SmartSDR - Annual Costs - ????

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Ok. This is getting ridiculous.  

$200 a year to keep my radio current?

Of course it is "optional" until it is not optional. 

I have been in IT for 30 years. I have seen this model before, and it did not play out  well for the companies that did it. In the end, they either went under, went to a subscription model, or gave out the software for free.

Why don't you switch to a service model where you charge something like $5 a month or $60 a year. This service can include the remote services, support,  updates, etc.

You will find that most of the owners will go for this model over paying out $200 every year or so for "optional" updates.

The problem with optional updates is that it will introduce security issues to the v2 models since they are internet facing and lets be honest, you are not microsoft and keep legacy systems patches going for years after a release.

The other issue is that the resale value of the radio drops by $200 the minute a new version comes out.  Right now for new flex people, an icom 7300 ( yes, I know it is not a fair comparison but it is a choice people make) NEW costs around $1100.  A flex 6300 costs around $1200 used. Once 3.0 is out, the flex is now worth $1000 at best unless it has ver 3.0 installed.

A newbie to SDR will look at the self contained Icom for $1000 - $1100 NEW and they simply drop it in, or do they want to get a flex and have the learning curve?   This is a conversation that is taking place on the nets right now and most people lean toward the IC7300 since it is good enough and they do not have to pay for updates.

I love my flexradio, but you need to re-evaluate your software model, it will have long term impact on your products.  
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David H Hickman

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Posted 8 months ago

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K6OZY, Elmer

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I've also been in IT for 20+ years, and I think this model is fully functional.   Updates that add features are optional.  Updates that provide security updates are free and release for all versions.   Most companies announce a software EOL (Microsoft, Cisco, etc) and charge for extended security-only updates to their older software.   Flex is doing this for free.

Their company isn't large enough to house a support team to do the subscription method you suggest.  This means income is either this or forced obsolescence of our radios, which NONE of us want.  A sub model could be their ultimate target, but as a company that is growing, they have a bit to go before they have the presence to rely on subs as their primary money maker.

I can understand some people's frustration with someone else's business model, but it seems to be working for them.   Some people also may be upset thinking that they are focusing on only contest features only, but if this lets Flex get the money to keep the company running as a whole, then I'm all for it.  They will revisit the smaller options for those who don't have massive pocketbooks.  I want Flex to be around for decades to come.  The upper management and board have a solid business head and know what they are doing.   I've been a Flex-nut for 15+ years now and want them to be around for the next 20+!

-Chris
(Edited)
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Lawrence Gray

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I bought a 7300 to try out.  I found it to be a very good radio--really a bargain at the price.  I did not experience any front end overloading, but I don't have antennas anywhere near commercial or other loud signal sources.   It may not be a super contest radio, but it works very and there are lots of them on the air.  

I cannot really understand the continual need to run down the performance of competitive radios?  Flex radios are great, but they also have areas that need improvement.  A 7300 is not a Flex, but it is a great radio for the price.

I have no issue paying for major Flex firmware/software upgrades.  

Larry, W1IZZ
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Ken Hansen

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Larry, I agree - the critiques seem to be based on emotion, justified by well-known short-comings of the IC-7300.

The IC-7300 was released just over three years ago, and tens of thousands of them have been sold just in the US alone. If it were truly a 'klunker' the swap boards would be flooded with them, and they'd be selling at 'fire-sale' prices. Instead, when they come up for sale they trade hands at solid prices, and rarely linger on the boards for more than a day before being sold.

When put on the table at a Hamfest the first question I hear asked is 'why are you selling it', asked with a hint of surprise.

For the past two years the Hamfest I run has awarded an IC-7300 as our top prize - it drives a lot of additional door prize tickets.

Are there better radios available? Of course, I own several that are better than the IC-7300, but for operating "Picnic Table Portable" it can't be beat, based on cost, size, performance and portability.
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Mark - WS7M

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I had a 7300 for a short time and it was a fine radio.  I can't speak to the RF overload Howard experienced but I will say that we used a 6600, 7300, 6500 and Yaesu FT892 in FD and the 7300 did just fine.  Granted no strong RF.

