BCD436HP Rev 2

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Diggie

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Preface: This thread covers some of my frustrations as someone looking at the 436HP with a view to upgrading. If you don't like seeing some complaints (possibly rehashed), please skip the thread.

I'm a current BCD396XT owner. I feel that while it may have been a feature-packed scanner for its time, it was already aging badly on numerous fronts when I bought it some years back. Key complaints I had for the 396XT:

* Poor UI - A keypad full of overloaded buttons where everything including the volume knob performs multiple functions that can change depending on what the scanner happens to be doing at the time and/or whether or not you hit Function first.

* Poor display - Impossible to see all relevant information on screen at one time

* Rigid, limited program structure - Impossible to have more than 1000 talk groups on a system, programming in general could be a PITA for one location, let alone if you happen to travel a lot.

* A never ending stream of complaints about Simulcast performance.

So I had high hopes for Uniden to deliver something that solved a lot of these problems, but I find myself looking at the 436HP, watching the forums here, and despairing because _in theory_ I see great improvement in some areas that would make it worth it for me to upgrade, but paired with downright poor decisions in so many places I feel like I would either be frustsrated to no end or regret dropping the cash on this.

The biggest pro I see in the the 436HP is having the RR db (effectively) on the unit, and to be able to go anywhere and quickly be set up with all the relevant local systems without spending an hour or more hooked up to a PC wrestling with programming software that looks like it was designed for Windows 3.1 and without trying to split up TGs into batches of 1000 or less. Hallelujah!

... but wait. This thing doesn't have built-in GPS for that yet? Practically any device I buy now has GPS built-in. My phone. My tablet.. everything. It amazes me that Uniden has launched a brand new $500+ device without this, when it would have added so much value given the RR db is onboard. Instead I have to buy an $80 receiver and have it dangle from the unit? I'm somewhat in disbelief at this.

And let's talk about problems with the SD card. I've read threads here about cards getting wiped if the power dips out (doesn't this thing have batteries in it?). I've read threads where after some number of recordings are made to the SD card the unit starts missing the beginning of conversations until the recordings are erased (maybe it spends too long looking for a new free file name, who knows..).

The keypad looks like it is probably overloaded like the older model, but at least the display is larger and there is more useful information persisted. Except wait again - there are numerous people complaining about the backlight color, glare, viewing angle, and a whole thread of people griping about dust intrusion after only a few months with some fairly nasty pictures to back them up.

And now let's talk about wifi - it's only on the 536HP? Why?! Don't you realize the value you add to me as a potential buyer by making the scanner controllable from my smartphone, or even my laptop without having to plug it in? This _solves_ the problem of your overloaded keypad UI, because I can just control it from my smartphone. It's unbelievable to me that only one model has this feature. I feel like your scanners are stuck in a bygone era where things are controlled by keypads, displays are low resolution LEDs, wifi and GPS are dongles that you plug in. Here I am holding my smartphone, which cost less than this scanner does, and has built-in GPS, Wifi, a variety of radio modes, an entire app platform, 3D engine, high-res display, touch screen, cameras, microphones, bluetooth, accelerometers, the list goes on and on. When features like this are skimped I feel Uniden is so far out of touch with what I want that the void between my expectations and what their engineering team can actually deliver is too large to close. Some money could easily have been recovered through app sales, and you could have created a market for third-party apps built around your hardware, driving more demand for sales, if you want to look at it from a business perspective.

Speaking of power, do I understand correctly that in some modes you can't run the unit off AC while it's connected to a computer? My jaw hit the floor when I read this.

I read some other commentary about digital decoding formats (MOTOTRBO, etc.). I must say, I can accept that Uniden isn't providing support for these. _However_, you could certainly have helped to meet expectations and find a compromise by simply adding a discriminator tap as standard on the unit. Some people would never use it, fine. Others would be excited by the possibilities offered given that there is already community created software out there that could leverage such a feature from day 1. I certainly would see it as a plus point in a purchasing decision a) because I like to experiment/learn and b) from a future-proofing perspective.

