Sonim XP8 XPand Direct Mode

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JASII

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This isn't GMRS/FRS, but this seems to be the best place for this. I am just wondering if anybody here would happen to have any experience with the Sonim XP8 smartphone and the optional XPand Direct Mode for off-network communication? Just to put this in perspective, I recently became interested in Network Radio. In fact, I even bought a brand new Inrico T320 very recently for just that purpose. After using it, thinking about it some more and researching a bit, I have been reconsidering what equipment I should use for this purpose. I know that there are some smartphones that have a built-in PTT (Push To Talk) switch. As I started narrowing the likely contenders for this purpose, the short list was down to a Kyocera DuraForce PRO/DuraForce PRO 2 and the Sonim XP8.

Then, I saw that the Sonim XP8 has an optional XPand Direct Mode for off-network communication available. I am just curious if anybody here has the Sonim XP8. I need to do more research, but this could be a great device for a lot of people. Now like many people here, I am a licensed amateur radio operator. I know that there is a lot of choices for simplex comms, both analog and digital and repeaters around the world. There is FRS/GMRS and MURS. Even the old Nextel units Direct Talk as well as the Motorola DTR/DLR devices. There are even some Motorola r765 iDen devices available on Ebay.

The thing that has often bugged me, however, is most of the devices give you an either/or situation. By that I mean most of the traditional RF choices are either simplex or simplex/repeater and are, obviously, dependent on the end user being to access whatever repeater or repeater network. Amateur radio is, obviously, dependent on the user being licensed for legal operation. Focusing on the non-amateur radio devices for simplex are great, when you are within range.

My recent Network Radio experience has been great, but is dependent on accessing the internet via wifi or cellular data. That is great, if you have access to the internet. Again, I was thinking back to the days of Nextel when some handsets came out with off-network Direct Talk. Someone, somewhere, "got it". By that I mean they realized that despite h ow robust the network is that you are using, there will be times when you can't access the network. I have often wished that the mainstream cellular smartphone providers would have a version of Direct Talk built into their devices.

I should also point out that there are some Chinese smartphones that do, indeed, have a two-way radio built into them. Often in is UHF, but sometimes, it is VHF. Some of the inherent risks with that are the phone portion may, but often does not, have all of the correct cellular bands for operation in the United States. It is quite likely that the VHF or UHF portion is not FCC type accepted.

So, back to today. As I was eyeing up the Sonim XP8 and looking for RSM (Remote Speaker Microphones), I happened to see that the optional XPand Direct Mode is available for it. While I know it is a long shot, does anybody happen to know anything more about this option? Could it be compatible with either Motorola DTR/DLR devices or, for that matter, old Nextel Direct Talk devices? My best guess is that it isn't, but I would like to know more about these?

Also, a shout out to David, N1DAS. If anybody on here is likely to know more about this, it is you. What do you know about this. It does require an Android app and I have included the link to it below.



https://www.sonimtech.com/xp8/

https://www.sonimtech.com/sonim-xpand-direct-mode-for-xp8/

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sonim.directmode&hl=en_US&showAllReviews=true

https://www.amazon.com/Inrico-Bluet...ocphy=9019691&hvtargid=pla-583308375016&psc=1
 

n1das

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This is the first I've heard of a direct app for the XP8 and I will definitely have to check it out!

I own a pair of Sonim XP8 (XP8800) ruggedized smartphones. One is for the wife. They are the best smartphones we have ever owned. They are built rugged like a brick expletive-house like they say they are. Loud front facing audio from a pair of speakers, hardware PTT button, programmable function buttons, 2 waterproof accessory connectors (top and side), 4900mAh swappable battery, USB 3 connector, drop-in charger capable. The screen has the latest gorilla glass, putting an end to screen breakage. It has a built in screen protector that's replaceable. When I show the phone to friends and co-workers, they ask if I have it in a case to protect it. They are amazed when I explain that it's not in a protective case accessory like I normally do with smartphones. The phone has a no questions asked 2 year warranty.

I have a pair of drop-in chargers for them and that prevents wear on the USB3 charging connector. I also have an RSM for it which secures to the side accessory connector like an RSM on a Motorola radio. The phones were ordered online through AT&T, the only seller of them. I ordered accessories directly from Sonim.

I unlocked both of our phones but have not had any luck getting the dual SIM capability to work. Cell service is thru AT&T. I have also had service thru T-Mobile for a while and the phone works on T-Mobile after unlocking it. I was unable to get dual-SIM operation working on it. I dropped T-Mobile service and both phones are still on AT&T.

For PTT operations, I use AT&T Enhanced PTT (EPTT) and Zello. My wife and I actually like using ATT EPTT better than Zello. Loud, crisp communications audio from ATT EPTT, unlike Zello which gives you full fidelity audio but it's not as good for communications audio where I only want 300Hz to 3400Hz of audio for best readability. AT&T EPTT uses the Kodiak platform for their PTT app and will work with Verizon's EPTT app on Verizon network phones. The EPTT app is integrated with the cell carrier instead of simply being another app that uses your data plan like Zello. AT&T EPTT costs $5/month per phone whereas Zello is free. My wife and I use AT&T EPTT and we use Zello to talk with friends. I have the hardware PTT button set for AT&T EPTT and the programmable function buttons set for Zello, effectively giving me multiple PTT buttons on the phone.