We will be running various radios up at our WWV 100 celebration literally less than 1/2 mile from the HF antennas of WWV.  I've taken my 6300 out there and it worked fine as long as you stayed a ways away from the big sigs.
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Dave - W6OVP

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The IC-7300 is a lot of radio for the money, and many thousands seem to agree. I keep one here as a spare and always enjoy using it.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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I am 2900’ from 8 TV towers and 23 FM radio towers + US Navy secret stuff. I have a big SteppIR MonstIR. It’s RF hell much of the time need a superb receiver.

On The Other Hand. I own Asia in Contests.
(Edited)
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Lance Rasmussen

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Having also been in IT for as long, as well as running a small vertical market software, I've seen these different models and it's still common to charge for major upgrades. Prices, of course, vary. FLEX is not a product that is going to see several million customers to support a dirt cheap option. Plus, the radios are not conducive to a Adobe cloud type model where you pay and when you dont, you shut down.
It really boils down to this. If you are too cheap to upgrade or do not see the benefits of the major upgrade- dont. Easy peasy. For those that see the benefit - upgrade.
All my other radios... when they release a new version with features I want, i have to sell the radio and buy a whole new one. For Flex - the software is the magic.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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1, There are no annual cost.

2, The cost of software development it the most expensive part of Flex Radio operation. If Icom was paying this much for their software updates, it would not be free either.

3, This business model has to date been very productive and has been very successful.

4, Any needed maintenance updates for none feature releases will continue to be free as long as the software is still supported.
(Edited)
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paul

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I have a 5000A I bought 15 years ago using v2.7.2. It helped me get DXCC #141 on 2m. Works fine and does everything I expect it to do. I also have a 6500 running 1.11.12 a 6600 and two 6300 using 2.49 only because I use them remotely. I see no reason to use another version unless something strikes me and then I may only change version on one of them. Nice thing is I do not have to "upgrade" it is my choice. Try not paying a HULU subscription and see what happens.  paul, wa3qpx
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Lawrence Gray

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I do not have an issue with the fee for major updates.  My issue, and I hear it quite a bit, is that some basic features, such as ANF and NR are still poor compared to several competitive radios.  I am really happy to pay for an update that addresses these shortcomings.  I have no interest in an update that allows multi-user use of the radio.  None of the several  people I know around here, or on the air, who own Flex's have any interest in the multi-user feature.  All are interested in improvements in recovered audio (ANF, NR...)

I just received an ANAN 7000DLE MKII.  All updates are free, as they are open source.  There is a learning curve and you need to know how to deal with software, so the radio is not for everyone.  However, the ANF, noise reduction, diversity reception, and pure signal features are really good.   I hear lots of chatter on the air about people purchasing these radios.

I have owned 3 Flex's and they are great radios.  My 6500 is generally great.  However, I do not think Flex is responsive to the needs of  the general customer base.  This is particularly true since the introduction of the "knob based" new models.  An expectation of superior ANF and DSP-based NR is not unreasonable.

In any case, $200 for a major update is a bargain. 

Larry, W1IZZ


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Ken Hansen

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Since we are discussing business models and obsolescence, remember also that Apple, along with charging real money for OS upgrades until fairly recently, also has no qualms 'End of Life-ing' hardware they choose not to support anymore. They simply drop support for devices, leaving owners stranded on aging OSes with no further support.
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Craig Williams

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Yep.
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Kevin

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Way way off topic but Larry, every time I see your picture beside your posts I want to tell you "You're gonna need a bigger boat."

For those not following... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2I91DJZKRxs

I'm sure there's no connection to FRS here at all.