But back to formats the scanner _does_ support, it truly boggles my mind to see more threads here seeking further improvements to simulcast decoding on the 436HP. People switching from NFM to FM, people switching from Auto to Manual tweaks because Auto mode isn't working. I'm looking at this and I have two questions:

1 - How does this continue to happen, given Uniden knew the attention it got in the old model
2 - Why aren't firmware updates more frequent/rapid?

I appreciate that Paul is here on the forums trying to gather information and solve problems where he can, but I can't help but imagine how upset I'd be if I had already spent over $500 only to be manually tweaking settings again per my 396XT while waiting on the next fw update, which could arrive god knows when due to the upman policy of not pre-announcing such things.

It boils down to this: I want so very badly to be able to justify a new Uniden scanner to myself, even if only for the RR db. But what I see coming out of Uniden is, in my eyes, a stream of poor decisions that just makes me believe I'll essentially be paying to frustrate myself.

And so, I would love to see a "Rev 2" of the 436HP, or otherwise a different model number, with:
* Fixed P25 bugs
* Non-glare display
* GPS
* Wifi
* Discriminator tap without need for modding
* SD card fixes (performance, integrity)
* Can be easily AC powered while connected to PC
* More frequent firmware drops, even if some of them are marked "beta" for the more adventurous folks

If none of these come then I am likely to stick with my 396XT for a while, despite its limitations.
 

Boatanchor

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It's hard to argue with a lot of what you have written IMHO.

I'd dearly love to 'upgrade' from my three x96xt scanners but I haven't read or seen any really compelling evidence that I would be any better off (leaving aside the phase 2 support, which I don't need anyway).

The x96xt scanners are certainly lacking in some areas, but they do everything that is claimed on their box, are well built and for the most part they have been very reliable.

Also, while it may not be important to all, as far as I am concerned I would rather EDC a scanner the size of the 396xt than the 436HP 'brick' any day. But, each to their own.. Some people like bigger scanners and I'm sure there is an element out there who just like to pretend that they are carrying around a police issue XTS5000 :)
 

krokus

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Adding GPS and WiFi to a handheld unit is going to eat some significant battery power.

There is little reason to put remote operate capability in a handheld unit.

Either of those options are going to be used by a very small percentage of users, unlike with an installed unit. (Where I would think 40%-ish might use the capabilities. )

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sfd119

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And now let's talk about wifi - it's only on the 536HP? Why?!
I'll tell you why. The 436 is a portable. It's meant to be taken with you. The 536 is meant to be a desk queen / vehicle mounted piece of equipment. Why would you need to control the 436 when you can simply take the unit with you? And if you can't take it with you because it's "mounted" in your vehicle, you should have gotten a 536.
 

Gilligan

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I'm all for more frequent firmware upgrades and changes to how the radio works, but I can tell you that as one who was slightly concerned whether I would be frustrated with potential problems before purchasing, I am a very satisfied customer after buying the radio. I have a BCD436HP and I love it. It's the best scanner I've ever had and I would be in that category of users who tries to understand every single detail of the radio, learns the menus and functions in and out, and utilizes every search and discovery feature in the radio to always be finding new frequencies. I would love to see a radio with a smaller physical profile, longer battery life, and on-board GPS, but you can't really compare the scanner manufacturers to smartphone manufacturers. Smartphones are being marketed to millions of consumers and many millions of dollars goes into the research for these devices. By comparison, these scanners, $500 each, are being sold to many thousands of consumers and there are very few people available to do intensive research. So we have to be practical in our expectations. I agree that a beta program of sorts would be something I'd gladly participate in. I hate that we are still waiting for Analyze mode after so many months. I'd like to see them at least release an Analyze mode that works with one or two system types and then add the others when they're ready, instead of simply not including the feature at all. But my point is that they will never meet every one of our expectations, and we can't compare them to the smartphone manufacturers in due fairness.
 

N2MWE

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Adding GPS and WiFi to a handheld unit is going to eat some significant battery power.

There is little reason to put remote operate capability in a handheld unit.

Either of those options are going to be used by a very small percentage of users, unlike with an installed unit. (Where I would think 40%-ish might use the capabilities. )

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I don't see GPS draining the battery. I have an Icom ID51 and ID31 and with the GPS running I don't do too bad on battery power.
 

pepsima1

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I think there are so many issues with these 436 and 536 but mostly the 536 that they don't know what to do at this point. I can't even hardly see the screen on my 436 since the display characters are so small and if you are outside or in your car good luck with the glare. I shoot myself everyday knowing that their older models are way more solid design then these new radios. The only thing on their side is Phase II TDMA receive.

