By now you’ve heard that ICOM announced a new QRP transceiver, the IC-705. It’s an SDR with a color touch panel much like the IC-7300 only this one includes all HF plus VHF/UHF and all-modes. Its small size and internal battery option makes it look ready for the field. More information about the new offering is available all over the Web so I won’t re-hash specific details here.
It’s great to see this kind of innovation and ICOM will no doubt sell a lot of them. But that doesn’t necessarily make it the best solution for all kinds of portable operations. The market for trail friendly equipment has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade and while we haven’t yet hit “peak portable” the market is beginning to mature.
The Elecraft KX-line, which commands that space now, has been around for several years.
Of course that won’t last forever as the market constantly changes. In fact, I’ve noticed that POTA stations aren’t so much of the QRP CW variety as was typical during the genesis of the portable radio explosion. Low-powered, trail-friendly equipment used to be the norm, but CW POTA spots are becoming rare as many activators have switched to phone.
They can afford that performance hit because many now employ 100-watt equipment in the field. These radio operators are doing it different, they aren’t hiking into the field as much as they are driving in, parking, and operating from their vehicle. This permits the use of higher-powered mobile equipment and antennas that yield better success.
This change in operating style may be a result of perpetually poor band conditions in this extended minimum, or maybe it’s the lack of CW operators available to chase them? In any event, it looks to me like the immediate future for some chunk of the portable trend is more power and less need for battery efficiency, and if that’s the case, low-powered equipment is bound to lose some desirability.
Of course there are still those who hike into the mountains (SOTA) and these will continue carrying featherweight gear and as few batteries as possible. For these, CW will remain the dominant mode, at least until FT8 runs on a smartphone with a Bluetooth link to a trail-friendly radio.
The IC-705 could be a hit with satellite enthusiasts who have long-suffered without commercial portable equipment capable of simultaneous multi-mode operation on VHF and UHF. It isn’t clear to me if the new transceiver includes a satellite mode (transponder tracking) like the IC-9700, but if not, a workaround might quickly emerge.
I’ve no doubt Icom will succeed in some segment of the shifting portable market with this offering, but it’s not clear to me exactly where it will land and what it might displace.
One thing is certain, it won’t be the “KX3 killer” some have prematurely claimed. It’s weight, size, power consumption, and performance on HF+6 meters will disappoint the hiking crowd (by comparison) and I suspect it’s low-power output will disappoint the newest breed of POTA enthusiasts.
It will hit the spot for anyone seeking a portable solution for all-mode VHF/UHF operation that also happens to bring a little HF along for the ride. It feels to me like a product whose price needs to hit a very specific sweet spot in order to succeed.
Unless of course ICOM is keeping a secret. Like maybe the new little transceiver can also be used like the FlexRadio Maestro to remotely control other (modern) ICOM transceivers via Ethernet/WiFi…