The Simple Simian’s Guide to Motorola i355 DirecTalk Configuration

Discussion in 'Survival Communications' started by 3M-TA3, Jun 1, 2016.

  1. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey

    DirecTalk/MOTO Talk capable phones are inexpensive devices that provide secure communications in a limited area of typically 2-5 miles depending upon model and antenna. DirecTalk supports encrypted communications between individual phones as well as groups of phones. In addition these phones use frequency hopping techniques to prevent having your location determined through directional range finding. Please refer to BTPost’s excellent articles referenced below for full technical details.

    These devices also support a wide variety of headsets from stealth “Men in Black” earpieces to tactical headsets designed to wear with helmets and even specialty headsets for noisy environments.

    This article is intended to get you up and running as quickly as possible with the least amount of pain.

    The phone
    The Motorola i355 have key advantages over most of the IDEN line that supports DirecTalk. The first advantage is its ability to use a replacement “rubber ducky” antenna that greatly improves performance. The second advantage is that with good batteries it has a 4 ½ hour talk time coupled with a 10 day standby time. A third advantage over most of rest of the IDEN phones is its brute force ruggedness. Most IDEN phones are built to mil spec, but the i355 is an over achiever.

    If you use a different model, most of what follows still applies with the exception of part specific links and replacement antennas.

    Where to get the phones
    These phones are still available in abundance on eBay. They can be purchased in various grades and lot sizes. I spent extra money to get nicer phones, but it is not necessary. To locate them simply search for IDEN i355 on eBay. I purchased my from DGXS who seems to have the most prolific number of these phones and other IDEN phones available. As of this writing the going rate is around $25USD shipped, but occasionally lots are sold at discount. Even though prices have increased this is still a terrific value, especially when you compare to GMRS systems.

    Replace the batteries
    When you purchase one of these it is likely that the battery is either abused or is a cheap replacement battery. If your use for these phones is SHTF then it’s wise to purchase a new quality battery. There have been reports of cheap out of spec batteries damaging these phones, so be wary of these. As they say “You pays your money and you takes your chances”

    The supply of aftermarket batteries appears to be dwindling. The good news is that there are currently quite a few listings on eBay for new OEM batteries. Prices range from $4 to $15 each for batteries claimed as new/unused. It's very difficult to tell a new battery from a used one, so you will have to "pays your money, and takes your chances" if you go this route. I have been lucky so far in that all the batteries I have gotten hold an adequate charge.

    Keep your old batteries as replacements

    SIM Cards
    SIM cards are not required to support all DirecTalk functions, but are required for private unit to unit calls. To me this is a deal breaker and SIM cards are cheap and easy to obtain on eBay. It doesn’t matter whether it is from Nextel, Sprint, or Boost. All IDEN SIM cards work in all IDEN phones . To locate them on eBay search for IDEN SIM

    If you choose not to use a SIM card, follow the instructions in this post to get the phone to boot into DirecTalk mode: iDen/ISm Secure Comms.... UpDate... | Survival Monkey Forums

    Extended range antennas
    The extended range antennas are a compact rubber ducky style and stick up less than 4” from the top of the phone. They are inexpensive, add significantly to range, and are a snap to install. There are two different part numbers, NNTN7510A and NNTN5539A, which appear to be identical. These antennas also fit the Nextel i325is, i365, i365is. Of these, only the i325is supports DirecTalk.

    To locate them, simply search for either part number. The seller I purchased min from offered me additional antennas at a discount after I placed my order.

    Installing extended range antennas
    The first step is to remove the original antenna. This turns out to be simple following the instructions in this video:

    I used a Sears Craftsman that was ¼” at the tip with a slight taper, and it worked just fine. There is also a tubular sheath for the retracted antenna that may come out when you remove it. I just left mine in place in the event that I needed to reinstall the original.

    Getting Started
    If needed install the SIM card and battery. The battery cover can be removed by rotating the arrow on the catch to point downwards towards the battery cover, then push the release away from the cover.

    Next, charge the battery using the provided charger

    Please refer to this diagram in the programming steps that follow.

    Initial Setup
    Strap yourself in we are now finally ready to get started… Turn on the phone by pressing the power button. If the phone was in Airplane mode when it was turned off the last time you will be asked if you want to Allow Phone Transmissions? Since there is no longer a phone network in most areas, press the Right Option Key to cancel. Note that if you select Yes the phone will search for a network and will eventually time out when it can’t locate one.