I think they will just scratch what they built with these models and build a new design and give it a new model #.

There are so many hardware related issues and design flaws on the chipset that I don't think its fixable at this point. Plus no apps either.
 

Boatanchor

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I think there are so many issues with these 436 and 536 but mostly the 536 that they don't know what to do at this point. I can't even hardly see the screen on my 436 since the display characters are so small and if you are outside or in your car good luck with the glare. I shoot myself everyday knowing that their older models are way more solid design then these new radios. The only thing on their side is Phase II TDMA receive.

I think they will just scratch what they built with these models and build a new design and give it a new model #.

There are so many hardware related issues and design flaws on the chipset that I don't think its fixable at this point. Plus no apps either.
There is always a huge risk in bringing something as complicated as the x36HP to market. If you do it right the first time, sure you stand to gain market share and even clean up. But, do it wrong or rush the product to market unfinished after building 'maximum hype' and everything is likely to go pear shaped very quickly.

I still can't fathom why/how the x36HP product release was handled in the manner that it was.
 

Diggie

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krokus:

I disagree that GPS and WiFi would eat significant battery power. GPS only needs to turn on briefly on demand. My phone does WiFi all day on similar battery power capacity to the 436HP, and I can use it for 3-4 hours between charges. The biggest battery draw is the display, in fact.



krokus & sfd119:

I also disagree that few people would use wifi, and that the 436 shouldn't have it because it's a portable. There are numerous reasons why:

- If you can control it from a cell phone or tablet, you could provide a _much_ better UI.
- Similarly, if the protocols were open enough, you could add new functionality. If you could pull the discriminator output over wireless, for example, you could add MOTOTRBO decode via an app on your phone.
- You could possibly even have an app on your phone send the 436HP GPS co-ordinates from the phone GPS.
- Plus many other possibilities.

The point is that with no wireless capability the 436 will never see any such benefits. And the 536 suffers too. Why? Because it's less likely that someone is going to spend their time developing just for the 536 market. If the 436 and 536 both had these features the addressable market would be bigger, so the 536 would likely benefit too.



Gilligan:
I am glad to read a positive experience! Actually, I did find a thread the other day with happy owners that almost made me pull out my card, but I am currently very torn. While I agree with you that smartphones are a larger market and can run on slimmer margins, I also feel that the "components" to build a better device aren't exactly unavailable these days. A broadcom chip will take care of all your (non-scanner) wireless needs, you could use Linux or Android as a kernel and have a lot of connectivity options at your disposal, etc. etc.

Let's put aside all the implementation/R&D/ROI points for a moment, and I'll simply say this: I feel like all someone needs to do to kill Uniden at this point is bring out a wireless scanner that is fully programmed/controlled by a tablet/smartphone. Think about it, the display and UI would be nicer, it could use the tablet/phone GPS, you could record to the phone, the phone could have the RR db on it, you could manage your favorites with a fancy UI, you could write your own apps to add things like MOTOTRBO, yada yada.

Uniden is still making a dedicated device, I get it. They believe that's where the market is. But the fact they have barely tried to bridge a very obvious gap in a brand new product line is quite stunning. Maybe they don't recognize the gap. Maybe they think their customers will be satisfied pressing multi-function buttons with a monochrome LCD screen on a standalone device the size of a brick forever. As a younger user - even one who looks back on devices of yesteryear with nostalgia and appreciation - it doesn't make sense to me. At some point (I can only hope) someone is going to come along with something more open, extensible, easier to use.



pepsima1: I agree that they need a clean break with a new model number. I don't know how they get there without upsetting everyone who just bought a 36HP, but otherwise it's going to be hard to have confidence when purchasing.


Anyway, thanks for the discussion. I'll keep hopefully watching the forums and see what transpires.

P.S. with regard to Boatanchor's comment on the product release: That launch video... it still makes me cringe thinking about it... ;)
 

tumegpc

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Well said Diggie.

