Remember CB radios and Walkie Talkies? These two-way radios were used extensively by long haul truckers and, well, kids all around the U.S. playing war games and other spy games, at least as I remember it. Apple was reportedly working on a similar concept with Intel that would bring the Walkie Talkie fully back to life.
The CB (Citizen’s Band) radio was popular in the 1970s, particularly with long haul truckers, but became famous with movies like Smokey and the Bandit or songs such as Convoy by C.W. McCall which climbed to #1 in the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1976, according to Wikipedia. At the same time, the small, handheld two-way radio known as a “Walkie Talkie” became popular.
Well, the Walkie-Talkie concept of “push-to-talk radio” made its way to mobile phones via the Zello app. Instead of dialing the phone, or using a two-way radio, your phone can serve as a Walkie-Talkie using the internet or mobile data. Zello is available for iOS, Android, PC, and Windows downloads here and it works cross-platform.
Quick sidenote: My perception of the term, Walkie Talkie, was forever changed by Brian Regan, an American stand-up comedian, who offers a short perspective (in the above YouTube video) on how tough military members landed on this term.
Back to this MacRumors post: Apple was working on a 900Mhz Walkie-Talkie option with Intel (meaning no internet needed to use): Apple Reportedly Shelves ‘Walkie-Talkie’ Feature Allowing iPhone-to-iPhone Messaging Without Wi-Fi or Cellular. This would be a super-useful functionality across a wide range of uses, from true emergencies, to staying in touch with nearby family and friends. The MacRumors writer points out this is a different challenge than the one that Apple Watches have — a problem that Zak Doffman (Forbes) reported and explained here: Apple Disables Walkie-Talkie App After Finding Apple Watch Eavesdropping Hack.
So, if you have been looking for a good way to stay connected to your kids or friends without a full dial, you can test Zello. Millions are using it (and rating it highly) to connect one-on-one or with private group. There are public groups you can join, too, sort of like the CB Radio of old where lots of people can join in the conversation (obviously caution is in order for children). Important to note that this is an international platform so you can enjoy conversations or language lessons from around the globe.
According to the mobile app pages, these are some of the many features:
• Free live voice over any network or Wi-Fi connection
• See who’s available or busy
• Send photos, text or location to friends instantly
• Replay messages later, even if your phone was off
• Free with no ads
• Won’t spam your friends
• Lets you delete your account
If you want to catch someone quickly, PTT is a great way to do it. If you read some of the many reviews on either iOS or Android, you will get a sense for how families and individuals, near and far, are using this app to maintain communications.