Cobra DSP 9200 BT: Trickle-Down Economics

There’s An App For That

Setting up iRadar to communicate with the DSP 9200 BT couldn’t be easier. I simply downloaded iRadar to my iPhone 6S, turned on the DSP 9200 BT, and started the app. It found and linked with the detector automatically. There wasn’t even an initial setup like a car’s infotainment system requires to pair with your phone. Auto manufacturers, take note.

Unlike the RLS2, the DSP 9200 BT has no built-in GPS of its own. No doubt this contributes to its smaller size, but it also requires a connection to your phone to use its GPS data. This will drain your battery faster if it’s not plugged in, but like I mentioned the detector’s power cord includes a USB port to address that issue. When connected, the detector displays your heading and speed rather than filtering mode.

Though many configuration options are available through the detector’s built-in menus, only the app can access some of the more advanced functions. Not all of the configuration was completely intuitive. For example, when using the app, audio alerts still came through my phone’s speaker by default. I had to manually change it to use my car’s Bluetooth connection and pipe it through my stereo like all of the other audio on my phone. I’ve never had to set that manually in any app of any kind that I’ve ever used. Additionally, voice alerts now come through both my stereo and the detector, and at slightly different times. It would be better if the detector automatically muted its built-in voice alerts when piping audio through your phone and car stereo.

iRadar alertWhen the DSP 9200 BT detects radar, an alert pops up both on the detector and your iRadar screen. Both show you the band and signal strength by default. I turned on the frequency display, because I’m a radio geek and I like to see that kind of information. iRadar also provides buttons for you to mark it as Real or a False Alert. This information is then shared with the iRadar network, but it doesn’t seem to be saved in the app or detector. The DSP 9200 BT seems to rely on iRadar data rather than create an internal database like K40’s Mark to Mute function, which works instantly and accurately. This means that it won’t remember False Alerts that you report, and it will go off every time you go by that location.

If you mark a radar contact as Real, it appears on the map, and that data is relayed to other iRadar users, just like Waze. But this doesn’t address the major issue of Waze police reports – they don’t work when the cruiser is in motion. During my testing, I once got a strong Ka-Band alert around a corner, followed by a blacked out Crown Vic with no markings, a push bar, antennas, and tinted windows passing me going the other direction. It might as well have looked like this.

iRadar police displayI responded to iRadar’s prompt that yes, this radar contact was Real. Unfortunately there was no way to clarify that it was moving, not a static speedtrap. When I returned home half an hour later, that report still appeared on the map. I found myself in the awkward position of marking my own report as a False Alert. Hours later, passing through the area again, it was still on the map as an active speedtrap. For both iRadar and for Waze, perhaps there should be some way to set a “mobile” tag to indicate that the cop is in motion, and that could cause the report to automatically expire after five minutes once they’ve cleared the immediate area.

You can also report police without a corresponding radar alert. This is useful for speedtraps that aren’t running active radar, waiting to nail you with instant-on or their eyeballs instead. (Remember, regardless of all this speed monitoring technology, the officer is supposed to clock you with their eyes, and use radar/laser only to verify and document your speed. Of course, it doesn’t always work this way in real life.) This is the same as the police reporting functionality in Waze, and is quite useful in iRadar as well. The combination of the radar detector and the iRadar app lets you “detect” reported speedtraps even if their radar is off.

iRadar high alert area

Eventually, the live report I made disappeared, but iRadar still alerted me that this was a High Threat Area, because a Ka-Band report had been made three hours ago. This is, in fact, entirely true, as shown by the clock at the top of these screenshots. I drive this road every day, and I guarantee you it’s not a high threat area. I can also confirm that I pressed False Alert several times after the initial report, none of which seem to have gone through.

Another problem happens around malls, which typically have a lot of false alarms. The K40 RLS2 has excellent filtering, with only occasional false alarms in these areas. I also set its Quiet Ride function to automatically mute all alerts when I’m going less than 25mph. iRadar has a Speed Based Muting feature in the Alert Settings menu that’s supposed to do the same thing, except it didn’t work for me at all. The DSP 9200 BT doesn’t filter these falses nearly as well as the RLS2, either. Worse, you can hit the False Alert button as many times as you want, but like the undead they just keep coming at you no matter how many times you shoot them, which is exactly what I felt like doing to my phone and the detector when I couldn’t make the constant cacophony of alerts stop. did a direct comparison between Cobra iRadar and Escort Live, a similar app that works with Escort’s top end detectors, specifically comparing the two networks rather than the hardware. They found iRadar to be not only less accurate than Live, but also that the app itself was inconsistent and unreliable in actually transmitting the alerts and falses that you report. I discovered similar behavior myself, where sometimes I would get a clear confirmation that my report was received, and sometimes I wouldn’t. However, iRadar is free to download and use, while Escort Live requires a $49.99 per year subscription.

iRadar navigation

Aside from active radar alerts, iRadar has a couple of different display modes. One is a simple dashboard, with your speed and direction derived from the GPS. This information is redundant with what’s displayed on the small detector screen, so you’ll want to leave it in Map mode instead, where both detected and manually reported speedtrap information is displayed. Map mode appears to be based on Google Maps. The display is the same, the same traffic information is available, and Google makes their map data widely available to other developers. It’s quite accurate, and a good choice to base their map system on. There is a navigation function in iRadar, but despite being based on the Googles, it’s not very useful. You can only enter a destination address, not a name of a place, and all it shows you is a line on the map and your location on (or off) of it rather than turn-by-turn directions. Another nitpick is that I have to turn the map’s Traffic View on every time I start the iRadar app rather than remembering my preference.

At the end of my testing, I determined that the best way to use this system was to turn on the detector, start iRadar, allow them to connect, and then switch to Waze, Google Maps, or whatever other app I wanted to actually look at a map on. The detector can still grab my phone’s GPS data, but I can still plot my course in the mapping app of my choice, find portals to hack on Ingress, or do whatever else with my phone. I can still use the buttons on the detector itself to report speedtraps, mute alerts, and so on. I didn’t find iRadar worth running in the foreground. Fortunately, it runs well in the background. The additional Bluetooth device doesn’t interfere at all with streaming music from my phone to my car stereo, either.


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David Tracy

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