Kev

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Lawrence Gray

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LOL.  Even funnier because I live right across Vineyard Sound where much of the filming was done, I did charter boat work for years, and have a master's license.  The photo was taken while standing on the bowsprit of the 65 foot sailboat in Turkey.
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Kevin

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Nice! And looking at your qrz.com page we seem we have some things in common. I was an ET1 stationed on the sub tender USS Hunley in Holy Loch, Scotland. Also, spent 4 years up in Sinop, Turkey. Also, you worked in the food/beverage industry and I eat and drink. Wow! ;) Not to mention we both enjoy Flex.

Fair winds and following seas.

73,
Kev K4VD
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Mark WS7M

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I been in IT for 40 years.  I've seen all the models and quite frankly the companies that went under where the ones that gave it away for free.

I think Bill said it best above.   There is no annual cost.  If you are happy with the radio and the features then you are good to good with the radio until you are done with it.

If you want new features, prepare to pay.  Try getting a feature update to an Icom 7300.  The 7610 is currently going through bug fix and minor feature releases.  Once those are done I suspect that radio will be in the same position.  The feature set will be locked.
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spopiela

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I somewhat agree with the original post. Quicken changed their software business model because people would go for years without any of the yearly updates. There was little yearly functional update so users didn’t want to waste money.Their software also started getting long in the tooth and having performance issues. They changed to a subscription model after change in ownership and everything has improved. I think the new business model pays for improvements. The difference between a quicken example and flex is that there is a strong tie to hardware... I’m not talking about the computer but rather the radio. As time moves on and a radio hits it’s technology plateau, the associated software will have to plateau. Software Upgrades then have to stop To that software baseline. As computers evolved Windows OS had to change. I have first geration 6500 and upgraded software one time. Unless there is a major upgrade to hardware , I’ll be sticking with the current radio and pay for updates. Probably will be many years of updates.
Stan
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paul

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I bought  a 6600 because it has two  SCU's and is much less expensive than 6700. I now run a transverter and 6m at the same time on one radio freeing up one of the 6300's
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Delbert McCord

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I do not work in IT, I love my Flex,s I own 3 now. What I do not like as a non IT guy is having to buy a new version and then working through all the little bugs or updates. When It gets stable its time for a new version and it all starts over again. 

I work from home, my shack is also my office so I switched from my Icom 756 Pro III because of desk real-estate. I like to run multiple monitors and the Icom was just to big. The Flex I think for me is a lot better option, I love the receiver in my Flex for many reasons. For me and these problems are special to me I had a small stroke a few years ago so learning new stuff really takes me awhile and confusing. 

As far as the upgrades I do not mind paying for them, I like to support American companies for me its the question of what new problems I will have with a updated software package. 

I my self will continue to support Flex what ever way they go but if I had a choice I would go with some kind of subscription where it included updates and HUMAN tech support, now that would be worth something to me. 
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Harold Bullard

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Gentlemen,
I see this from the same perspective. Even worse I have a 6300 and a 6700. I had a bad experience at the Huntsville, Al Hamfest two years ago concerning purchasing upgrade software. He told me in no certain terms that I would buy software to get bug fixes. I bought V2 on March 5 , 2018. I sent an email asking if cost would be incurred in under a year of release. There was no reply. Only one copy ... well I found out my 6700 had to have its own copy. $400/year is high price to pay for buggy software. Some good software writer could do well 3000 users X $200 bux. Flex please help those Hams that put you where you are.
K5WHB
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Jerry WA9UKB

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I have stayed with version 1 and will not upgrade due to earlier bug fixes not being done and being also lowballed on a upgrade trade in value of a 6500 at $199.00 back Dec
So an upgrade would not be an option as the apparent decline in the market value of the 6500.
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roger na4rr

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I think selling bug fixes is the plan to stay in business. 

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Bill -VA3WTB

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roger, maintenance releases have always been free.
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Mack McCormick, Elmer

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Flex has already announced there will be a 2.5 release at no cost to current 2.4.9 users. At least state facts correctly.

