Every year about this time Apple delivers new goodies to their customers. If it’s not a new line of iPhones, it’s a new Watch; sometimes new iPads, and occasionally a new Mac or two. And, as always– at least in recent years– customers are treated to new versions of iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS.
Along with new operating systems Apple often publishes a few new apps. macOS Mojave brought News and Stocks and a revamped Mac App Store. Still no Clock, though. One new app that I looked forward to is Walkie Talkie on watchOS 5.
One day I will learn not to get my hopes up too high. Why?
Walkie Talkie is a pain in the patootie to use. If you’re thinking of having a real live walkie talkie on a Watch, that’s what you get. Almost.
Typical walkie-talkies resemble a telephone handset, with a speaker built into one end and a microphone in the other (in some devices the speaker also is used as the microphone) and an antenna mounted on the top of the unit. They are held up to the face to talk. A walkie-talkie is a half-duplex communication device. Multiple walkie-talkies use a single radio channel, and only one radio on the channel can transmit at a time, although any number can listen. The transceiver is normally in receive mode; when the user wants to talk they must press a “push-to-talk” (PTT) button that turns off the receiver and turns on the transmitter.
Walkie Talkie on Watch (not Watch Series 0; sorry early adopters) works much the same way. Open the Walkie Talkie app, select who you want to talk to– a feature better than the original– press the Talk button and hold while you talk. Your message goes to the intended recipient.
What’s wrong with that?
It’s not convenient. It’s not quiet. It’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Yes, it works. Yes, it demos well. No, it’s not quite ready for prime time.
The whole idea behind Walkie Talkie is quick communication between two people. Fair enough, right? Unfortunately, Apple did not make a complication for the Walkie Talkie app so convenience rides in the backseat. To use the app you have to find the app and that takes time. The app launcher on Watch is visually overwhelming and less useful than scrolling through a list of apps. Again, that takes too long to find, then open the app, then select who you want to send a message to.
Too many steps, Apple.