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How to Use Walkie Talkies

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Let’s dismantle the topic, of how to use walkie talkies.

If you’re like me, you probably got something for Christmas or your birthday that you had absolutely no idea how to use. If it didn’t come with an instruction booklet, you may have been left stumped by a box of doo-dads, wondering how to go from a pile of parts to owning a new toy! Well, walkie talkies are no exception! I was given a pair for my birthday last year and frankly only knew about 2 buttons on it, but I certainly wasn’t the only one in this situation. As I began to learn how to use the walkie talkie, I knew there would be other people in this dilemma. I decided to write this article on how to use walkie talkies. 

Let’s face it. It’s pretty easy to get confused when you’re taking something out of the box for the first time. Instruction manuals can be a bit confusing and hard to read if you’re new to putting together various systems. With a walkie-talkie, you will want to ask yourself some questions before getting down to the business of using your new toy. How does it work? What are all of these features for? What makes it different from a cell phone?

Whether you’re an experienced user or a first-time buyer, this is the only guide you’ll need to figure out how to get the most out of your new walkie talkie set. I am going to explain other interesting details about walkie talkies from channels to frequencies to transmission (connecting with other walkie talkies) and much more. Towards the end of the article, I will introduce a modern style of walkie talkie which involves using your iOS device or Apple Watch. There is so much information I am letting out in this article today. 

Before I go into how to use walkie talkies, let’s talk about walkie talkies briefly. 

How to Use Walkie Talkies
A Walkie Talkie: How to Use Walkie Talkie

What are Walkie Talkies?

Walkie Talkies are handheld, portable devices that enable two persons to communicate with one another from a distance. They function as transceivers and can transmit messages over varying distances within the limit of the device’s power. Walkie talkies do not require cell phone reception or Wi-Fi connection to communicate. The great thing about walkie talkies is that they have been around for quite a while, and their use is widespread all across the globe. 

The first walkie talkie was made in 1937 by  Donald Lewes Hings, a Canadian Inventor who created a portable radio signalling system for the company, CM&S. When Donald created the system 1937, he called it a “packset” but before long, the system became known as a walkie talkie. Since World War II, walkie talkies have been used and today there are tens of brands producing portable walkie talkie devices for kids, families, friends, security operatives, and corporate bodies. 

In the United States, the first device that was famously called a walkie talkie was developed to aid the US Army during the Second World War. It was developed by an engineering team in 1940 at the Galvin Manufacturing Company which later became Motorola. Well, Motorola is reckoned as a leading brand in the walkie talkie industry today. 

Thanks to technological advancements, walkie talkies have become portable handheld devices. I am not sure we would still be using walkie talkies if they were as big as when Donald Hings and the US Army first developed them. Away from what walkie talkies are, let’s talk about the parts of a walkie talkie. Using a walkie talkie would be challenging when you do not know how it works and what each component of the device does. 

Parts of a Walkie Talkie 

A typical walkie talkie is made up of 11 components. The image below was taken from a user on Quora and it shows numbers from 1 to 11 of the components of a typical walkie talkie. I have outlined what each component is and what it does below: 

  1. The Antenna

It receives and sends radio waves. Every radio has an antenna which is used to send and receive radio signals. All walkie talkies have this long extension from their top that they use to send and receive radio waves. 

  1. LCD Display

You won’t find this feature in every walkie talkie. It is something that came with modern versions of walkie talkies. The LCD display shows channel number, frequency, battery life, and other important details about the walkie talkie. It is the screen of the walkie talkie. 

  1. Monitor 

When you click the monitor button, it switches the walkie talkie to a monitoring device. 

  1. Menu Select Buttons 

This is also a feature that came with modern walkie talkies. Although, older versions have these tiny buttons on them with which one could change frequencies and apply other settings to their walkie talkies. 

  1. Menu Button 

A new feature as well. It is used to change functions and settings. It can also be used to lock the walkie talkie’s keypad to prevent the channel or setting from changing accidentally. 

  1. Loudspeaker 

A separate loudspeaker is a modern feature. Older versions put the loudspeaker and the microphone in one place. The loudspeaker lets you hear what the other walkie talkie is transmitting. 

  1. Push-To-Talk (PTT) Button 

The Push-to-talk button is a very important component of the walkie talkie. A walkie talkie is a two-way radio which means that both sending and receiving of signals are done via the same frequency. Two walkie talkies cannot be sending messages at the same time. 

To prevent mixing up signals, you hold the PTT button when you are sending your message and once you are done, you release it. 

  1. On/Off Switch and Volume Control 

This component is self-explanatory. You use the on/off switch to turn on and turn off the walkie talkie. The volume control allows you to increase the following of the walkie talkie.

  1. LED Indicator Light 

The LED indicator light which is at the top of the walkie talkie is a modern feature. It was not present in older versions of walkie talkies but as technology advanced, that feature was added. The purpose of the LED indicator light on a walkie talkie is to indicate when channels are busy. 