Mack
W4AX
Alpha Team
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KF4HR

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It would be nice, but to the best of my knowledge FRS has never put out a major (i.e., $199) software version every year.  I have owned my Flex-6700 since 2015 and have only paid for one software upgrade (V2.x) 

While there are several free minor changes that occur within each major software update, the $199 updates tend to be centered around (mostly) one major feature.  For V2.x is was the Remote Control feature and for V3.x it's the Multi-Client feature.  It's a fairly safe bet that the newest software features may, or may not be wanted or needed by some, so why force everyone to pay for them? 

The same goes for resale value.  Some buyers may want the latest software features, while others may not, so resale prices will vary based on wants and needs.  And of course the used buyer always has the option to wait for the next sequential major software update and catch up with all the previous versions with one $199 purchase.

Personally I like the way FRS has structured their software update process.  It's Flexible! (pun intended)

 
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Harold Bullard

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There are fixes that need be released prior VX.xx upgrade. True, I don't give a hoot about Multi-client ... there are many fixes that need be incorporated in V2.xx ; before giving up and do another release$$$.  On another note: Loyalty is penalized. DX'ers and others own multiple Flexes. Each unit has to give $200 per radio to keep up. I only have 2 units at initial cost of $10,000. I have friends with 5 or more. This is just not right.
:example, when doing DX and switching bands you loose the frequency you were on on the other band, thus causing lost contacts.
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Bill -VA3WTB

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:example, when doing DX and switching bands you loose the frequency you were on on the other band, thus causing lost contacts.

Why would you lose anything?
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Ken Hansen

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Wow, so many apples-to-oranges comparisons!

First you compare a brand-new Radio with a discontinued model only available as used/refurbished.

Next, the iC-7300 is a $1,000 Radio, the 6300 was, and it's replacement is, a $2,000 Radio.

The IC-7300 is a 3 year-old radio, and it's feature set has not expanded in any significant way since introduction, the Flex by comparison is longer in the tooth yet it's feature set expands year after year for a nominal price.

If the day ever comes where Icom sees fit to upgrade the IC-7300, it would most likely be a so-called 'forklift upgrade' where the owner has to replace their radio, the flex owner likely pays a nominal fee and the value of their investment holds.

If I bought a 6300 at $1300 and an IC-7300 for $1100, in six months, when I go so sell each radio, even in your worst-case scenario, the flex would sell just north of $1,000, the IC-7300 would sell for well-under $1,000, maybe around $800 - I see greater value in the Flex, even after ring 'forced' to pay for (feature-adding) upgrades.
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Delbert McCord

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I do not know about resale value on the flex, at least what they call "the cheep one" I paid just under 2500$ for my 6300 with a tuner, had to wait for it and when I ordered the 6400 I was told they would have a nice trade in program. When the time come to ship the 6400 they called and said I would get around 800 dollars for my trade in. I kept it for a spare. I just could not take such a large hit, I would rather have given it away to a friend. I understand they would have to resell it and they need to make money but I must say it left a bad taste in my mouth. 
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Jerry WA9UKB

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Offered and $199.00 for A 6500 for a 6400. Keeping mine also but now looking at other options. Still have the Maestro too and radio and Maestro have very low hours , I mostly use a Ft991a. For general listening or occasional net check in.
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KF4HR

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Besides V3, I seem to remember reading FRS plans to release a v2.5 version.
(Edited)
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Bill -VA3WTB

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Again, a new main version does not come out every year as has been stated above.

As said before, this has been working very good for Flex,,why change things, forcing people to pay $5.00 a month instead of a voluntary fee, nope.

One good thing about how Flex does this is that it forces them to come up with features that will sell.

How much do you guys think the price would be if Flex charged for the full price of the software to the customer? As Apple used to. Around $800.00 per version?