We use our PUsh to Talk over Cellular (PTToC) apps when we are out of simplex range on 900MHz. We use our DTRs and DLRs when in simplex range for local on-site use. I don't bother with GMRS/FRS or MURS.

Zello had a bug which they later fixed which could cause an open mic condition on an XP8 if you were not careful. The hardware PTT button can be used when the phone screen is locked, and Zello could be put into an open mic condition without the user's knowledge by a quick inadvertent bump of the PTT button. A longer PTT press did not have a problem. The bug was not present when the screen was unlocked. It happened to the wife and I several times. I logged the bug with the folks at Zello and sent them a Youtube video of it. THAT really got their attention and helped them reproduce it. They were initially in denial when I first reported the bug. The bug was Sonim-specific as it didn't happen on non-Sonim phones with a hardware PTT button. It took a few updates of Zello before they finally fixed the bug. It really was in Zello's best interest to fix the bug because Sonim and Zello are development partners.

My Sonim XP8 (XP8800) phones were $699 from AT&T online. That's the same price as a Google Pixel 2 and a lot of other smartphones in the same price range. $700 seems to be the sweet spot in the market for a smartphone that's any good. For the XP8 it is a heck of a deal for a ruggedized smartphone. The XP8 is marketed to public safety first responders and other demanding use cases but anybody can buy it. Sonim recognized a niche market exists for ruggedized phones and has gone totally all-in on making only ruggedized smartphones and accessories. While I could go for the latest and greatest (and more expensive) smartphone from Apple, Google, Samsung, and others, the Sonim XP8 has the features I want and I sort of go ho-hum toward the others. When I someday have to replace our XP8s, new phones will most definitely be from Sonim. I agree with Sonim's strategy of going all-in on making only ruggedized smartphones and accessories.
 
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n1das

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EDIT: 3 year no questions asked warranty on the XP8 (XP8800).

I'm reading up on the SLED accessories for the XP8. Me want. *DROOL* :)
 

n1das

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1 pair of Sonim XPAND Direct Mode for XP8 accessories have been ordered! I did 2 day delivery on my order so I should have them later this week.

I will investigate whether I can get them to work with Motorola DTRs and DLRs on 900MHz. It would be really nice and wicked useful if they work but not a big deal if they don't. XPAND offers 256-bit AES symmetric key encryption to make local 900MHz simplex communications ultra-secure, something the DTRs and DLRs can't do (they are not encrypted).

FHSS digital on 900MHz AND with 256-bit AES symmetric key encryption.....NICE!!!!

https://www.sonimtech.com/sonim-xpand-direct-mode-for-xp8/
 
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Thunderknight

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AT&T EPTT uses the Kodiak platform for their PTT app and will work with Verizon's EPTT app on Verizon network phones.
Have you tested that (Verizon-AT&T on carrier grade PTT)? While they are both based on Kodiak PTT, my understanding is that they are separate instances and the two carriers won't let them talk to each other (they claim security reasons, I'm sure it's actually business competitive reasons)
 

JASII

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...We use our PUsh to Talk over Cellular (PTToC) apps when we are out of simplex range on 900MHz. We use our DTRs and DLRs when in simplex range for local on-site use. I don't bother with GMRS/FRS or MURS...
Thank you for the great information. I look forward to seeing the results of your purchase. I think it will be interesting to see what the range is on these. My best guess is that it will be very similar to the DTR/DLRs. At 1 watt and a small antenna, I don't think it is likely to vary much. Refresh my memory, was it you or someone else who has done some range tests on 1 watt 900 MHz with external antennas?

I still keep giving some thoughts to getting one of the used R765s from Ebay. My understanding is that they:

-Have Bluetooth, and

-Are Compatible With My Nextels On Direct Talk

Which RSMs do you have for your Sonims?
 

n1das

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Have you tested that (Verizon-AT&T on carrier grade PTT)? While they are both based on Kodiak PTT, my understanding is that they are separate instances and the two carriers won't let them talk to each other (they claim security reasons, I'm sure it's actually business competitive reasons)
I've had no opportunity to test it yet. It would be useful if they do work with each other.


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MTS2000des

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Our agency used XP8s during SB53 and I deployed 18 of them for our backup 911 center. They are superbly built devices, purpose built for public safety. The loudspeaker audio matches an APX for raw SPL.

I am disappointed that AT&T neutered the hardware by disabling the second SIM card socket. Really stupid especially considering the intended consumer being public safety. I can see a true benefit especially for emergency cache of having dual SIMs for carrier aggregation, but then, AT&T doesn't want you straying off their network.
 

n1das

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Our agency used XP8s during SB53 and I deployed 18 of them for our backup 911 center. They are superbly built devices, purpose built for public safety. The loudspeaker audio matches an APX for raw SPL.

