What makes scanners so big?

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radioroo

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When compared to a modern phone, a modern hand held scanner is a huge brick. So what's inside that makes these things so large?

An iPhone for example, is tiny by comparison. It too has a radio receiver and even a radio transmitter. It has a powerful computer, a high resolution full colour touch screen display, a lithium battery, 32/64 GB of storage memory and the materials are high quality and don't creak or rattle.

My Uniden BCD436HP (which I really like for what it does) is by comparison absolutely massive, is a receiver only, has a monochrome slow display (text leaves a shadow when changing to new text rather than being instant), the screen gets dust inside easily, it uses NIMH batteries, is made from creaky plastic and the control knob (the most important control) is the cheapest feeling part and is loose, clicks really loudly and rattles.

In Canada the 436 is $620 plus another 13% tax where I am. This is about the same price as an iPhone off contract.

This is not a criticism as I understand that Uniden have probably produced they very best scanner they could within the confines and limits of the market they are in.

But my question is, what is the reason for the bulk and the cheaper materials in the 436 when compared to a modern phone? Is it because of sales volume? If Uniden sold as many scanners as Apple sold phones would they have the money to build smaller, more compact and dense scanners with higher quality materials, more modern screen and battery technology and more solid design choices?

As for the size specifically, is there something about the internals of a multiband receiver that keeps them relatively large?
 
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DickH

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As for the size specifically, is there something about the internals of a multiband receiver that keeps them relatively large?
I've made the same observations in the past, but of course it falls on deaf ears.
The only thing that might limit size is the speaker, but I'm sure that could be overcome.
Also, many cell phone components, like the display, could be used. In the quantities they are produced they must be cheap.
 

902

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When compared to a modern phone, a modern hand held scanner is a huge brick. So what's inside that makes these things so large?
The answer is more like what's not inside them. That would be: volume of sales and manufacture, and global investment in research and development.

Cellular devices use standardized chipsets. They are produced on a grand scale and, if they can be used for the application, form a building block for whichever device. This allows for miniaturization. A scanner is big because it has to have tuned circuits with broad response, a synthesizer that can create the frequencies necessary, a microprocessor that controls everything, and in many cases (with digital) additional decoding circuitry that takes the various formats and converts them to understandable speech - not to mention an antenna that works "good enough" on these broad frequency ranges.

Cellular devices are researched by a very large body of competitors and there is constant innovation centered on achieving more with less bandwidth consumption, less materials, less costs, etc. Scanners are a niche market and can't be used in many parts of the world because of national differences. Even for the key manufacturers, they represent only a certain portion of their business line.

It's probably not the answer you wanted, but it seems to me that this is why they're clunky and consumer-ish.
 

radioroo

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I've made the same observations in the past, but of course it falls on deaf ears.
The only thing that might limit size is the speaker, but I'm sure that could be overcome.
Also, many cell phone components, like the display, could be used. In the quantities they are produced they must be cheap.
Yeah, even when I bought a new handheld CB a few months ago I was very surprised during my search for the latest and greatest models, to find that now 20 years on from when I used to have a handheld CB, nothing has really changed. Most of them are still the same size they were 20 years ago. With exception to the Midland 822 which I bought. However, it still uses AA batteries, takes all night to charge, has no battery level meter, has a 2 digit numerical display and weighs a ton.

It feels like when it comes to progress, CB makers only get together once every 5 years to discuss possibly making a button a different colour or maybe adding an LED to the display.

I know Uniden is pushing things forward with what their scanners can do internally, but the external designs, screens, batteries, chargers and processors seem to remain in the 90s.
 

SCPD

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scanners / cell's

radioroo : The BIG diff between a Police Scanner & cell phone is that a Police Scanner you can add MULTI Frequency's & diff Departments & scan them all at once. A cell phone you can NOT scan multi Departments & or Frequency's at the same time. A cell phone you have to install an app for each Departments separately, & you will wind up with a lot of diff App's on your cell phone. Hope this helps .
 

radioroo

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The answer is more like what's not inside them. That would be: volume of sales and manufacture, and global investment in research and development.

Cellular devices use standardized chipsets. They are produced on a grand scale and, if they can be used for the application, form a building block for whichever device. This allows for miniaturization. A scanner is big because it has to have tuned circuits with broad response, a synthesizer that can create the frequencies necessary, a microprocessor that controls everything, and in many cases (with digital) additional decoding circuitry that takes the various formats and converts them to understandable speech - not to mention an antenna that works "good enough" on these broad frequency ranges.

Cellular devices are researched by a very large body of competitors and there is constant innovation centered on achieving more with less bandwidth consumption, less materials, less costs, etc. Scanners are a niche market and can't be used in many parts of the world because of national differences. Even for the key manufacturers, they represent only a certain portion of their business line.

It's probably not the answer you wanted, but it seems to me that this is why they're clunky and consumer-ish.
No your answer is good and pretty much what I assumed would be the case when I mentioned sales volume. If 500 million consumers bought a new scanner every year, there would soon be fierce competition in the market as well as plenty of profit and I'm sure that would drive the technology forward much faster and shrink it too.

It just seems like radios are stuck in the 90s, unfortunately.
 

radioroo

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radioroo : The BIG diff between a Police Scanner & cell phone is that a Police Scanner you can add MULTI Frequency's & diff Departments & scan them all at once. A cell phone you can NOT scan multi Departments & or Frequency's at the same time. A cell phone you have to install an app for each Departments separately, & you will wind up with a lot of diff App's on your cell phone. Hope this helps .
Thanks but I wasn't talking about using a cell phone as a scanner via an app. I was just talking about the hardware of the two consumer products and how vastly more progressive phones are whereas scanners progress at a snails pace and are 10-20 years behind in many features.
 

eorange

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My Icom R6 is superior radio. LOUD audio, excellent sensitivity, blazing scan speed, alpha tags, runs forever on 2 AAs. Heck, it even has a data filter, and you can use the earphone wire as an antenna if you like. And it's tiny.