Gerald said that the $200.00 hardly even offset the real cost of development. They need to sell hardware to keep floating.
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Gene Duprey

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I bought my CPO 6500 & Maestro A back in December, and love it.  I'm not sure I will use the Multi feature, but it does intrigue me, so I may at least try it.  While I will get V3.o free, I do not see $200 for major upgrades as too much. My biggest wants are for the NF, WNB &NB to work right.  These should be a priority as Contesters and DX'ers need them just as much as the casual operators.  I also work Contests and chase DX.  I just finished the ARRL DX SSB contest, (Worked everyone I could hear) and I had an issue with strong adjacent signals causing pumping.  A quick check on this forum and found out it was the NB causing this.  Turned off the NB and everything was great.

If these were fixed then the radio would be just about perfect for me.  Although I do look forward to new features.

Gene, K1GD
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Joe N3HEE

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I have the same experience with WNB and NB.  Pretty much useless.  NR is just OK.  They should take a listen to an Elecraft K3.  Superb NB and NR.  I hope Flex improves these features in v3 ?
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Burch - K4QXX

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The WNB is awesome at my location.  I couldn't use 20 or 40 meters without it. 
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Michael Coslo

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I've found that people tend to set those way too high. Same with the so called non working ANF. 
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Dave N2OA

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My only complaint since getting the 6600 is the noise blanker.  I'm pretty sure my IC-7100 NB removes more noise. I need to do a side by side comparison sometime.
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Ted VE3TRQ

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The NB may be unsatisfactory, but it is only because of the WNB that I can operate at all on 80 or 160. It drops the noise level very significantly, to the point that signals appear that once were way under the noise.
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Jerry WA9UKB

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Bug fixes was what I hoped for in version 1. When 2 came out their were no more bug fixes for anyone that didn’t upgrade.
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Michael Coslo

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What I don't understand is why things that some consider bugs work for me. I must be doing something wrong. 
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KC2QMA_John

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The most important thing to remember is updates are optional and you can even wait and skip versions and it still only cost $200 to upgrade./update.

If version 3 doesn't have anything I want/need I will just wait for version 4 and see if that version has what I want.

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KC2QMA_John

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I also think $200 is a very fair for State Of The Art software!

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Bill -VA3WTB

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Jerry, I know what you mean. Flex has bug fixes in two groups. Those that simply bug us at times,,and then the ones that effect the performance of the radio (critical,),,or keep the radio from working properly.

If a critcal bug is found then Flex will update this at no cost and even produce a small update to correct this.

Other little bugs are part of a version release along with feature updates. But if a version is feature frozen as version 1 is then bug updates are not likely forth coming.
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Jerry WA9UKB

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The bug I still have at times is a message that says the radio is in use then reboots. Supposedly it was fixed in version 2 and no fixed for the version 1 users.

Lessons learned.

Jerry,
(Edited)
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roger na4rr

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.....If a critcal bug is found then Flex will update this at no cost and even produce a small update to correct this.....

Not true. CWX is a major bug  and the only fix is to pay for an upgrade.
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Steve Sampson

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Three thoughts:
1. This was the Flex plan since inception, and everyone that bought a Flex knew it.  
2.  Software is the heart of the radio, expensive to build, and the Flex ham market is small.  Why would you think it should be free/cheaper.
3.  If you want a radio without the upgrade options/cost, there are many choices you can pick from.  

Bitching now about a free choice you made isn't appropriate
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Rick - N4RZ

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Statement 1 above is not quite correct.  When Flex originally announced the 6000 series radios they were going to have an annual fee of $200 per radio for software updates.  Again, you could choose to update or not and wait for features you wanted and jump back in at that time by paying a single annual update fee.  Those of us who put money down upfront were promised an additional year of software updates for free.   Flex later changed this to the current model which only charges us for new major versions of the software.   As a result, those of us who were early adopters of the 6000 radios did not have to pay for version 2.  I will now have had a Flex 6000 series radio for about 5 and a half years without ever having to pay for a software upgrade.   This method worked out much better for me than what was originally promised by Flex!  I intend to wait until version 3 is released and see if the features are something I want and if so will gladly pay the $199 upgrade fee for the improvements.
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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Rick, you must have been one of the initial "Signature Series" buyers.  I was in the second wave of pre-lease buyers, just after the "signature & Jacket" deal.  It was still "pre-release," but I did not get the free update to V.2.