  1. Microphone 

You would recall that I explained that previous models of walkie talkies did not separate the microphone from the loudspeaker. Older versions of walkie talkies had the microphone and loudspeaker in one place. The same point where one speaks into the walkie talkie to send a message is the same point where they get the response of other users.

Today, some walkie talkies still maintain that feature but some of the modern versions feature a microphone that is different from the loudspeaker. 

  1. Transmit Call Tone 

The transmit call tone is sent to signal other users on the same channel that you want to send a message. This is important because walkie talkies are two-way radios and they send and receive transmissions on the same frequency band. Hence, sending and receiving cannot go on at the same time. 

How to Use Walkie Talkies

How to Use Walkie Talkies

If you want to use a walkie talkie, it is important to note that you need to have another user with a walkie talkie. Walkie talkies are two-way radios that are used to send and receive transmissions. If there is no other user, your walkie talkie may just be useless. 

Let’s assume you have yourself a user and you would like to communicate with them over your walkie talkie. Both of you have to connect your walkie talkies to the same frequency band also known as a channel. Once you are both on the same channel (I have explained more on what channel do walkie talkies use), then you can begin communicating by following the steps below: 

  • To send a message on your walkie talkie, switch it on and hold the Push-to-talk (PTT) button on your walkie talkie
  • If your walkie talkie combines the feature of a microphone and loudspeaker in one part, then the part automatically becomes a microphone once you hold the PTT button
  • As you talk into the microphone, your words are changed into radio waves and beamed on the prearranged frequency band
  • Once you are done talking, release the PTT button
  • Any radio within that range on the same frequency band or channel will instantaneously pick up the message you are sending
  • The radio waves are converted into electric currents which the loudspeaker uses to convey the sender’s voice to the receiver

The process continues like that. To avoid confusion in sending messages, the word “over” is used so that the other party understands when someone is done sending their message. 

Always remember to hold the PTT button when you are trying to send a message and release it after recording your message. 

How to Use Walkie Talkies

What Channel Do Walkie Talkies Operate? 

In the United States, modern walkie-talkies typically use FRS (Family Radio Service). This is a license-free radio application with 22 channels in the range of 462.5625 MHz to 462.7250 MHz. Maximum transmission power is limited to 0.5 watts or 2 watts depending on the channel.

For a detailed breakdown of the available channels for walkie talkies in the United States, read this article by Walkie Talkie Guide on walkie talkie frequency

Thanks to technological advancements, there is a new and convenient way to communicate with friends and family like the walkie talkie way without owning these handheld radios. Apple launched the walkie talkie feature for its iOS devices (iPhone and Apple Watch) and users have enjoyed seamless communications with handheld walkie talkies with their Apple Watch. 

How to Use Walkie-Talkie on Apple Watch 

You just joined the iOS club and heard about the cool Walkie-Talkie feature. You want to hop in as soon as you hear about it, but before you can go live, you have to learn how to use the app.

Using the Walkie-Talkie app on Apple Watch is simple and you can become an expert in minutes. If you want to use the Walkie-Talkie app on Apple Watch, you will need:

  • An Apple Watch Series 1 or later versions with watchOS 5.3 or later versions 
  • Enabled FaceTime on your iPhone 
  • iPhone must be iOS 12.4 and be able to make and receive FaceTime audio calls
  • Live in a country or region where Walkie-Talkie is supported 

If you meet the requirements above, you are ready to use Apple Watch Walkie-Talkie. It is as easy as unlocking your Apple Watch, opening the Walkie-Talkie app on your Apple Watch, tapping a friend, and then touching and holding the talk button.

Tap your Walkie-Talkie app to connect. When your friend receives the message and taps their own Walkie-Talkie app, you will see “connecting” on your Apple Watch screen. After a few seconds, you will be able to hear each other’s voices and chat.

You can use the Apple Watch Walkie-Talkie app with a friend only after you add your friend to the app. I will tell you how to add your friends as contacts to your watch. 

How to Use Walkie Talkies

How to Add Friends to your Walkie-Talkie App

To add a friend, follow the steps below:

  • Unlock your Apple Watch
  • Open the Walkie-Talkie app 
  • In the app, tap “Add Friend+” 
  • You will be required to choose a contact 
  • After choosing a contact, an invitation is sent to them. When they accept, you can start sending Walkie-Talkie invites to them 
  • When you add a friend, their contact card stays grey and appears under “Friends You Invited” until they accept your invitation. After your friend accepts your invitation, their contact card will turn yellow and you both can start talking instantly. 

Final Thoughts on How to Use Walkie Talkie

Walkie-talkies are still around because they work. Yes, I know that cell phones have replaced many of them (sometimes even over the same distance…), but walkie talkies still have their place. It can be very handy to have a private “channel” with your hiking buddy or one of the crews on the boat, for example

To use a walkie talkie:

  • Ensure you are on the same frequency band as the person you are sending a message to
  • Hold the Push-to-talk button and record your message 
  • The other walkie talkie would receive your message once it is also on the same frequency as your device
  • Use the word “over” to indicate the end of your transmission and release the Push-to-talk button once you’re done sending a message 
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