- Editor's Rating
In case you haven’t heard, Sprint is finally beginning the process of phasing out the Nextel service it acquired back in 2004, and many lament the passing of this system designed to do one thing, and one thing well: push-to-talk, aka PTT or P2T.
Services of this type provide a convenient way of contacting an individual or multiple members of a group with a simple, well, push of a key and talking. No dialing, texting, or complexity — PTT couldn’t be easier.
And it’s not just law enforcement, construction, utilities, transportation, logistics, and other vertical markets that live on PTT — this is truly a technology for everyone. But, until recently, a special phone and a service like Nextel’s (a few other carriers also offer PTT) were required.
But with the advent of apps and mobile broadband, why not just build an app that does PTT, potentially opening the market to anyone with a smartphone? Why not, indeed, and now Wave Connections, a service from Twisted Pair Solutions, is available on iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile and CE, as well as from the desktop via the browser-based Wave Communicator product.
That’s a robust set of device and usage options. But beware, setup can be confusing. First, a single user needs to sign up and create a “Channel”, which is the logical connection between users. That user then needs to invite users to sign up and join the Channel; an existing user can’t join a Channel by entering its name. This makes some sense from a security perspective, of course, but it’s not as intuitive or flexible as it might be.
Also, be careful when signing up because there’s no feedback that the system is working, and we ended up entering a single user into the system three times. Since a free account can have only a single Channel and a maximum of only five users, some additional work was required to clean all of this out, and this had to be done via the Web-based console accessed with the same username and password as the app itself. Better documentation and a more intuitive and robust software interface would help, and it would be nice to be able to do everything required from the app alone — or, better still, avoid these irritations in the first place.
Once you’re up and running, though, Wave Connections is very easy to use. Select the channel you want to communicate on (again, a free account has only one) and use the virtual Push to Talk button on the screen. All other users will then hear what you say. Be sure to turn the speaker volume up on your device — we used both a Nexus 7 tablet and an iPad, and, again, once we completed the overly-complex setup, everything worked fine.
Latency — the amount of time it takes for a message to be delivered — can potentially vary with your particular network’s capacity and loading at any given moment in time, but we found the delay minimal in all tests. Voice quality was also very good. And we did need to call Twisted Pair’s Tech Support a couple of times to verify that what we were seeing and doing were correct. They informed us that work is underway to improve ease-of-use, and were regardless excellent — both knowledgeable and helpful.
Another feature we tried was informing others of our location via of GPS. If you so desire, you can enable the feature, which allows connected users on your Channel to see your location. Specific features will, of course, depend on your particular device and network.
Overall, despite a clunky setup process, the app works as advertised and you really should give Wave Connections a try, whether you currently live on PTT or not. And, if you’d like to do so, the free plan mentioned above is available for up to five users over a single Channel.
Service for an unlimited number of users across 25 channels is $24.95 per user per month — and, remember, that’s independent of specific devices or networks, optimizing the value of the investment. So, do we still need Nextel and similar services? While I’m sure there are diehards out there who will disagree, I think it’s now clear that apps like Wave Connections are the future of PTT — and they might even push its popularity way beyond what Nextel could barely have imagined.