range, as well as the same range limitations due to terrain and atmospheric factors. And, despite their advertising hyperbole, they rarely transmit out to the distances listed in their specs. None of the manufacturers want to admit this, but it is a fact.
Under optimal (i.e. laboratory) conditions, such as from a mountain top or an aircraft transmitting to a plain below with no obstructions in the line of sight path and zero dust/moisture in the atmosphere, 100% battery charge and antennas at matching angles, most good radios will theoretically broadcast 30-40 miles. In urban environments, your maximum range might be a couple of miles. Of course, the FRS radios are not designed for serious use in cities. They are communication devices intended to provide the user with an extra bit of security in the field. From a practical standpoint, most experts estimate that you can expect a realistic communications range of five to twenty-five miles from a 2 watt FRS band radio in the field.
Given that most FRS radios are about the same, why should you consider the Motorola T800 over all others? A good question and the answer is the Motorola TALKABOUT APP for your iPhone or Android device.
With the downloaded app one can then connect to your smart phone to the T800 radio over Bluetooth. The App uses the T800 as a modem to send messages, such as your location, over radio frequencies. Note, you do not need cell phone coverage for this to work. As such, you have an additional safety-net in the field, should something happen, as well as having the ability to update other members of your party, quietly.
The TALKABOUT App also allows you to download a variety of map formats of the area you will be hiking or hunting in. In that way, you and your party can always keep track of where you are and where you are going. In addition, the App allows you to control the T800 radio settings from the phone. That includes selecting channels, call tones, adjusting weather alerts as well as on/off settings... all without having to pick up the radios.
As one would come to expect from Motorola, the T800 radios take emergency preparedness very seriously. The radios meet IPX4 waterproof standards: i.e., being able to withstand splashing water from any direction. They come with access to seven National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) AND Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) weather channels and four VHF channels, which receive continuous broadcasts of local and regional weather conditions and updates. And for good measure, the radios come equipped with an emergency alert feature which can be controlled by the TALKABOUT App
Considering all the features of the T800 in combination with the TALKABOUT App, there is not a better FRS radio on the market. The MSRP of $109.99 is very reasonable for what these radios can do, and of course, the TALKABOUT App is free.