But I purchased an additional "year's subscription" when I bought my 6500 and that covered V.2.X when it was released.  It was still a good deal.  After over 5 years of ownership I have paid for V.2 & V.3 (Alpha) and will certainly pay for V.4 whenever they start working on that after V.3.X runs its course. (I have NO information on plans for that project, but we all know that there will likely be V. 4, 5, 6, etc. to come.)

I suppose the percentage of software cost to equipment cost varies with the level of rig originally purchased, which may be the barb catching on some people's hide.

$200 for a $2,000 rig (6300 or 6400) is a 10% upgrade cost.
$200 for a $4,000 rig (6500 or 6600) is a 5% upgrade cost.
$200 for a $6,000 rig (6700)   is 3.3% upgrade cost.

In any case, it is much less than a simple repair in almost any radio repair shop.
A couple of years ago I spent $250 to repair the Electrostatic protection diodes after a nearby lightning strike and I was glad to pay it, because those little guys protected my $4,500 rig from greater damage!

Ken - NM9P
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Matt (K0KB)

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No problem with the current plan.

Do you really want to fork over money monthly or do you think it would be better incentive for them to innovate if you withheld your money for the updates you really want?
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Tom N5MOA

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I bought my 6500 in Oct of 2016, v1.9.13.
There were 3 free updates of v1

The v2 upgrade came out in July 2017. I have no interest in remote, but v2 had enough other stuff in it to upgrade.
There have been 8 free updates to v2, with another expected when v3 is released.

I have zero interest in v3 multi-user, but if there are enough other improvements/enhancements, I'll do that upgrade too.

Just a wag, but v3 will probably come out  close to 2 years after v2.

$199 approximately 2 years apart is not too bad, and as mentioned, my radio will continue to work if I chose to not upgrade. It is my choice.

It might be stretching it a bit, but it may be v5 before there are enough improvements/enhancements for me to upgrade, at which time I will get all improvements/enhancements from v3 to v5 for 1 $199 upgrade cost.

I don't see a problem with the way FRS is doing it.

I also didn't buy my 6500 to re-sell, so a drop in re-sale value, when the new models came out, doesn't mean squat to me.
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Winston VK7WH

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I agree with you Tom.

I bought my 6700 in August 2014 and I bought it for the long term. Because of the model of regular software updates, this means that in almost 5 years I have had countless updates, all for a total coat of $200!

I would much rather pay another $200 every couple of years than buy a new radio every 3 or 4 years.

Winston!
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Kevin

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Maybe the pseudo-employees on the list know more inside information than I think they do. Personally, whenever I hear someone say "Flex does this because..." I want to ask them how long they've been employed by FRS. Maybe there's some super secret insider newsletter where Flex actually posts things like FR/BR tracking and such to a select group of non-employees. I'd subscribe.

I think take it or leave it works for options, not for core software. Some might pay extra to plug in remote access capabilities. Some might pay extra for multiple terminal access. Meanwhile we all stay on the same code base and nobody is left out for security or bug fixes because they don't pay the ransom.

But I'm not a pseudo-employee so I don't know what Flex thinks. Time and the market tell. I'm invested. I'll be around another couple of years (maybe not here if they kick me off). I'm happy with the radio and the timing is right that I get a free software upgrade. Now I just have to worry about version 4.

73 & Good Luck,
Kev K4VD
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Michael Coslo

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Hey Kevin - I doubt they'll kick you off. They let me stay despite what I say about W10, and that ain't pretty. 8^)

I just wondered - I have DogPark as well, and so far all the updates have been covered under my original payment. BTW, DogPark is very nice. The various settings take a little getting used to, but it looks and operates well.

