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When was the last time you laid your eyes on a walkie-talkie? Probably you cannot even recall. With instant messaging, SMS and a plethora of other communications tools that have come with the dawn of the smartphone age, you wonder why anyone would need a walkie-talkie.
Walkie-talkies were once very popular and powerful tools of communication. Back in the day before the advent of the cell phones, walkie-talkies came in handy to facilitate real time communication and are championed to have pioneered the development of the communication technologies we have today.
Currently, the smartphone has become an indispensable device for both work and pleasure due to its wide array of tools and features such as web browsing, GPS enabled apps, and gaming, thus facilitating communication, entertainment, travel among other things.
Despite the popularity, and leaps and bounds achieved by the smartphones, the push-to-talk (PTT) walkie-talkies still thrive in different fields; they are mainly used in pleasure communication and other specialized areas such as business, construction industry, military, etc.
Fortunately enough, for those who often use a walkie-talkie, they will be glad to hear that there exist apps that can be installed on both Android and Apple devices to convert them into a walkie-talkie. Yes, you can instantly convert that smartphone you always carry around into a walkie-talkie by just the click of a button. The walkie-talkie app enables your smartphone to mimic the instant push-to-talk communication experience only found in walkie-talkie communication.
Walkie-talkie apps provide you with the convenience and simplicity of a text message coupled with the context and nuance of a phone call. More like a good old-fashioned walkie-talkie, they allow you to record and send short audio messages instantly.
The benefits of walkie-talkie apps include:
The apps use PTT communications that offer instant connectivity, as opposed to making a call or sending a message which requires one to key in the numbers, wait for calling tone and wait for the other party to respond. This aspect of speed makes the apps suitable when speed of connectivity is critical, such as in emergency situations.
PTT communication will triumph any day over mobile phone calls and text messaging in instances where real-time group communication is required. In some work environments such as security, construction, transportation, events & conventions, police, and oil refineries, workers on site can instantaneously communicate with each other by installing a walkie-talkie app on their phones rather than wasting time calling and texting each other.
Besides the fact that most of these apps can be downloaded for free from both the Android and Apple stores, they also facilitate communication free of charge, especially the ones that utilize the wifi functionality when there is no live internet connection.
Smartphones can be compared to a Swiss army knife that can do almost everything. Thus, a walkie-talkie app adds features that make your smartphone even more indispensable. These apps utilize smartphone features to perform beyond the traditional walkie-talkie functionality. They have the advantage of extensive coverage through the use of internet, thus users can keep in-touch from huge distances; you can have a chat with your friends who are overseas.
Some walkie-talkie apps can interoperate with traditional walkie-talkies through the use of a gateway. Thus, smartphone users can use their smartphones to have PTT communications with walkie-talkie users.
Here are some of the best apps you can find on the Google Play store and Apple's app store.
Voxer is a free app that enables your phone to share short recorded messages, send texts, and share videos and your location easily and intuitively. The receiver can choose to listen to the message he/she receives immediately or to listen to it sometime later. It further supports instantaneous group communication, an aspect that makes it more of a walkie-talkie. Voxer is free for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
Zello is an interesting and easy to use free app that runs on both Android and Apple platform. It promises to convert your tablet or phone into a walkie-talkie with its free push-to-talk feature and lightning fast response speed. To start a conversation, all you need to do is to select the desired contact from the contact list, press and hold to record your message and then send it over a data network or WiFi to an individual or to a group of people – just as you would when using a regular walkie-talkie.
Moreover, it also allows users to share photos, availability status such as Available, Busy, and Offline, and send alerts to start a conversation with an individual or a group. Users can create, join, and search channels allowing you to instantly communicate with other users from across the globe.
Roger has similar features as the previous apps. A feature that makes this app stand out from the rest is that users can see the time, location and current weather for the person receiving the message. All that is needed to facilitate communication is the phone number of the receiver who does not necessarily need the app installed on their device.
The Roger app has been pulled from the app stores as of March 15, 2017, you can read more about it in this blog post. The team behind the Roger app has released a new app called Fika, which they claim is everything Roger was but "only supercharged with professional features and a newfound focus on video".
Dingtone also has similar features to the apps mentioned before. What makes Dingtone standout is its versatility; users can make free calls and texts to any landline or mobile phone around the world.
The smartphone based walkie-talkie apps have been around for close to 5 years, however despite their highly touted functionality, they are yet to replace the real walkie-talkies. Though these apps try to mimic the walkie-talkie functionalities with promises of even more added features, the bottom line is that there is no app that can perform better than the traditional walkie-talkie.
This is due to numerous limitations found in these apps, such as the need for cellular internet connection, inconsistent speed of transmission resulting in delays, apps are more complicated to use, smartphones are too big to hold and talk, and inferior quality of sound output. Thus, it seems like old is always gold; however, these apps can be a suitable alternative for those who would love the convenience and simplicity of a text message coupled with the context and nuance of a phone call.
We've create a buyer's guide that will tell you everything you need to know to buy the perfect walkie-talkie.