Not sure if this is the correct generic term for these devices, but that’s what at least one major Chinese retailer calls them. Just for reference, here’s a link to about the only non-advertizing article about them I could find:
Right off, none are iOS, obviously, and the word Android doesn’t come up either, so I assume there is some other OS used, apparently something called MTK. I know that some seem to be devices used with an actual cellphone (an iPhone is often shown) as a dialer or to otherwise keep certain data off the paired phone. There also seem to be ones that are actual cellphones in themselves. Some seem designed to allow you to add another SIM card – or two – so may be used by international travelers who need their phone to operate on two or more different systems
Others play on the reduced radiation they emit, so the Bluetooth link is used to keep the primary phone away from the head. There is also some emphasis that they would be better for students by avoiding the distractions available on a standard smart cell phone, a concern of many US parents, too.
The cost is typically in the $15 to $25 range (although they go higher) and Bluetooth seems standard. Some look like tiny phones, other are set-up as rather largish earphones or tiny tablets. Some use GPRS, a worldwide packet text system that the telcos provide text services on, another indication these are targeted to travelers.
A critical feature that seems lacking is GPS, so I assume they still count on a paired phone for that, for now, something like how the goTenna Mesh does. I guess if there are ones that seem designed to operate independently of a paired primary cell phone must do it without GPS? Or is there a tiny GPS chip aboard some of them now? There is talk of these using a SIM card when running as independent phones, but does that ever provide for GPS? Inquiring minds want to know…
So I guess my question is are these mini-card phones something that could be paired – assuming that the new tools available to build goTenna software newly available with the Python-based SDK are useful here and the lack of GPS could be overcome – with a goTenna? Can Python run MTK?
There are a lot of people who use no-longer-functioning-as-phones cell devices to pair with their goTennas. The two basic reasons are cost and preference. People may consider the cost of cell service a budget breaker. In many cases, the goTenna can provide the needed connectivity at virtually no cost once the modest initial purchase cost is amortized. Others simply don’t want to carry a government-approved tracking device. Ultimately it comes down to a need to provide people with goTenna service while avoiding sinking a lot of money into cell devices to pair with them. Sure, it’s somewhat of a niche market, but it seems like a very interesting way to potentially enable expansion of goTenna use.
First, the lack of GPS needs to be addressed, if in fact none yet have it. GPS on these devices seems like it might happen just as another added feature; maybe I just missed it and it’s already available? But perhaps a manufacturer could be persuaded to specifically address the lack of GPS. They’re throwing in all sorts of features, like more space for music, voice-changing devices, or FM radios, so why not GPS? Or a hack might be developed that uses one of the readily available GPS modules used in drones now or the wi-fi-enabled GPS tracking devices that are getting smaller and smaller?
Consider that no one in North America needs most or any of the 2G quad-band coverage these devices use when operating as a cellphone – especially if you’re buying to avoid using a cell? For a dedicated goTenna Mesh paired unit, the cell part of the device could be dropped entirely while adding GPS and the cost might be essentially the same to produce – or cheaper.
Add in a full keyboard to facilitate text/ That’s another must, but a simple enough thing.
Innovation that might produce a dedicated mesh version of a mini-card phone is being eroded by the near trade war underway between the US and the PRC. Could there be a brilliant young entrepreneur that could produce such a device to market as a cheap phone to pair with your goTenna Mesh? Let’s hope so, as the technology to make this possible appears to be readily available with a little effort by a vendor to integrate a GPS chip into one of these devices for pairing with goTenna Mesh.