This May 2016 NASA Johnson video Space Station Live: Getting the Buzz on Astrobee is described as:
NASA Commentator Lori Meggs at the Marshall Space Flight Center talks to NASA Ames Research Center’s Chris Provencher about SPHERES – a space station robotics experiment platform used for multiple purposes. May 18 marks a milestone for the project with 10 years of operations. These bowling ball sized experimental satellites have been used for everything from autonomous rendezvous and docking, to sloshing liquids, and even educational robotics competitions. And now adding to that legacy is the next generation free-flyer called Astrobee scheduled to fly in 2017.
03:55 Provencher says:
For the last few years we’ve been doing tests with Spheres, which is another free-floating object on Space Station, we connected smart phones to it so that we could establish a link to the ground, and we tested a remote control from the ground...
Question: Did NASA really use cellphones or smartphones to establish ground control links to the SPHERES robots on the ISS? If so, why? There are plenty of small WiFi and Bluetooth self-contained SOCs that could to the job and draw minimal power. Why attach an entire cellphone with it's own operating system, screen, touch interface, mass, and hungry power needs, just to link to some local network inside the ISS? Didn't the SPHERES come with built-in wireless systems for local communications for uploading software and downloading data?
This presumably shows local laptop data communication or at least telemetry with the SPHERES, did this also require the attached smartphones, or is this using a wireless capability already built-in to the SPHERES?