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Legal/Illegal Phones Issue

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  • ftcsachse0
    replied
    Two things to me:
    1. It is easy to find donated phones
    2. It isn't unreasonable to expect a team to test that donated phone and use it before a match.
    Now another thing that could make life easier for teams and competition day is change the system to all connection of a generically names driver station to the Control Hub. This would allow events to have some standby phones that teams could use in a pinch. As it happens we registered for jump start with two teams and only formed one when it came time. We also wen to the Control Hub so we now have four legal phones and use the Control Hub. At any rate - we will be take all four phones to any in person competition in case some team sudenly finds themselves in a pinch. Though I have no clue how we let people know that we have two phones they could borrow if the a team needs one or both.

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  • FTC15324
    replied
    Originally posted by 3805Mentor View Post
    In my earlier post I was trying to point out that a lot of phones don't work. One point is can the phone deliver enough current to drive gamepads or the controller? I've never seen that spec published. Seems like you would buy phones, find out they don't work then try again.
    I'm picturing a crowdsourced phone list to avoid that, as opposed to a high-risk free-for-all. First and importantly, there would still be a recommended phone list. But secondly, there are thousands of FTC teams and a good deal of online communication. If only 5% of teams tried a few donated or personal phone models, there would be a good list of additional compatible phones within weeks. And the ones that work most reliably would certainly get discussed and become known.

    So, for teams there would be zero loss... Teams could still choose to purchase models based on the tested recommended list. But teams, especially those on the borderline of inability to compete due to funding, would have more options. (And with low risk in many cases because again, there are an absolute boatload of phones sitting in drawers unused. It's an untapped resource that could really help.)

    Finally, it is my belief based on what we have seen historically with FTC, that one or more teams would want to take stewardship of testing and maintaining a list of compatible phones... That would be the kind of resource that all of FTC would find valuable. And I suspect there would be all sorts of interest in owning that. Much like Team 4159 maintains a public robotics resources page.

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  • 3805Mentor
    replied
    In my earlier post I was trying to point out that a lot of phones don't work. One point is can the phone deliver enough current to drive gamepads or the controller? I've never seen that spec published. Seems like you would buy phones, find out they don't work then try again.

    Leave a comment:


  • FTC15324
    replied
    Originally posted by Alec View Post
    I believe the phone model restrictions are primarily intended to make life easier for FTAs, referees, and inspectors. FIRST doesn't want to burden these folks with phones they've never seen before.
    Good point and true. But there are ways to mitigate this without causing such a burden to the teams. Before even looking into that, my first question would be "why is this not only important, but important enough to drive up costs and create economic barriers to teams competing?" I'd start by pointing out that the rules for remote competition were announced as literally a pure honor system. The idea that we can trust teams to report their own score in a self-judged match is inconsistent with the idea that we need to carefully validate the hardware and software a team is using.

    Secondly, if a team has a handheld device that is running the right software, why do we care what model of device that is? And how does this restriction benefit the competition? Finally, does that benefit outweigh the cost and burden of teams having to shell out limited $$ for phones when most households have 3-5 phones sitting in drawers and one of them is likely to work just fine? Does the theoretical benefit outweigh the pain of making teams buy outdated phones with unreliable ports and batteries, knowing that they are just going to have to throw them away in a year or two?

    I feel like this needs (and is important enough for) a rethink. Glad to see the conversation starting. I suspect that even if this is necessary, there are better ways to do it.

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  • Alec
    replied
    Originally posted by FTC15324 View Post
    ... I submit that the current legal/illegal phones list is significantly more of a burden for teams than the result of any of the changes suggested above. I hope we can move to a better place next year.
    I believe the phone model restrictions are primarily intended to make life easier for FTAs, referees, and inspectors. FIRST doesn't want to burden these folks with phones they've never seen before.

    Leave a comment:


  • mreese2018
    replied
    I like this idea. I'd bet that any team could get an old, but still suitable, phone donated to them. But I believe the direction that they are going is to actually remove the phones from the system altogether. The Control Hub removed the phone on the bot. It's optional now, but I think it will be required in the future. That removes any potential advantage of using a $1000 phone. Then I think I heard that there are plans for a driver station change as well. Unfortunately, these changes make it more expensive for teams.

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  • 3805Mentor
    replied
    We just tried another model ZTE phone for in class use. Android 6.01, SDK 5.3. It won't connect to the REV hub or a gamepad controller.
    I just spent a few hours finding out that my Moto G2 XT1064 will drive a C310 webcam whereas the Moto G2 XT1063 requires a powered hub to work.
    So there's variation even in approved model numbers that I'm fighting with.

    Leave a comment:


  • FTC15324
    started a topic Legal/Illegal Phones Issue

    Legal/Illegal Phones Issue

    Hi all,

    I understand that there are trade-offs to every decision. I'm writing to ask that the way legal/illegal phones is handled in the future be reconsidered, as I believe the current policy is needlessly costly and has unintended consequences. Robotics is expensive, and we have many generous supporters that make it possible. Yet many teams still struggle for basic funding. In any case, we have a duty to our supporters to use donated funds as efficiently as possible, and to avoid waste.

    Almost all (> 99.9%) of other android apps define compatibility based on Android version and/or other specific technical requirements. There is no technical reason we couldn't also do this. Our legal phone list is clearly a policy decision driven by non-technical reasons. (Such as that we don't want to say a phone is legal without it having been fully tested, and we find testing additional phones to be cost-prohibitive, correct?)

    But the cost of this policy to teams is high in dollars up front and in maintenance costs. The newest legal phone this year was superseded almost 3 years ago, and appears to have not been manufactured for about two years now. They use non-removable batteries, which means the batteries coming with any of these phones are already 2-years old. Although in theory this should not be a problem, in practice it means reduced capacity and a shorter time before replacement expense. Further, they all use micro-USB which is fragile compared to USB-C. After seeing too many damaged Micro-USB ports, I had intended never to buy another phone with one... Yet here we are. So a high percent of these phones will end up needing new batteries, or simply needing to be replaced due to damage that is not cost-effective to repair.

    There is a better way. And it is what FTC is all about... Building community, making good engineering decisions and respectfully using our supporter's funds as efficiently as possible. We simply need to:
    • Specify legal phones based on technology rather than brand and model.
    • Continue to test a subset of the possible phone options and make this a recommended phone list. (Highly recommended even, but not required.)
    • Have faith in the community. The FTC community will test every possible model and report results. There could be a forum created for this. Teams that don't want that work or risk can simply use a recommended phone.
    But what about fairness? What if a brand new $1200 Samsung Galaxy S20 works, and some teams want to use one. Won't that put other teams at a disadvantage?
    1. Not really... At least far less significantly than an advanced 3D printer or laser cutter would, and our team has done without those for three years now. Relative to other existing budget fairness issues, this is trivial.
    2. If the argument that it is unfair prevails, the issue could be better resolved by saying something like "Phones with a manufacturer list price of less than $300 are legal. Those with $300 or greater list price are illegal." (I hope we don't feel this is needed, but it is an option.)
    I submit that the current legal/illegal phones list is significantly more of a burden for teams than the result of any of the changes suggested above. I hope we can move to a better place next year.

    Thanks.
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