Microsoft Teams turns your phone into a walkie-talkie

Ars Technica - Fri Jan 14 18:08

"Where you at?" —

Make your iPhone work like an old Boost Mobile phone.

Microsoft Teams turns your phone into a walkie-talkie

Getty

One of the hallmarks of Boost Mobile prepaid phones in the early 2000s was their push-to-talk (PTT), or walkie-talkie, feature, which allowed you to play your voice through another Boost Mobile user's phone speaker with the push of a button. Microsoft is now bringing a similar feature to iOS and Android devices via its Teams app. However, Microsoft isn't using rappers and athletes to try to make PTT seem "cool," as Boost Mobile did. Instead, the company is positioning the feature as a way to use technology to aid frontline workers.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Emma Williams, corporate VP of modern work transformation at Microsoft, announced that the walkie-talkie ability in Teams is now available "on all iOS mobile devices, such as iPhones and iPads, in addition to Android mobile devices."

Williams also said the feature will come to some Zebra Technologies devices, such as rugged phones or scanning devices. Such products may even have a button you can press to connect instantly, just like real walkie-talkies and Boost Mobile's old PTT phones.

If you don't have a Zebra device, you can touch an icon on the Teams app to walkie-talkie someone.

Enlarge / If you don't have a Zebra device, you can touch an icon on the Teams app to walkie-talkie someone.

According to Williams, the number of frontline workers using Teams has grown 400 percent from March to November last year. Bringing Walkie Talkie for Teams to mobile devices seeks to address challenges frontline workers face due to labor shortages and supply chain issues by providing "technology that saves them time, helps them communicate more seamlessly, and maximizes their efficiency when completing repetitive tasks," Williams wrote.

The walkie-talkie feature is one way for Microsoft to differentiate Teams in a workplace filled with competing apps, like Slack and Zoom, by highlighting rapid and on-the-go voice communication. Slack is primarily text-based chat, but its Huddle feature allows you to quickly speak with coworkers. Meanwhile, Zoom' s idea of PTT  is about letting you quickly unmute yourself.

Walkie-talkie features are available in some other modern mobile devices, too. As 9to5Mac pointed out, Apple brought an app with this functionality to the Apple Watch back in 2018.

But while Microsoft is positioning the Walkie Talkie for Teams as a worker tool, there's nothing preventing you from using it to holler a friendly "where you at?" to a friend.