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WatchOS 5: How to use the Walkie-Talkie app

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

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 ($667 at Amazon) owners will gain a feature that mimics this old-school form of communication. It's incredibly fun to use. 

Now playing: Watch this: WatchOS 5 updates the Apple Watch with Walkie-Talkie...

The basics

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 yellow, with an Apple Watch that kind of looks like a Walkie-Talkie.

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 they 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.

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 their 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. They 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.


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. 

Alternatively, after updating to WatchOS 5.1.2, you can quickly toggle your availability in the watch's Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the watch face and tapping on the Walkie-Talkie icon. You can find more information about the feature, and update instructions here.

Originally published Sept. 15.
Update, Dec. 11: Added Control Center instructions. 

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