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Mobile Tornado BB3G phone combines walkie and talkie thanks to push-to-talk

Push-to-talk turns your phone into a walkie-talkie, and so we hid behind a potted plant and tried it out on the ruggedised Mobile Tornado BB3G phone

If you love screaming into the phone at your subordinates while they listen mutely, you'll love push to talk -- or PTT as it's known to people who enjoy saying "Over."

It's a mobile feature that lurks deep within the menus of many Nokias and HTCs, and it basically turns your phone into a walkie-talkie. You push the button, you talk and they listen -- until you release the button and you get an earful in reply. PTT transmits your voice over the data network instead of making a voice call, which means it could be much cheaper, but results in the one-at-a-time nature of the conversation.

You can also broadcast to a whole group of people at one time, so you can berate your whole family at once. You can talk to any phone in the world too, without worrying about paying long-distance rates.

We took the Mobile Tornado BB3G, a phone dedicated to PTT, for a spin to see if we could be tempted. The BB3G is a ruggedised phone that's even chunkier than the Samsung B2700 Bound. Like, the Bound, the BB3G is 'IP54 certified', which means it's fairly well-protected against dust, and some splashes of water won't cause it to give up the ghost. Other than that, the BB3G only has basic features on board, including a 1.3-megapixel camera.

One benefit of PTT is supposed to be that you can connect almost instantly, without waiting for your call to be routed. We did like this, but our actual transmissions took a few moments to come through -- the person listening couldn't hear us right away. This delay meant we couldn't have a normal conversation over PTT, especially since we couldn't both speak at once.

The voice quality wasn't terrible, but it wasn't crystal-clear either. Overall, it was better than what we get from the walkie-talkies we use when snowboarding, but not as good as a normal voice call.

Mobile Tornado also offers a PC application that allows your overlord to track whether you're online, and where you are according to your phone's GPS receiver.

PTT is normally the domain of traditional walkie-talkie users, who tend to wear high-vis jackets or fireman hats, and not just because they're in a Village People tribute act. In these days of contracts with insanely plentiful talk time and Skype available for smart phones, we're not convinced PTT is even necessary, unless you want to broadcast commands to an international crowd.

Orange seems to think so too -- it offers PTT under the name of 'Talk Now', but after it didn't take off with normal people it's now only available for business users. Although plenty of phones support PTT, especially Nokias, your network must offer the PTT service for you to try it out.