Sat. Jun 22nd, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Walkie-Talkie on Apple Watch emulates one-way radio comms over the internet by relying on the FaceTime service.
  • Walkie Talkie offers a quick and convenient way to communicate remotely, particularly when sending short messages.
  • You must add friends to the app before you can start chatting, and you can adjust your availability to avoid being disturbed.

Your Apple Watch is loaded with features, and you probably don’t use most of them. One feature that gets overlooked is Walkie-Talkie, a fun and useful way to chat with other Apple Watch owners.

How Walkie-Talkie Works

Walkie-Talkie is a built-in watchOS feature that you can use to send short, near real-time voice messages between two Apple Watch wearers. It doesn’t work like a “real” walkie-talkie via radio waves and local communications, but rather using the internet. Walkie-Talkie is powered by Apple’s FaceTime VoIP service.

The feature effectively emulates one-way radio communication using a “Push to Talk” interface. You can either listen or speak, not both. This makes the feature ideal for simple instructions and ill-suited to longer chats (those are better conducted over a real FaceTime call).

Apple Watch Series 8 with a 'Modular' watch face.
Tim Brookes / How-To Geek

Due to a reliance on FaceTime, you’ll need an internet connection on your Apple Watch to use the feature. You’ll also need to enable and set up FaceTime under Settings > FaceTime on your iPhone. To use Walkie-Talkie, you’ll need to first invite a contact so that they appear in your list of Walkie-Talkie contacts.

Though the feature is fun and useful, there are a few drawbacks one of which is a slight lead time when starting a conversation. The feature must first establish a line of communication in the form of a FaceTime call in the background. Once this step is complete, communication is conducted almost in real-time depending on the speed of your connection.

Using the Apple Watch Walkie-Talkie App

You’ll find the Walkie-Talkie app in your list of available Apple Watch apps. The icon is bright yellow with a black outline of a handheld radio on it. Tap on it to launch it, and you’ll see your availability and any friends you have added.

You can add a friend using the plus “+” icon at the top of the screen. Do this and your Watch will bring up a list of iPhone contacts. If you want to use Walkie-Talkie with anyone, you’d better make sure they’re a regular iPhone contact first. It should go without saying that they’ll also need to be an Apple Watch user.

Once you’ve got a friend or two added, tap on their name and Walkie-Talkie will attempt to establish a connection. Once the big “Push to Talk” button turns yellow, you’re ready to start chatting. Press and hold the button and speak into your Apple Watch, then release and wait for a response.

Walkie Talkie on Apple Watch

The reason you have to specifically add a friend to your Walkie-Talkie app is that this method of chatting can be a bit invasive. When you start a conversation, the recipient will hear a short beep (reminiscent of a radio squelch) informing them that a new Walkie-Talkie session has been started. Your messages will then be delivered loud and proud to their Apple Watch, wherever they are and whatever they’re doing.

Walkie-Talkie will be audible, whether or not your Apple Watch is in silent mode or not. The feature works well with people you know and trust (like partners, best friends, and family members) rather than those who could potentially embarrass you (intentionally or otherwise). Fortunately, you can adjust your availability so that Walkie-Talkie won’t take you by surprise at inopportune moments.

Adjusting Your Availability

You’ll only get a moment’s notice after you hear the Walkie-Talkie beep before someone starts speaking to you over your Apple Watch. Even if your Watch is silent, the message will be audible.

You can easily adjust your Walkie-Talkie availability using the Walkie-Talkie button in Control Center on your Apple Watch. On watchOS 10 you can access Control Center by pressing the Side Button once, on watchOS 9 or earlier swipe up from the bottom of the screen from the watch face view.

While the icon is lit up yellow, you will be contactable via Walkie-Talkie. You’ll also see a small yellow Walkie-Talkie symbol at the top of the screen when you look at your Watch face throughout the day if the feature is enabled. The availability toggle is also accessible in the Walkie-Talkie app.

Walkie Talkie on Apple Watch
Tim Brookes / How-To Geek

If you don’t see the yellow Walkie-Talkie button in Control Center, scroll to the bottom of the list, tap “Edit” and then tap the plus “+” button next to Walkie-Talkie to add it. You can then drag it into position if you want (and remove other buttons you won’t use).

Reliability Can Be an Issue

In my experience, Walkie-Talkie was the least reliable Apple Watch feature by a large margin before the watchOS 10 update. For years, I struggled to get the feature working reliably even though it worked fine when I first started using my Series 4 Apple Watch. Upgrading to the Series 8 didn’t help, but Apple’s 2023 software upgrade did.

If you’re having problems we have a Walkie-Talkie troubleshooting guide you can follow. This mostly involves double-checking permissions, restarting devices, and fiddling with settings. It can be hard to know whether the problem is on your side or not, so consider passing the link on to any contacts that are having issues too.

On the bright side, Walkie-Talkie seems to work reliably now (even when my iPhone is behind a VPN). I’m just crossing my fingers that future watchOS updates don’t break the feature all over again.

Why Use Walkie-Talkie?

Walkie-Talkie is a fun Apple Watch feature. For someone who consistently avoids answering phone calls on their Watch, I use the feature a lot purely for its novelty factor. It’s a method of communication that Inspector Gadget would be proud of, but it’s also pretty useful.

Because the Apple Watch is a wearable gadget, you don’t need to worry whether the other party has their phone on them. It’s a lot harder to miss a message if your wrist is screaming at you. People can’t talk over you due to the one-way nature of this method of communication.

It’s great if someone is in another room and you don’t want to shout across the house. It’s also good for those moments when taking your phone out of your pocket (or finding it) is inconvenient. I use it to tell my partner that the shower is free or that dinner is ready all the time.

There’s also an element of fun to it. It’s still a novelty, all these years later. You can absolutely embarrass your partner in the supermarket from several aisles away. Just don’t do it while they’re at work.

Just bought an Apple Watch? Check out our favorite trips and tricks for new Watch owners.

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By John P.

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