Side note: I prefer WSJT-X with XDAX and XCAT on the Mac. FWIW.
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Burch - K4QXX

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I agree with this.  Almost 100% of my FT8 operations are using Dogpark with XDAX, XCAT and FT-Bridge.
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Ken Hansen

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In my experience, when approached the Flex employees I've spoken to have been very honest, open, and up-front about the challenges they face and the inputs that lead them to make certain decisions.

That's not to say other manufacturers aren't as honest, open, and up-front about their challenges, but I've never seen any other manufacturer sponsor/host an open forum for all their customers to meet and exchange ideas, problems, and solutions as Flex does here.
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Kevin

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I owned an original Mac, Fat Mac and Mac Plus. Couldn't afford the leap to the Mac II and actually went to Commodore 64 (no apologies, lots of fun). The computers finally introduced at work were IBM (or compatible) and eventually running MS Windows. My whole experience, software base, hardware base, working life and home has been Ford trucks and Microsoft Windows. I have no issues with Chevy trucks or Apple computers. They just aren't a part of my personal experiences.

I've heard great things about DogPark and actually I've heard very few (none?) bad things about it. I've considered picking up a used Mac or iPad to try things out in that environment. Then I abruptly stop when I consider the can of worms I'd be opening.

In the long term, my money is on Google to come up with something viable and that neatly ties everything together (home/gps/phone/computing/etc). I think they'll make Apple and Microsoft operating systems irrelevant.

Kev
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Ken - NM9P

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Kev, the iOS ap is wonderful and well worth the money.  
Get an iPad Pro (the big one) and you will be amazed at how easy it is to operate.
I've seen Howard's (KY6LA) in action. 

Even my iPad Air (Original) and iPhone 6 work well as long as my home internet upload speed is adequate to support remote operation from the rig.  (My connection is borderline) 

I can use it easily via my LAN on WiFi with no problems at all, giving me the ability to roam the house or backyard while listening to the radio....

Ken - NM9P
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Ross - K9COX

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I have been a Flex customer since the early SDR-1000 days and am on my forth generation. Been in IT since the very early days and was doing networking before Microsoft was. After reading each prior post am very impressed with each and every user comment. What a fantastic user base.
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Dave

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I have no problems paying for the upgrades as long as they are not overpriced,  bring value, and keep the hardware relevant.   Ive worked in IT since the 90s and hate subscriptions for software updates.  My biggest disappointment with other manufacturers is their firmware / software updates have been lacking. It also looks like Flex is using a version of embedded Windows in their OS.  (at least in the M) I am sure they must pay licensing fees as well. Most of the firmware updates Ive had from the big 3 have been lame and their software never stays up to date (they are still great products).   Ive used every SDR platform and many traditional transceivers.  Flex's software is some of the best ive used.  The implementation of CAT and DAX is brilliant.  You will never get up running as painlessly with an Anan or Elad (great products too).  I am a new Flex 6xxx user but feel they put alot of thought and time into developing their software!  I think you really get what you pay for.  
(Edited)
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John KB4DU

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Opinions are like bellybuttons, everybody has one. Since we're sharing opinions here, I'll throw in mine.  $200 is sort of in the category of pizza money. I've spent more than that taking the family to a baseball game considering parking, tickets, nachos, hot dawgs, beer, etc. I'm glad to pay the upgrade fee if it keeps an American company in business as opposed to imports.

Is the radio perfect? No, but my 6400 is the best $2000 dollar radio in existence for my purposes.
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Roger, W6VZV

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I agree with John -- $200 is a night out on the town.  A small price to pay to improve my radio which is the centerpiece of my lifelong ham radio hobby.  The Flex 6400M is the best radio I have ever operated.  I am pleased when the opportunity comes to spend a couple of bucks to update and improve it.
de Roger W6VZV
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Joe N3HEE

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Or a good bottle of Scotch !!