The Apple Watch has let you take phone calls and respond to iMessages since it was first launched, but in 2018 (with the launch of watchOS 5) another communication method was added to the repertoire: a new app called Walkie-Talkie. In this article we show how to use Walkie-Talkie to talk to your friends and family.
For more general advice, take a look at our How to use an Apple Watch guide; and if this new feature convinces you to get your wallet out, you can buy an Apple Watch direct from Apple or peruse our roundup of the best Apple Watch deals.
What is Walkie-Talkie?
Walkie-Talkie is an Apple Watch app that arrived with the watchOS 5 update. It's designed to replicate the experience of using an old-fashioned walkie-talkie, and lets you talk in real time to another person, via your watch.
How to set up Walkie-Talkie
When you open the Walkie-Talkie app you'll see a list of people you can talk to. To add new ones, tap the plus sign at the bottom of the list, and Walkie-Talkie will suggest people from your wider contacts list. Select one and it will then appear as a new yellow icon on the list.
In this way you can add multiple contacts to Walkie-Talkie's list. Just keep tapping the plus sign each time you want to add someone new.
How to initiate a Walkie-Talkie conversation
Open the app - there's a new complication that lets you do this directly from your watch face - and tap one of the yellow contact icons in the main screen to start talking to that person. (There's a slider toggle at the top labelled Available. If this is green then you'll be able to see who is actually available to talk to.)
The first time you contact someone via Walkie-Talkie they will have to give permission for the conversation to proceed, but this is a one-time-only permission: the button they tap is labelled Always Allow. From then on, your devices will regard each other as trusted, and will allow conversations to be initiated unilaterally by either party. The other will receive a haptic buzzing and then the conversation will begin.
How to use Walkie-Talkie
The app has an incredibly simple interface: just a massive yellow circle labelled TALK. Hold down the button and you can talk; let go and you just listen. It's as simple as that.
There's one other piece of screen furniture, and that's a mute button at the top right. Tap this to shut off the audio.
We've generally found Walkie-Talkie to be simple and easy to use, and haven't found many issues. But every tech function ever has gone wrong at least once. Here are some stumbling blocks you may have encountered.
Most drastically, Walkie-Talkie was disabled for a short time in summer 2019 after Apple found a security vulnerability that could allow eavesdropping; it was restored with the iOS 12.4 update. So your first step should be to update iOS on the companion iPhone, and watchOS on the watch itself, to the latest versions.
There are some basic hurdles to pass when initiating conversations, too. It might sound obvious, but the recipient of your chat will need to have an Apple Watch - and when combing through your list of contacts it isn't immediately obvious which have one and which don't. This can result in a tedious trial-and-error process where you continually attempt to invite people, before Walkie-Talkie reminds you they need to have an Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch also needs to be charged up and switched on. In theory the Available toggle should help here, but we've found that a contact still shows up despite having a power-drained Apple Watch sitting on a shelf somewhere. If you can't get through that may well be the problem.