Do you remember walkie-talkies? Before smartphones, they were a staple in crime and cop films, and many thought they were among the most wonderful toys boys could have. Those who couldn’t afford them used tin cans and string to reproduce a semblance of the experience, chatting around corners a few yards apart.
In reality, the functionality of 2-way radios still offers huge advantages over smartphones, but perhaps not over a few feet.
Try 10 km instead.
That’s the range of the new Midland XT60 Two-Way Radio, a pair of dual-band, 93-channel walkie-talkies. It’s the first walkie-talkie we’ve seen with a micro-USB charger that charges quickly, meaning it’s ready to go again quickly after the batteries die. The batteries included in the set offer a battery life of 12 hours.
We tested the devices in urban and park landscapes, over a few tens of meters and over 8km. The speakers are clear and powerful, offering clear communication. However, in an urban environment, the numerous security services that still use such devices tend to clog many available channels. On the other hand, with over 69 LPD bands – which are license-free UHF bands – and 24 license-free channels of private mobile communications, it is easy to find clear channels.
Why would you use 2-way cellular when you have a smartphone? This question is easier to answer in times of load shedding and constant power outages. When cell phone towers die, walkie-talkies still provide reliable communications. They come into their own in emergency situations, when instant and uninterrupted communication is essential.
They are also much more resilient than smartphones, built to withstand harsh environments and extreme weather conditions, giving them an advantage on construction sites and in industrial applications. They are quick and easy to use, all you have to do is learn how to operate the channels and the sequence of pressing a button and speaking. That means a learning curve of about 30 seconds.
The Midland XT60 has 9 voice levels, 5 ringer levels, as well as a volume control and a VOX function that enables hands-free communication by detecting voice activity.
One of the biggest advantages over smartphones is the low acquisition and usage costs. The Midland XT60 comes at the price of an upper entry-level phone. Above all, there are no costs for ongoing use. No subscriptions, no call charges and no license fees.
Is it any wonder they survived the era of universal personal mobile communications?
How much does it cost?
Suggested retail price of R1899 from Cape Union Mart or online at www.capeunionmart.co.za
Why should you care?
We asked Bing AI to tell us why 2-way radio remains important. It told us:
“A two-way radio, also known as a walkie-talkie, is a device that can send and receive voice messages over a short or long distance. It is widely used in various industries and scenarios, e.g. B. in the areas of construction, security, hospitality, events, public safety and emergency services. Despite the rapid development of mobile phones and other communication technologies, the two-way radio still has a long service life due to its many advantages over smartphones.
“One of the main benefits of using two-way radios instead of cell phones is that they provide reliable service in emergencies. Cell towers and landline lines can go down during a disaster or crisis situation, leaving people without means of communication. However, the radio works on its own frequency band and is not dependent on any external infrastructure. This means radio users can stay connected even when other networks are down or congested. This can be critical to saving lives and coordinating rescue efforts.”
What are the biggest minuses?
· Finding the right channel can be a godsend, especially in an environment with numerous security operators.
· Micro-USB is a breakthrough in charging for 2-way radios, but it’s still old technology at a time when most other devices are moving to Type-C USB, meaning you can still carry multiple charging cables with you have to carry around.
What are the biggest pluses?
· Small, light, durable and convenient. Can be slipped into a pocket or clipped to a belt.
· Long battery life and fast charging via mini-USB.
· Extremely affordable, with a low upfront price and no ongoing usage or roaming costs.
· Excellent sound quality, better than most cell phone calls.
* Arthur Goldstuck is the founder of World Wide Worx and Editor-in-Chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter at @art2gee