Here is something to think about. Take a look at the Icom IC-R20 wide band receiver that has been out for several years . Nice screen, Dual receive, dual bandscope, built in 4HR recorder, Alpha numeric with Icons, Li-on Battey with AA battery adapter, usb PC interface. Imagine this receiver with P25 !
Icom has a UT-122 P25 DIGITAL UNIT that is a user drop in module (Chip) that enables P25 reception in Icom IC-R2500 receiver. Imagine this option in the R-20!
 

puzzleriddle

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Yes a receiver (good))

but makes for crappy scanner t NO trunking , very slow if any scanning. very limited. compared to normal scanner
 

tumegpc

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but makes for crappy scanner t NO trunking , very slow if any scanning. very limited. compared to normal scanner
This is hypothetical, those features could be added. What I'm trying to convey is that we need to think outside the Uniden Box. Icom has been making receivers, transceivers and commercial radios for a long time. Some of them already incorporate GPS, Blu Tooth, vibration mode and many other features not seen in a scanner. Just a thought.

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PhillyPhoto

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In general, I think what Uniden was trying to do was very ambitious and I applaud them for that. The problem was made worse because of 2 factors. 1, they knew they were going to miss the Christmas buying season, but still felt the need to rush an incomplete product. 2, with GRE out of business and, at the time, Whistler just being a rumor they seemed to feel the need to fill these scanners with gimmicks in order to sell. If they just advertised based on what they could do at launch, Uniden's biggest headache would have been the headphone issue on the 536s. I'm not a business man, but I am in customer service, and I always go with the philosophy of under-promise and over-deliver.

Simulcast has been an issue for the last several generations of scanners, and they appear to have continued the tradition of not properly addressing that issue. Astro Sabers haven't had any issues with simulcast since they were introduced 20+ years ago and still work today.

I own a BCD436HP, and my main motivation was to have something that will cover all bands and work with different kinds of trunked systems, and it does that for me. But I also knew going into it the limitations of reduced digital decode and whatnot. My justification was that spending $500 for a multi-purpose receiver is a lot better for me than to spend $2500 on a dual (or maybe all) band radio.

I would love to have the analyze function, and wish it wasn't even in the menu if it's not available to be used. I live in an area with almost every type of trunking systems: LTR, EDACS, Smartnet, SmartZone and P25 Phases 1 & 2 and would get a lot of use out of it.

The battery life does suck. 2-3 hours out of 3 batteries, when my smartphone will last 10-12+ with heavy use? Not to mention that it can't charge the batteries while the scanner is on as well is just downright idiotic.

So, am I on the "Uniden sucks" bandwagon? No. Am I a Uniden fanboy? No. I just am a consumer that would like a company to delivery what they say they will within a reasonable timeframe. I realize things get hung up and that's fine, but don't announce and then release a product that can't do what you said it could. I would rather buy something knowing what I'm getting and then be surprised when you announce WiFi or analyze etc.
 

pepsima1

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I have 2 BCD536HP radios and a BCD436HP that I bought and now since the newness of the radio has worn off so has my love for the radio. Look its an okay radio but it does not get a 5 star rating.
Between dealing with the headphone issue and now the hissing noise on the external speaker jack and the internal speaker I just don't want to deal with it any longer. Who cares if and when the apps get released. UNIDEN FIRST NEEDS TO ADDRESS THE HARDWARE ISSUES FIRST, then move forward.

With so many hardware issues and features that are not available I am selling off my new series of radios to re-coup some of the loss and sit on the side lines with my BCD996XT radio which is still a great radio that I love.
 

tumegpc

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I'm on my 3rd 536HP and this will be my last. I had the 436HP too and got rid of that. It's a shame that instead of enjoying and getting the most out of these new scanners, some of us are filter swapping and trying to do what we can to improve on our old scanners.
I will give this last 536HP one more try.



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pepsima1

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I hear you. Once I got to really know the in's and out's of the radio I just kept noticing issues with it. Then it was just driving me crazy with the hardware issues and finally realized that a firmware fix is not going to fix these issues. No matter if the software app comes out and its way out of this world with shinning stars, its not going to fix the flaws with re-guards to the hardware design from the factory.

