I have had a smart phone only for a couple years. One thing I wanted to do with my smart phone was to use it in pursuit of my amateur radio experience. Those neat little programs they have for smart phones are called “apps”. I presume that is an abbreviated form of the word “application”. I have found out just how useful these apps are in amateur radio. My computer is also able to download apps. Apps can be very helpful, even for the new ham.
Here are some apps that are helpful for the new ham: The first one I will mention is a compass app. This can help you align a directional antenna. Let’s say you are at a park and you want to align your antenna to hit a repeater that is due north. Just pull up the compass app and go for it. I question the accuracy of the compass app I downloaded, but it gets me in the ballpark. And, hey, it was free. Many available apps are free, and hams like free. I am sure there are other compass apps that are more accurate. I have an Android phone that uses Play Store to download apps. Check the ratings of any app you download. Sometimes even paying just a couple of dollars may get you a great app.
Another app I found useful was one that displays latitude and longitude. Another, GricCalc, displays the Maidenhead Grid Square. Amateurs have divided the earth into grid squares, each with a unique identifier. These grid square locations help DX-ers (hams who try to contact distant locations) identify where they are at.
Weather. Hams need to keep up on weather happenings. You never know when a storm will hit. If you are home, you want to disconnect your external antenna from your radio, at least. If you are out somewhere, such as a Field Day location, being forewarned of weather conditions may save your life. I have a weather radar app in my phone. I also have the weather app for a local television station, and the Weather Channel app.
The number of amateur radio apps that will be useful to any ham is nearly endless. I have chosen just a few in this column, but hopefully it will peak your interest. Looking in the app store under “amateur radio” of “ham radio”, you will find hundreds of them. If one is free and you don’t like it, simply delete it and look for another. If you don’t like an app that you have purchased, you will still only be out a few dollars.
Grab your smart phone, and great app hunting!