    The next step is to reset the phone:
    1. Press the Menu button and use the Navigation key to select Settings.
    2. Press OK, then select Advanced
    3. Press OK, then scroll down to Reset Defaults
    4. Press OK, then scroll down to Reset All.
    5. Press OK, and when prompted to Enter Security, use the default PIN of 000000
    6. Press OK, then press the left option key for Yes
    7. Restart the phone by pressing the Power Key to turn it off, then again to turn it back on​

    The previous owner’s cooties should now be removed from your phone. Now we are going to enable DirecTalk. Note that some providers renamed DirecTalk feature to something else such as TalkAround. In that case the DT Options menu referenced below will be TA Options menu.
    1. Press the Menu button and use the Navigation key to select Settings.
    2. Press OK, then scroll down and select Personalize
    3. Press OK, then scroll down and select Power Up
    4. Press OK, then scroll down to DirecTalk
    5. Press Ok, then press the right Option Key for back
    6. Restart the phone by pressing the Power Key to turn it off, then again to turn it back on​

    Set the phone to boot directly to DirecTalk
    1. When the phone restarts, press the End Key to stop the phone from attempting to connect to a cell network. It will also time out eventually, but this will save you time
    2. This will place you directly in the DT Options Menu.
    3. Scroll down to Setup and press OK
    4. Press OK again to select Direct Launch.
    5. Scroll up to Yes.
    6. Press Ok, then press the right Option Key for back
    7. Restart the phone by pressing the Power Key to turn it off, then again to turn it back on
    8. From this point on when you restart the phone you will receive two prompts:
      1. At “Allow Phone Transmissions?” press the Right Option Key for No
      2. At “DT transmits signals, Continue?” press the Left Option Key for Yes

    Configure the Private Line
    At this point the phones can be used to call each other using unsecure Channel/Code combinations, similar to GMRS walkie-talkies. There are 10 Codes and 15 Channels for a total of 150 combinations. Any IDEN compatible device set to your combination may listen in. Also note that a device can be set to listen to ALL Codes in a given channel, so it would be quite simple to scan all Channels.

    To provide secure communications each phone must be assigned a private number. This number can be anything you want to make up or even be random in nature.

    For maximum security is use randomly generated numbers in varying lengths. The numbers can vary in length from 1 to 10 digits. I would suggest using the maximum of 10. You can generate random numbers at RANDOM.ORG - Integer Generator. Since the maximum number of digits that can be generated is less than ten, I create two runs of 5 digits (For example 10000 to 9999999) then concatenate them using a spreadsheet.

    Some people will choose to create a dial plan so they can more easily remember phone numbers if needed, for example if a phone needs to be replaced and a new phone reprogrammed. One I ran across suggested the following: Area Code + Last 3 digits of your zip code + 4 digits you make up. For example, let’s say you live in Pocatello, Idaho and your Area Code is 208 and your Zip Code is 83209. Each phone number would then begin with 208209. Using this a sample dial plan might look like this:

    Phone 1 2082090001
    Phone 2 2082090002
    Phone 3 2082090003, etc.

    Note that because you are on a private communications network you will not accidentally call a telephone with the same number.

    Note number 2 is that if you assign each phone the same number they will all share the same secure party line.

    To program the Line
    1. Press the Menu button and use the Navigation key to select My Info.
    2. Press Edit
    3. Scroll to Line 1
    4. Press OK
    5. Enter the line number you have chosen
    6. Press OK
    7. If you wish you may also program the Name, but that is optional. Ignore everything else.
    8. Press the Back key until you are at the main screen
    9. Restart the phone. The line will not be active until you restart the phone.​

    Creating Contacts
    To call a phone on its private line you will select that phone in Contacts, then press the PTT button.
    1. Press the Contacts button.
    2. Press OK for [New Contact]
    3. Press OK
    4. Enter the contact Name
    5. Press OK
    6. Scroll to #:
    7. Press OK
    8. Enter the Line Number you generated above
    9. Press OK
    10. Press Done

    Set the Channel and Code
    By default your phone will be set to Channel 1, Code 1, so it’s not a good choice. Same with Channel 10, Code 15. I suggest using the random number generator above to select your code and channel. The reason is that because when people try to pick “sneaky” numbers they tend to do the same things: eliminate even numbers, then eliminate 1,5, and 9 because they are too obvious leaving them with a very predictable Channel 7, Code 3 or Channel 3, Code 7.

    In addition to the 15 codes you can also select Receive All and Pvt Only.
    Receive All will receive all calls on the selected channel.
    Pvt Only will restrict you to making private calls only

    To set the Channel and Code:
    1. Press the Edit key
    2. Press OK
    3. Scroll to select a Channel
    4. Press OK
    5. Scroll to Code
    6. Press OK
    7. Scroll to select a Code
    8. Press OK
    9. Press Back to exit the menu​

    If you set everybody to the same channel and code then everybody is on a party line. If you use separate settings, then each person can place unsecured calls on a person by person basis. The Receive All setting would be useful for a base station that everybody else called into, assuming they share the same Channel.