It was time to depart with these units before the value dropped. Whistler is right around the corner and this is their time to shine and get it right.

I am not trying to bash Uniden because I still own the BCD996XT and love it so far. Far better radio than the new ones. Whatever issues that reside with these new radio's is their fault, not the consumer. The consumer has every right to comment on what they see in a 600 dollar radio
 

kd7eir

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ANY comparison of these scanners to cell phones is foolish. Cell phones sell in the hundreds of millions of units - Apple alone recently announced crossing the 500 million unit mark with the iPhone - that scale guarantees massive R&D budgets that are simply impossible to justify in a product of such limited demand as a scanner. Apple can spend more on R&D for the iPhone than Uniden makes on EVERYTHING they sell in several years.

As for comparing the battery life - cell phones typically send 90%+ of their time doing NOTHING. Not scanning frequencies, not checking priority channels, not searching for DCS/CTCSS/TGID's, not parsing favorites lists, etc.

As for size, cell phones are full of ASIC's. ASIC's are incredibly expensive to engineer. The development cost of one ASIC would easily devour the entire R&D budget for a limited market product such as a scanner. When you sell millions of your product, you can afford to spend millions to develop ever smaller and ever more powerful ASIC's with each iteration.

The batteries in current cell phones are also very expensive to design and manufacture. It's not just a matter of slapping some lithium between a couple of case halves.

As for not including GPS in the scanner like in the typical cell phone, the GPS chipset is typically a part of the cellular RF chipset rather than a separate unit - another benefit of a multi million dollar ASIC development budget. Adding internal GPS to a scanner is not as simple as plugging in an off the shelf unit.

Not offering wifi in the handheld scanner? Adding internal wifi is not as simple as plugging in an off the shelf unit. That is what Uniden tried to do with the BCD536 and the owners of that unit are quite aware of the debacle that has become.

Touchscreens? When you can buy them in multi million unit quantities they can be affordable. Try ordering a few thousand at a time and the price skyrockets, particularly if you require a custom size/resolution/form factor for your device.

Creating an app infrastructure for a scanner? I seriously doubt that any viable commercial market would emerge for that - the impossibly small customer base combined with the necessity today of charging virtually nothing for your app equals a non-starter for that. After someone spends $500 for a scanner they would scream at paying a commercially sustainable price for a new decoder.

As for the other cell phone comparisons - There is no need for a scanner to have a camera, 3D engine, microphone, accelerometer, etc. Even if you wanted to justify them in a scanner, once again those capabilities are only possible on a cell phone because of the multi million unit sales of those devices.

Another factor in the cell phone vs scanner market is one of upgrades. Consumers will buy a new cell phone just to be stylish, or get a couple more megapixels in their camera. Unless a new RF protocol becomes a nationwide success, there is very little incentive to purchase a new scanner. The typical cell phone consumer replaces their device every two years. I have no data to back this up, but I would guess that the average scanner consumer replaces their unit every 5-7 years.

Comparing what Icom designs is also not a fair comparison, as Icom serves a much broader business/amateur/maritime/aviation/public safety market that eclipses Uniden several times over. This vastly larger market equals vastly larger sums of money to spend on R&D.

As for the issues that these scanner are facing, I think they are being grossly overstated. There is nothing on the market or on the horizon that even comes close to the capabilities of these new scanners. People keep hyping Whistler, but thus far they have only announced the release of a few of the old GRE models, none of which are even in the same class as the new Unidens. Comparing an actual product to something that NO ONE has even hinted at developing is simply an exercise in fantasy.

Both of these scanners perform their intended purpose quite well. There are reported issues, but far more people are satisfied with their performance than are dissatisfied.

Are there missing features that were promised? Absolutely. Do these features prevent the scanners from performing their primary purpose? Not at all. People have a right to be upset at the promised but missing features - there is no way to defend Uniden on this point. They failed us.

