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Wearable Tech

WatchOS 5: How to use the Walkie-Talkie app

Ready to feel like you’re 12 again? Roger that.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

There's something nostalgic about pressing a button, talking, and then hearing another voice come through a speaker a few seconds later. With watchOS 5, Apple Watch ($399 at Apple) owners will gain a feature that mimics the old school form of communication. It's incredibly fun to use. 

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The basics

walkietalkie-icon
Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

The Walkie-Talkie app is included in watchOS 5. You can find it on your home screen, next to all of your installed apps. Its app icon is a yellow icon, with an Apple Watch that kind of looks like a Walkie-Talkie.

walkie-talkie-invite
Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

When you open the app, a list of contacts that have an Apple Watch who you frequently FaceTime or iMessage with will be displayed.

You can add another contact card by scrolling to the bottom of the list and selecting the "+" symbol. An invite will be sent to the contact, and he or she can accept your Walkie-Talkie friend request or dismiss it altogether. You can delete a contact from the app with a swipe to the left on the contact card, followed by a tap on the red "X."

watchos5-walkie-talkie-convo
Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Starting a conversation is simple: Select a contact in the app, press and hold the Talk button, speak your message, then let go.

The person on the other end will hear a beep from his or her watch, followed by your voice and the content of your message. They can then reply, and you will be alerted on your watch as the transmission arrives.

Or if you'd rather, you can open the contact card and just tap the Talk button. This will send an alert, similar to a new message notification, to the contact. He or she can then begin talking to you through the app, or if it's a bad time, ignore the message altogether.

As with real Walkie-Talkies, there isn't a button you need to press to accept an incoming message. If Walkie-Talkie is enabled, at any given time one of your approved contacts can begin speaking through your watch. Which can lead to some awkward moments, when you're in, say, a meeting.

That brings us to potential the most important setting of the entire Walkie-Talkie app.

Availability

watchos-5-walkie-talkie-mode-available
Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Walkie-Talkie allows you to mark yourself as available, or unavailable when you'd rather not have a friend randomly yelling at you from your wrist.

Each time you raise your wrist, a small Walkie-Talkie icon flashes at the top of the Apple Watch screen to remind you that your status is currently set to available.

To mark yourself as unavailable, open the Walkie-Talkie app and scroll down. Slide the Available toggle to the Off position. With Availability turned off, your Walkie-Talkie contacts can't send you any messages.