    Have a Plan for Different Channels and Codes
    For various reasons you may need to switch channels and codes. This could be to accommodate sub teams or if you feel someone may be listening in. One easy way to do this would be to shift the channel in one direction while shifting the code in a different direction. For example, let's say you primary code/channel is 5/15 you could do the following:
    Comm 1: Channel 5, Code 15
    Comm 2: Channel 6, Code 14
    Comm 3: Channel 7, Code 13
    Comm 4: Channel 8, Code 12
    Comm 5: Channel 9, code 11

    This way nobody has to memorize more than the primary "Comm 1" combination.

    Using the Phone
    Hooray! We are now finally ready to use the phone!

    To make an unsecure call simply press the PTT, and everybody on the same Channel and Code will be available.

    To place a secure call, press the Contacts button, scroll to the person you want to call, and then press the PTT.

    That’s it…

    extended antennas and installation is covered above. Strongly recommended.

    Hand’s Free PTT Headsets: There are several inexpensive models on eBay and Amazon that work quite well. Because this system has had a long life span and is the preferred system of choice there are also some very sophisticated headsets as well including those with throat mikes, those designed to be worn under helmets, etc. Naturally these com at a much higher price. If interested this is a good source: Nextel i355 Radio Accessories as well as here: Throat MIC, Throat Microphone, Throat Mike, Neck MIC

    Wilson Adapter: The Wilson adapter #354008 allows you to connect to an external antenna. The part has been discontinued, but can be found if you look.


    iDEN/Ism Comms… UpDate: iDen/ISm Secure Comms.... UpDate... | Survival Monkey Forums

    An Interesting, SECURE, Comm's Device, for your CN-AoO: An Interesting, SECURE, Comm's Device, for your CN-AoO | Survival Monkey Forums

    Motorola i355 User Manual: User Manuals - i355 Motorola (iDen) | Survival Monkey Forums

    The Care of Man - SHTF Comms i355 Demonstration

    iTechCentral - Programming Motorola i355 iDEN for DirecTalk

    EDIT: While the phone will accept up to 20 digits as a phone number, any entry over 10 digits can't be dialed. I amended the dial plan section to reflect that limitation.

    ADDITIONAL EDIT: Some service providers renamed the DirecTalk to something different such as TalkAround. I noted the section above where DirecTalk is programmed to reflect that information. There may be other names used as well. Hat tip @Imasham .
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2016
    Dont, Yard Dart and Tully Mars like this.
  2. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Excellent post. One thing to add on buying sim cards. Those i got were used and full of other people's phone numbers. I had to delete hundreds of numbers one at a time. Is there a group delete function to clear the sim cards?
  3. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    3M-TA3 likes this.
  4. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Dunno 'bout no bulk delete in the phone itself, but I betcha you can format it with your computer. (At least it's a good guess, better than some of the stuff we see here.)
  5. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    [chopper] Thank You!
    3M-TA3 likes this.
  6. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    I do not know of any computer that takes sim cards. Is there some adapter sleeve for an SD slot maybe?
  7. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Well, it's your chance to become expert in something new with a bit of research. As I said, it's my guess. Gopher it, I have no need.
  8. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    There are adapters, that mount iDen simm cards as USB devices, but you need Program that understands the format of the data on the sim, to mess with the numbers... There is NO Universal Delete function, that I have ever seen...
    kellory likes this.
  9. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey

    kellory likes this.
  10. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

  11. Imasham

    Imasham Monkey

    Thanks for posting these detailed instructions. I just received two eBay purchased i355s today and I followed these steps. I wanted to pass along something I learned in case anybody checks this thread in the future.

    When I got to step 4 below I found a problem. I had no option to choose DirectTalk. The only option I had was to select which App would start on powerup. I cycled through every option and there was no DirectTalk. It appears that different providers had a different name for this feature. I had phones that were previously on the Telus network in Canada and they called this feature TalkAround. This means that later on in step 8 the message on the screen will be "TA transmits signals,Continue". All of the other steps are correct and worked for me.