Stating that Uniden should simply walk away from these scanners and start over is naively foolish. Are those that want Uniden to dump these and start over going to finance the R&D costs? Uniden has a history of making good products. I have faith that they will catch up with the promises that they made and then broke. In the meantime I cannot use analyze, he cannot control his scanner with his iPhone, but we can all still use the most technically advanced scanner to ever see the light of day until Uniden closes the circle on them.
 

tumegpc

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As for not including GPS in the scanner like in the typical cell phone, the GPS chipset is typically a part of the cellular RF chipset rather than a separate unit - another benefit of a multi million dollar ASIC development budget. Adding internal GPS to a scanner is not as simple as plugging in an off the shelf unit.

Not offering wifi in the handheld scanner? Adding internal wifi is not as simple as plugging in an off the shelf unit. That is what Uniden tried to do with the BCD536 and the owners of that unit are quite aware of the debacle that has become.

Touchscreens? When you can buy them in multi million unit quantities they can be affordable. Try ordering a few thousand at a time and the price skyrockets, particularly if you require a custom size/resolution/form factor for your device.

Creating an app infrastructure for a scanner? I seriously doubt that any viable commercial market would emerge for that - the impossibly small customer base combined with the necessity today of charging virtually nothing for your app equals a non-starter for that. After someone spends $500 for a scanner they would scream at paying a commercially sustainable price for a new decoder.

As for the other cell phone comparisons - There is no need for a scanner to have a camera, 3D engine, microphone, accelerometer, etc. Even if you wanted to justify them in a scanner, once again those capabilities are only possible on a cell phone because of the multi million unit sales of those devices.
Really ??!!! I'm into RC planes and Quadcopters and I happen to own a DJI Phantom Quadcopter so I know the technology that's available. GPS built in ,HD Video camera with WIFI for FPV using a free iOS or Android App. There are Quadcopters with built in cameras that have WIFI with LCD screens built into the transmitter for FPV and they are selling for less then 200.00!

Are they selling multi million units ?, I don't think so . Are these companies bigger than Uniden ? I doubt it.
Have they been around as long as Uniden ? No
Frustrated ? Yes !
 
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kd7eir

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Now take a look at the size of those units and tell me - do they appear appropriate for adding into a scanner? Also consider that the retail price for the replacement GPS unit for the Phantom is $150+ - meaning wholesale cost approximately $50-$75, and add that onto the price of the $500 scanner.

In electronics, size comes at a price. Take your quadcopter apart and have a gander at the size of the GPS board in there, and then tell me if you think that is appropriate for adding into a scanner that people are already griping is too big. And don't forget that you'll also need to fit an antenna and extra battery capacity in there, as people are already dissatisfied with the battery life.

How is a wifi video camera germane to a scanner?

LCD screens for FPV? The Parrot requires you to plug in your own tablet, nothing built-in. Hubsan? That screen is 4.3" - not very appropriate for a handheld scanner. Again, size comes at a price. The LCD's that quadcopters are using are basically off the shelf units that have already been produced in the millions for other products, not a custom size and/or form factor as would be required in a handheld scanner.

But hey, us electrical engineers know NOTHING about what it takes to make these things - it's the users that are the experts and we are simply the lazy guys that are intentionally disappointing the masses - because the only way for us to help our employers thrive is to thwart them at every opportunity when it comes to providing the technology that the consumer wants, at a price that the consumer is willing to pay.

So, feel free to tool up your own factory, foot your own R&D costs, design, code, and manufacture your own ASIC's, develop your own consumer market, sales channel, supply chains, regulatory compliance testing, licensing, etc. Develop the uber-mega handheld scanner that no one else, including companies that have been doing this for DECADES has been able to do, and put Uniden out of business.

I'll be the first in line as long as you keep the price the same as the BCD436HP - after all, people are saying that these features should have already been included at the current price. And it needs to be smaller, because people hate the Uniden "brick." And it needs 4 times the battery life. And of course being smaller it must also be lighter.

There are plenty of complaints that this $500 handheld is not as durable as the $5000 APX6000 as well, so you must also build it to the same standard as the APX6000, again with no increase in price.

I'll be waiting with baited breath for your product launch. Oh - and since some many people think this capability should have already been in the current models, you don't have the luxury of spending a few years in R&D - after all, the quadcopter PROVES that everything you need is right there on some supplier's shelf just waiting for you. You should be able to have the product on the shelves within approximately nine months. And heck, take your company public and I'll dump a six-figure sum into you IPO.
 
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