I am disappointed that AT&T neutered the hardware by disabling the second SIM card socket. Really stupid especially considering the intended consumer being public safety. I can see a true benefit especially for emergency cache of having dual SIMs for carrier aggregation, but then, AT&T doesn't want you straying off their network.
The Sonim XP8 (XP8800) is ruggedly built like a brick expletive-house like they say it is. I like a purpose built device better than the current top of the line non-ruggedized smartphones costing $1k or more. The XP8 is a steal at $699.

The ruggedized smartphone market is a largely untapped niche market and Sonim has figured this out. Sonim has gone totally all-in on making only ruggedized smartphones and accessories for public safety first responders and other demanding use cases. If something were to happen to mine or the wife's XP8, I would get another XP8 in a heartbeat.

The second SIM card slot does work. I can put the AT&T SIM card into either slot and it works. After I unlocked our phones, I was able to do the same thing with a T-Mobile SIM card. I couldn't get the phone to recognize both SIMs at the same time. Maybe it will someday work after a firmware update. Dunno. AT&T may have neutered the capability like you said. I was transitioning away from T-Mobile to AT&T anyway so wasn't a big deal. It would be cool to be able to have cell service on one carrier and data on another carrier in some situations.

Anyhow my wife and I absolutely love our XP8 ruggedized smartphones. I should receive the XPAND Direct Mode modules in a few days.

Sent from my XP8800 using Tapatalk
 
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n1das

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I'm wondering if AT&T neuters dual SIM operation depending on what carrier the second SIM card is for. Dual SIM operation might be neutered when a T-Mobile SIM is installed as the second SIM card. It might work when the second SIM card is a FirstNet SIM. AT&T may not want to play nice with T-Mobile.

My XP8 phones are unlocked so in theory it shouldn't matter.


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JASII

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I'm wondering if AT&T neuters dual SIM operation depending on what carrier the second SIM card is for...
There may have been some discussion of that very issue on Howard Forums. Let me see if I can find it and post it here.
 

JASII

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According to Post # 17...


"RE: #1, if you get an AT&T branded XP-8, the second SIM is disabled. Per Sonim, this is a contractual requirement."


NON-firstnet Sonim XP8 Use - Page 2

Post 18:

"...I then got ahold of Sonim and they were kind enough to overnight one to me direct. I installed both SIMs and they fired up immediately. One of them is a Firstnet SIM and the second one is AT&T. The phone works with most GSM SIMs but won't work with CDMA such as Sprint..."
 
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n1das

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The XP8 unlocked phone is available directly from Sonim for $799. My XP8 was $699 through AT&T online. The unlocked version wasn't available yet when I got my XP8 phones. I ordered my XP8 phones about a month after they first became available.
Sonim XP8800 BLK NAM- Unlocked – Sonim Technologies, Inc.

UPDATE: My pair of Sonim XPAND Direct Mode modules for my XP8 phones have shipped. Delivery is expected tomorrow (Wednesday 22MAY2019) evening. Woohoo!


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JASII

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...My pair of Sonim XPAND Direct Mode modules for my XP8 phones have shipped. Delivery is expected tomorrow...
That is very cool.

When I looks at some of my old posts and think more about this, I was really hoping that the Sonim XP8 would work with Verizon, since my family and I are on Total Wireless, which is a Verizon MVNO. It seems like someone did get one unlocked and had it working on Verizon, but it would work on voice only, not data. Then, when we enabled data, it wouldn't make voice calls. I even e-mailed Sonim and they said a Verizon SIM card would "brick" the XP8!

I was even slightly interested in trying one from Canada because I think phones have to be sold unlocked there. Now, since this would be a supplemental smartphone and not my "daily driver", I am/would be fine with it working on AT&T only or AT&T and T-Mobile.
 
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n1das

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n1das

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1 pair of Sonim XPAND Direct Mode for XP8 accessories have been ordered! I did 2 day delivery on my order so I should have them later this week.

I will investigate whether I can get them to work with Motorola DTRs and DLRs on 900MHz. It would be really nice and wicked useful if they work but not a big deal if they don't. XPAND offers 256-bit AES symmetric key encryption to make local 900MHz simplex communications ultra-secure, something the DTRs and DLRs can't do (they are not encrypted).

FHSS digital on 900MHz AND with 256-bit AES symmetric key encryption.....NICE!!!!

https://www.sonimtech.com/sonim-xpand-direct-mode-for-xp8/
I expect the Sonim XPAND Direct Mode will NOT work with Motorola DTR and DLR series radios and will not work with anything else. The XPAND Direct Mode module uses LoRa FHSS.
LoRa - Wikipedia
 

n1das

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That makes sense. Good job on the update. Have you downloaded the Sonim Direct Mode app yet?


https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sonim.directmode&hl=en_US&showAllReviews=true
YES! I downloaded and installed the app on my phone. It's a free app. I haven't put it on the wife's phone yet. I'll take care of it tonight after the XPAND DM modules arrive.

The latest FedEx tracking status shows out on FedEx vehicle for delivery today by 8 PM EDT.


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