Two years ago, Orange trialled push to talk in the UK. It was essentially a walkie-talkie type system that worked on mobile phones. In order to talk to someone you pushed a button and then let go of it to hear the other person speak. It flopped big-style due to coverage limitations, tariff costs, the tendency to lag during calls and the fact that you could only use it with other Orange users.
In the first half of 2005, however, the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), a standards body that consists of all the major mobile manufacturers and network operators, launched a standard called PoC (Push to talk over Cellular) 1.0. It operates using VoIP technology and due to the fact that everyone has signed up to it, it should work with any future handsets, irrespective of make or network.
Sonim is the first company to provide an OMA PoC solution for the 3G market and we've been fortunate enough to get our hands on the first ever handset to implement the OMA PoC 1.0 standard -- the Sonim XP1. It's pitched as an 'unbreakable' (them's fightin' words!) push-to-talk phone and comes in a rugged rubber casing capable of taking a few hits. Indeed, it looks a lot like a walkie-talkie, it walks like a walkie-talkie and it talks like a walkie-talkie, but what makes this exciting is that it might be a sign of things to come.
The XP1 can make push-to-talk calls and normal calls, and it comes with a loudspeaker so you can hear the other person loud and clear. There's no camera or fancy features but it does do push to talk much better than anything we've seen before. Admittedly, it lags during calls and while we're not overly keen on the push-to-talk system, the XP1 works.
Where this phone comes into its own is in the outdoors and works brilliantly as a walkie-talkie replacement due to its unlimited range. The other benefit is that according to Sonim, you'll be able to pay a monthly tariff of around £30 and get unlimited PoC calls, so no more worrying about the phone bill. This particular handset is aimed at industrial workers or security personnel, but the word on the grapevine is that all the major mobile phone manufacturers are set to get involved soon. -AL