The only thing it doesn't have is P25 and trunking. So there's your answer.
 

typesix

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Part of it is the use of AA batteries, the preferred method of power instead of dedicated batteries. Years ago, many Uniden owners of the popular 100XLT and 200XLT and a few other models would complain about the use of dedicated batteries.
 

KC4RAF

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They could make the scanners smaller, but

men, (the main users of scanners) have large hands and fingers. Then as mentioned, batteries. Too small of batteries will give user less time listening. Reducing the size of the display will require magnifier to read it. Overall, I don't think a smaller scanner would go over too well with the hobbyist. Of course we don't want a radio that requires a wagon to carry it around on either!
 

radioroo

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My Icom R6 is superior radio. LOUD audio, excellent sensitivity, blazing scan speed, alpha tags, runs forever on 2 AAs. Heck, it even has a data filter, and you can use the earphone wire as an antenna if you like. And it's tiny.

The only thing it doesn't have is P25 and trunking. So there's your answer.

That made me laugh :)
The Icom R6 is superior. The only things it doesn't have are...two absolutely essential features in modern scanning!

Having said that, the size must be really nice when you're out and about.
 
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radioroo

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men, (the main users of scanners) have large hands and fingers. Then as mentioned, batteries. Too small of batteries will give user less time listening. Reducing the size of the display will require magnifier to read it. Overall, I don't think a smaller scanner would go over too well with the hobbyist. Of course we don't want a radio that requires a wagon to carry it around on either!
An iPhone has a much larger display but the device is much, much smaller. And a high capacity lithium battery would provide more run time than the 3 AAs in the 436.

I think the answer has been nailed. They have to be bulky and use cheaper materials and old design technology because there just isn't enough demand or a big enough sales volume to pay for the same kind of progress that popular consumer electronics manufacturers can afford.
 

eorange

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That made me laugh :)
The Icom R6 is superior. The only things it doesn't have are...two absolutely essential features in modern scanning!

Having said that, the size must be really nice when you're out and about.
Yes, it is very nice and stealthy.

Also, it depends on what one means by "modern scanning" and "essential". Here, my R6 is used for civilian and military air. Solid AM performance and fast scan speed fits that bill. It's not my trunking P25 radio.

But I know what you meant. "P25 Trunking Radios" are becoming huge in size. My 396XT is about all the bigger I'd want one to be!
 

car55

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When compared to a modern phone, a modern hand held scanner is a huge brick. So what's inside that makes these things so large?

An iPhone for example, is tiny by comparison. It too has a radio receiver and even a radio transmitter. It has a powerful computer, a high resolution full colour touch screen display, a lithium battery, 32/64 GB of storage memory and the materials are high quality and don't creak or rattle.

My Uniden BCD436HP (which I really like for what it does) is by comparison absolutely massive, is a receiver only, has a monochrome slow display (text leaves a shadow when changing to new text rather than being instant), the screen gets dust inside easily, it uses NIMH batteries, is made from creaky plastic and the control knob (the most important control) is the cheapest feeling part and is loose, clicks really loudly and rattles.

In Canada the 436 is $620 plus another 13% tax where I am. This is about the same price as an iPhone off contract.

This is not a criticism as I understand that Uniden have probably produced they very best scanner they could within the confines and limits of the market they are in.

But my question is, what is the reason for the bulk and the cheaper materials in the 436 when compared to a modern phone? Is it because of sales volume? If Uniden sold as many scanners as Apple sold phones would they have the money to build smaller, more compact and dense scanners with higher quality materials, more modern screen and battery technology and more solid design choices?

As for the size specifically, is there something about the internals of a multiband receiver that keeps them relatively large?

I agree with features. Cell phones are like computers and scanners are like computers from the 70's.

But size is about right. In fact some scanners like BCD396T is bit too small.Any smaller and you will not see the screen or touch the keypad.
 

n5ims

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One reason a scanner is so much larger than an iPhone can be summed up in a single word, buttons. A scanner needs space for the many buttons while most phones have very few physical buttons. Yes, the touch screen on a smart phone does provide some virtual buttons, but to use them you have to actually look at the device, not something a smart person does while doing other critical tasks like driving.

With a scanner's physical buttons, I can reach over and find the right button to resume scanning or temporarily lock out a talkgroup all without taking my eyes off the road. Had it use the virtual button model like a smart phone, I'd have to pick up the scanner, swipe the screen to get it to display, find the screen area that has the spot to press to bring up the area that has my desired function, press that area, find the screen area that has the spot to press to do my desired function, press that spot, then put the device back down where I can find it the next time. I probably rear-ended a stopped school bus while my eyes were off the road and on the tiny scanner.
 

pinballwiz86

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It would be cool if Uniden made a scanner where the entire front panel, minus the speaker area, is a high resolution touch screen. Gorilla glass of course for longevity.

You could have a full color "band scope" on there. Would look so sweet...

Uniden, please send me a beta testing unit if you use my idea. Thanks.
 

pinballwiz86

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You're several years too late for a beta version of a 'large touchscreen' scanner.
You must be referring to a scanner app on a cell phone...

No. I'm referring to putting a touch screen interface on a real radio receiver. Not a streaming app on a phone.
 
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