If you are looking for a faster way to get in touch with friends, family, or colleagues, you can install a walkie-talkie app on your phone. These apps do not use radio waves like the traditional walkie-talkie, but they allow you to chat quickly without needing to call or text.
The best walkie-talkie apps for Android and iOS let you quickly import your contacts and use push-to-talk features to reach them. Many are free or charge a minimal monthly fee.
Zello is one of the most well-known walkie-talkie apps on the market, and it’s most people’s go-to for a walkie-talkie experience. Part of the reason why it’s so popular is because of its usability. It’s easy to import contacts, and tapping on one displays the option to talk displayed front-and-center. You can talk directly with individual people, or you can create a group channel for your friends or work groups. If you’re feeling particularly social, you can even join a specialized channel to chat about specific topics, from cats to local areas. Voice messages will be played out immediately if the app is open, or played later through a voicemail-like system, so you can pick up your messages when convenient.
It’s packed with features, and has recently been updated to work with the Twiins Smart Button. You can also send text messages, images, or alerts. One useful feature is the ability to set a volume level for each user — which is especially handy in group channel talks with those particularly noisy people. There are some issues. It won’t work if you use a mobile VPN, and has trouble with some open Wi-Fi networks — but it’s otherwise the best option available.
ProPTT2 Video Push-to-Talk
Push-to-talk audio is one thing, but push-to-talk video is absolutely another. ProPTT2 is an excellent walkie-talkie app with the ability to transmit video blasts as easily as audio. You can chat in groups or one-to-one, and you’re able to search for and join groups for a variety of interests. We’re particularly fond of the look, which eschews the bright colors of many other walkie-talkie apps, instead opting for a sleek, technical style. It has support for various PTT devices and the Apple Watch, and you can access various chat features like real-time location sharing. You’ll need to sign up to use the app’s features properly, and you only get to make one channel for free, but as long as you sign up some friends, you should have enough to go around. A 30-day pass to the pro features will set you back $4.
We love walkie-talkie apps, but too many of them don’t also have room for the more traditional messaging methods. If using an app that’s has walkie-talkie functionality seems odd to you, maybe check out Voxer. It’s built more like a traditional instant messaging app, and includes threaded view text chat and support for sending images, and is one of the only walkie-talkie apps to have end-to-end encryption. Unfortunately, there’s no option to broadcast to channels like Zello, but you can still create group chats if you need to contact a bunch of people at once. It’s not bug-free though, and users complain about a bunch of fairly annoying bugs. Still, they tend to be relatively minor, like double notifications. Basic access is free, but you’ll need to upgrade to a Pro account for the best features, including a hands-free mode, voice-to-text transcription, the ability to recall sent messages, and more. Pro access costs $3 a month, or $30 for a year.
VoicePing is a fairly simple app, that’s because it’s designed primarily for business users. It can be used by anyone with an Android or iOS device, and it’s built to resemble a more traditional messaging app — but there’s more here than the chat app interface. Voice messages can be played from any contact at any time — even with the screen off and phone locked, and you can choose to chat one-to-one, or pick up to 200 contacts in a group chat. Advanced features allow you to ping specific contacts for attention, or take control of a group chat with an SOS message. It also works with headsets with PTT buttons, making it extremely useful for certain business users.
One of the purer versions of a walkie-talkie app, Breakr commits itself to talking and very little else. It’s as easy to use as you’d expect; hold the button down, talk, and release the button to send your message. But there are devils in these details. Can’t talk? Type your message and it’ll be read out to your recipient with Breakr’s text-to-speech service. There’s a voice changer if you’d prefer to chat anonymously (or just say something in a silly robot voice), and the 24-hour chat history means you shouldn’t miss a message. The downsides? There’s no real text chat option, and it’s iOS-only, so you’re limited to only chatting to friends with iPhones.
A much simpler app than some of the other entries on this list, Two Way is the walkie-talkie app of choice for the extrovert. There’s no option to pick-and-choose individual contacts, and you can’t send text messages or images. Instead, you can pick a specific geographical area (local or national) and broadcast to that area. As such, you’re opening your broadcasts for absolutely anyone else to hear and respond to. So don’t be surprised when you start getting replies from people you don’t know. If you love starting conversations with strangers, then this is an excellent way to do so — and thanks to the way the app is set up, you do so without any risk of giving away intimate details of yourself. Thankfully, if you want a more private conversation you can head into the Key Pad feature and choose a channel to chat in instead. The huge selection of channel numbers should mean you won’t have to share with anyone else. There are reports the app doesn’t work properly on Android 9.0 Pie and Android 10, but if you turn off Battery Optimization you shouldn’t have an issue.
Walkie-talkie — Communication
Don’t need all the extra messaging options, the “listen later” messages, or friends lists? Then Walkie-talkie is the minimalist app for you. It’s simply a walkie-talkie app — boot it up, key in your chosen frequency, and away you go. There’s no logging into an account, which makes it perfect for anyone who just wants to download and go, and all you need to do is open the app and start speaking. It has a cute design too, with an interface that mimics old-style plastic walkie-talkies. But because of that minimalism, there’s little to the app outside of the obvious. You can listen to different frequencies and change the color of the background, but that’s about it. It’s also only available on iOS — though there is a website version, which we couldn’t get to work. Still, it’s a fun little app if you’re looking for something without the same level of commitment as the other apps.
Here’s one that’s a little different from the rest. While other apps are shackled by their need for a data connection, Walkietooth uses a variety of other connections instead, using a device-to-device connection with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, or a direct connection through a shared Wi-Fi network. You can share a voice connection, or bump the stream up to video. This might seem like an odd addition to a walkie-talkie app, but it means an old device could be used as a baby monitor if you’re not hugely into walkie-talkies. While Bluetooth and other options won’t be as good in a house or urban area, it could be a good choice for motorcyclists out on the road if there’s no mobile data but little to block a Bluetooth connection. Definitely a niche choice, but one that’s worth considering if you fit into the target audience. Unfortunately for iPhone-lovers, it’s Android-only.
Available on iOS and Android, HeyTell is a good cross-platform option for contacting a wide variety of friends. Unlike many other walkie-talkie apps, HeyTell comes with Facebook connectivity, so it can use your profile to link you to friends already on the platform, making it extremely easy to get up and running on the service, but there’s also no shortage of security thanks to HeyTell’s three-tiered privacy system. There’s a voice changer if you’d rather be more anonymous, and the app claims to use less data than an email. It’s a very old app, and hasn’t been updated since 2016. But it’s still got plenty of features, even if there are quite a few caveats to make sure they work. These are all detailed on the app pages, so make sure to check there if you’re having issues — however, it’s not a particularly good thing to find, which explains why it’s further down the list.
- The best video-conferencing apps
- The best video chat apps for Android and iOS
- The best parental control apps for Android and iOS
- The best chat clients for 2020
- The best LGBTQ dating apps for Android and iOS