Remember When Phones Were Walkie Talkies?

– [Michael] You know what's terrible? Phone calls. They take a lot of time, they meander, they make your ears sweaty, and if you miss one, you have
to deal with the only thing worse than a phone call. Voicemail. The cure for phone calls was
supposed to be messaging, but you know, that's also
getting kind of terrible. All day, every day, is an
avalanche of notifications with time-consuming, tapped out messages volleying back and forth. There used to be something in
between these two extremes. It was called Push to Talk. You remember, it's the
feature that instantly transformed the guy behind you in line into the worst person ever.

(man talking loudly in background) – You're outta your mind. (voice echoing) – [Michael] And maybe you're
filled only with loathing for the time of walkie talkies on phones but I miss it dearly, because the whole idea behind
it was getting things done. (upbeat music) In fact, done was the whole
slogan of the industry leader in walkie talkie phones
circa 2004, Nextel. Full disclosure, I worked
for Nextel at the time so my recollections are no
doubt rosier than the reality. But even today, it's tough not to admire the company's bold,
aggressive advertising. As its VP of Marketing said
in an interview at the time, people use Nextel not
to chat and play games or send SMSes to girlfriends,
but to get things done.

The state of Push to Talk has suffered since those halcyon days of mobile. Voice minutes are now largely
unlimited on most carriers, making the money-saving
aspect of PTT moot, and a network capacity crunch
and disastrous acquisition by Sprint didn't do
Nextel any favors either. So diminished is the
importance of PTT that Sprint doesn't even offer Push
to Talk phones for review. Fortunately for this video,
AT&T came to the rescue with a couple loaners.

You may remember this phone from a video I published last summer. It's simple, it's rugged, and it's got a big button on
the side for walkie talkin'. Now this is obviously more a
business product than anything. On its website, AT&T calls
out all the corporate uses for walkie talkies, like tracking your fleet of truck drivers or managing a squad of security personnel. If you want Push to Talk for your own personal or family plan, it's still available for about
five bucks a month per line. That gets you unlimited access
on AT&T, Sprint or Verizon, though they're not interoperable.

And the way it works is this. You decide who you want to talk to, as you can see, my options
are pretty limited, and you push to talk. In about one or two seconds
usually, you're connected. And that's the beauty of this whole thing. You're not waiting for a
regular call to connect and then ring through, and you don't have to leave a voicemail if they're not there. You just connect, talk, and
stop talking when you're done. If they're not there, well then maybe you send them a message. And because PTT uses the
same cellular network that voice and data do,
it works nationwide. No current offerings are
as fast as the old Nextel, which had a network built for the purpose, but it's still faster than a phone call and a damn sight quicker
than tapping out a text.

Now let me tell you why you hate it. Because jerks ruined it. There was a code of etiquette
that courteous users adhered to back in the day, and it had two huge important points. One, no barging. That means don't just hold down
the button and start talking because it's weird for the other guy, when his phone comes to
life with a human voice and he's just trying to live his life. And two, no using the speakerphone when it might annoy other people. Here's the thing that
nobody seemed to know. Every Push to Talk
phone has a privacy mode which disables the loudspeaker and lets you carry on a half duplex call through the earpiece.

Push to Talk didn't need to be intrusive. It was discourteous users that made it so. Today you don't need special hardware to use your phone like a walkie talkie. Apps like Zello and Voxer
bring the functionality to any Android or iPhone. You don't need to worry
about what carrier you're on and they've taken it to the next level with social features. But you need to first
find and launch the app and then keep it running to
make sure it stays working. Those extra steps eliminate
some of the immediacy that made classic Push
to Talk so appealing where you could just push a couple buttons to be instantly connected. (phone beeping) Did you use Push to Talk back in the day? Is it still a part of your work today? Share your stories in the comments and be sure to subscribe
to Mr. Mobile on YouTube. Till next time, thanks for watching and stay mobile, my friends. (upbeat music fading)

As found on YouTube

Wireless MobilePhone MonoPod Model:Z07-5!

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As found on YouTube