    I did have one weird issue that turned up on one phone. I successfully used the My Info section of Settings to give each phone a private number. Then I tried to create a contact on each phone using the other phone's number. This only worked on one of the phones for some reason. One of the options when creating a contact is to select the type of contact method (ie. Mobile, Work1, Work2, Private #, etc.) but for some reason one of the phones didn't have the same choices as the other. On the phone that worked I created the contact using the Mobile choice and entered the number I had previously created. On the phone that didn't work the choice for Mobile was not present and I couldn't enter the number I had created anywhere else. I finally decided to swap the SIM cards to see if the problem was still present and after I did that the problem was gone and I was able to continue.

    With everything now working I will do range tests tomorrow.

    Ganado, Yard Dart and 3M-TA3 like this.
  12. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey

    Thanks for noting that DirecTalk can be termed something else depending on provider and country of origin. I noted the DirecTalk section above in the OP to reflect that. The last time I looked for i355's the pool of phones looked to be drying up - perhaps we will see more variations like this as new phones are sourced from different places.

    Let us know how your range tests go.
    Ganado and Yard Dart like this.
  13. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    For those looking for a SIMM Card... I have a bunch, that I will be happy to GIVE to any Monkey, in need.... Just PM me...
    Ganado, Dont and 3M-TA3 like this.
  14. Mac Bolan

    Mac Bolan Monkey

    Great article
    Just a question..
    I used to use Sprint several years ago.
    One time I had occasion to try their person to person direct talk from a distance of about 80 miles and it worked fine.

    Is it the same system being used here?
  15. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey

    DirecTalk = MotoTalk = TalkAround, so yes the same system. 80 miles is a very, very, long way for these radios - are you sure it wasn't a cell call? BTW there are a LOT more details in @BTPost 's thread referenced above.
  16. Imasham

    Imasham Monkey

    While doing research I learned about another service called DirectConnect which is possibly what Mac is remembering. DirectConnect is an on network push to talk service offered by Sprint.

    3M-TA3 likes this.
  17. Mac Bolan

    Mac Bolan Monkey

    I was connecting with another Sprint customer using the Direct Connect function. It was very clear with no interference.
  18. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Sprint's Direct-Connect is a Cellular PTT System that uses the Cellular Infrastructure for the Comm Path... DirecTalk/MotoTalk/TalkAround is a Device specific Communications Path that operates in the 902-928 Mhz ISM Band and is a direct Device to Device operation. With standard Antennas, ranges up to 2 miles is easy in LOS Comms... Wet Trees and forest Vegetation will drop that to a Mile or So... 5 Miles on over water Paths have been seen and 15 Miles from HillTop to HillTop, have been reported.
    Garand69, 3M-TA3 and Mac Bolan like this.
  19. Imasham

    Imasham Monkey

    I did some testing yesterday and am very pleased with the results. My testing is certainly nothing elaborate or scientific but is definitely real world!
    First, I'll describe the geography. I live in southern Alberta in a town of about 4,000 people. The town is sited such that the main business district is in a valley. Main Street runs north/south right through town so when you enter town from the north you go down a hill, then level off and eventually go uphill again and exit the town on the south. I live at the top of the south hill about 250 metres east of Main Street.

    So, while running errands yesterday my wife and little daughter helped me out. They had one unit and started walking into 'downtown'. At the same time I took my second unit with me in my car and started driving. I kept the unit in the car the whole time. Both units have the standard pull up antenna which were extended for this testing. We used the regular unit to unit 'FRS' style communication, not the DirectTalk feature. I assume the range is no greater with one comm style over the other.

    Using my car's odometer I did a radio check every 100 metres (which my three year old thought was hilarious as she could keep replying 'I coffee' back to me (her pronounciation of 'I copy'!). I drove west to Main Street and turned north and started down the hill into town. Each radio check was crisp and we could understand each other with no trouble. By the time my wife, walking, reached Main Street I was through town, had gone up the north hill and was leaving town. I kept driving north on the highway and had no troubles until we lost contact after 4,000 metres (2.4 miles). Interestingly, the communication did not slowly fade out as the distance increased. Just as I passed the 4km mark a message on my unit, when I tried my comm check, said that the other unit was not available. It was like flipping a switch. After pulling over and turning around to head back to town my unit suddenly turned on after a short distance and I heard my wife talking.

    Well, like I said, not really scientific but certainly an actual real world example. I was quite pleased with the distance to which these units worked. I am going to purchase the replacement rubber antennas and repeat the test to see what I get.

    3M-TA3 and ghrit like this.
  20. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    "Flipping a Switch" is common in Digital Comms.... You either HAVE a Path, or you do NOT have a Path... There is NO
    in-between... The Units either Lock-Up to each other, or they do NOT Lock-Up... If you go to the Long Range Antennas, you can add maybe 50% to those distances...
    3M-TA3 likes this.
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