Technology

Zello: The Walkie Talkie App to Rule Them All

Zello Logo

“Come in, SexyP, this is Schausky. Requesting authorization to proceed with direct communication to reader base. Over.”

“We read you loud and clear, Schausky. This is Sexy P Central Com—permission granted. Authorization code: Alfa-bravo-niner-charlie-2-4-6-1. Over and out.”

Let’s talk about walkie-talkies. They are the tool of choice for construction workers, truckers, and law enforcement, among other professions. The audio quality is low, but you can stay in contact with someone over the course of many hours, sharing information in real time necessary to get the job done. That being said, it doesn’t make sense for most people to carry around another gizmo if they already have a smartphone in their pocket.

These days we have many modes of communication at our fingertips, but aside from a phone call, none are particularly useful for carrying on a conversation in real time. Texting, Tweeting, FaceTiming, and Facebook messaging work when both parties have time to devote to staring at a screen, but those conversations can’t take place alongside productive activities. In fact, you might say that text or video based communication is too attention draining to safely drive a car, or sometimes even walk down a busy sidewalk. I know I’ve had a few close calls with bicyclists and poles when I’ve had my head down composing a message.

Phone calls, especially hands free, solve the problem of multitasking. It’s easy to drive and carry on a conversation if all you have to do is speak and listen. But phone calls come with limitations. One party depends on the other to answer the phone in order to promptly receive the communication. In the event of a no answer, it takes at least 45 seconds to go through the rings, the voicemail answering service, and to leave a message. For the other person to access that message, they usually need to spend a minute locating it and listening to it. At that point, it’s easier to cut your losses and send a text or try to call the person back.

Meet Zello.

Zello is an app for iOS, Android, and PC that smoothly bridges the gap between cell phones and walkie-talkies. Zello uses a data based push-to-talk system that allows you to connect with one or more users (using private chat or group channels) in real time, with high quality audio. Whether it’s you and your buddies on a road trip caravan pretending to be astronauts or a construction team that decides to divide and conquer at a job site, Zello is a marvelous communication tool that doubles as a whole lot of fun.

To send a message, you push and hold a button and start talking. You can even set it to chirp upon sending and/or receiving voice messages to make it feel like you’re using an old school two-way.

The person on the other end, assuming that they are set to “Available,” will hear the message even if they’re using another app. By setting your availability accordingly, you control when you receive notifications so you won’t be surprised by messages during meetings or while you’re asleep. It saves your messages too, so you can listen to a conversation or message that you missed if you went offline or just didn’t catch what the other person said.

Zello is highly customizable, and you can change everything from what happens when you push the ‘Push To Talk Button’ (press and hold versus toggle mode) to automatically changing your status to “Available” when you send a message. You can send photos, use a headset instead of the speaker, and choose to keep or delete message history.

Zello has the reliability and feature set to make it a valuable communication tool for lay folk like us. Among friends, it’s more fun than group texting or conference calls (which, let’s be honest, are a pain in the butt to set up).

Finally, Zello is free to use for personal communication, but how about businesses? Zello offers Zello for Work, which offers better security on a private network, dedicated servers, and integration with existing two-way radios and smartphones. For businesses looking to ditch the physical radio, Zello for smartphones is the way to go.

This is Schausky, signing off.

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