Walkie talkies have been around since before cell phones, but until now they weren't easily accessible on the same device. Sometimes when you need to send out a quick message, making a phone call can be time-consuming (especially if you don't have the time to chat), and sending out a text message can be a hassle. Typing out those longs strings of letters and hitting 'send' is a huge pain when you're juggling five things at once. That's where these apps come in. Voice messaging finds a happy middle ground between the solemn phone call and the casual texting. Now it is easier with push-to-talk to wish your friends 'good morning', remind your wife the location of her car keys, or tell your boyfriend that he shouldn't drink that leftover milk in the fridge. Here are our top three:
Pros - This is a bare-minimum, simple, and intuitive walkie talkie app. HeyTell is the only app on our list that is available on three major platforms: iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. No account is required, just create a nickname or use your real name and HeyTell will connect you with friends in your contact list (with your permission, of course) that also have the app installed. You can also connect to Facebook and Twitter to see other contacts. What we like is that the developers place a high emphasis on privacy, allowing you to set custom a privacy level and limit who can contact you. There are a variety of extra features such as ringtones, emoji and ,most of all, a voice changer if you're willing to shell out a few bucks
Cons - You can send only voice messages. That means no texts or pictures. The group chat functionality is not free; it has to be paid for. When testing we found that the message delivery was slow at first and that the interface is not exactly the prettiest on the market. Another limiting factor is the smaller user base compared to other apps.
Overall, still a great app to pick up if all you need is a functional walkie talkie, more so if you want to talk to your Windows Phone friends.
Pros - Facebook recently updated its Messenger app to allow it to send voice messages. You can Voice Chat with any Facebook friends who have the app. Non-app-enabled friends can still receive texts and pictures through Facebook. Messenger allows group chat just like regular Facebooking, which is ideal when talking to multiple friends, whether it's collaborating on a project or just doing an impromptu hang-out.
Cons - Messenger requires you to have a Facebook account, at least for now. One gripe we have is that Messenger allows you to share only photos in your album folder and does not have a built-in camera app. To share something new with friends, you'd have to take a snapshot with your device's camera app, save it, then upload it. It also has the slowest response rate when sending and receiving messages out of all three app picks. The lag between sending and receiving on the other side is noticeable, but will not affect usability. It just ruins the illusion that you are not using an actual walkie talkie.
Messenger is great if you're a heavy Facebooker, but it could be better. The app is still growing as Facebook will undoubtedly make tweaks here and there.
Pros - Send voice, text, and photo messages easily and intuitively with Voxer Walkie Talkie. With its clean interface and fast response, Voxer is a sleek push-to-talk app. Chat histories are easily accessible, while sending texts and pictures take no time at all. Toggle speakerphone to get the full walkie talkie experience. You can also use Voxer to leave small notes for yourself.
Cons - The consumer version of the app will only allow up to five people per group session. (See editor's note below.) Voxer's search function has not really been optimized if you're trying to search for someone outside your contact list. Common names will return large numbers of results without any identifiable information. It is best to let it search through your contacts or look up friends via their Voxer accounts.
Overall, with its clear audio and fast response, this is our favorite way to communicate quickly. Useful when you want to coordinate with small groups or do one-on-one since it works flawlessly between platforms.
That ends our quick roundup. Have a favorite app that you use to send voice messages? Sharing is caring, so chime in with your comments.
Editor's note: It has been brought to our attention that you can indeed add more than five people to group chat on Voxer. Our test phone must have been tired of taking orders that day. Other popular services that we didn't get a chance to review can now be found in our catalogs. Who says nobody reads the comments?