Is the Apple Watch walkie-talkie feature any good?

One of Apple Watch’s earliest features remains underused, and that might be for the best.

Apple Watch displaying walkie-talkie feature against blue background
(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple Watch and watchOS have had some bizarre features added over time. Remember when you could spin the digital crown to “travel through time”, which actually just showed your appointments for the day?

It’s been a fun place for Apple to experiment, and while the Mickey Mouse and Toy Story watch faces have remained, so has the Walkie-Talkie feature that felt like mana from heaven for anyone who spent time climbing trees or pretending to be a super soldier as a kid. The idea of calling up your friends from your wrist was the thing of dreams back then, but in 2024, it remains more of a nightmare for Apple Watch users.

Is the Apple Watch walkie-talkie feature any good?

In a word, no - the Apple Watch walkie-talkie feature remains a missed opportunity. And much of that starts with the setup.

I use and Apple Watch Ultra (the first one), while my partner has an Apple Watch Series 9. Setting up walkie-talkie functionality initially was a painful experience, with invitations getting lost and being continually redirected to our respective contact menus.

It’s inconsistent at best and downright impossible to use at worst, and we’re using two of the latest models - surely you’d think there would be some hope it’d work, especially given Apple’s traditional “it just works” mentality.

Once it does work, though, at least it’s fun - pressing the big yellow ‘Talk’ button is as close as you’ll get to that childlike sense of wonder I described earlier, and voice quality is decent (although depending on the age of your watch, and its condition, your mileage may vary).

Sadly, it remains hamstrung by being focused just on the Apple Watch. I’d love for the app to talk to an iPhone or iPad elsewhere in the house, or even to connect to a HomePod to pass messages. I do, however, acknowledge that bellowing through someone’s phone that dinner is ready isn’t the best way to do things, but walkie-talkie can at least be switched off in control center.

It doesn’t play nicely with external apps, either, so you can’t use it to call your relative who you only keep as a contact in WhatsApp, for example. It’s a small nitpick, but on the back of the convoluted setup I really wish it had more opportunities to comb my contacts not in the Apple Contacts app.

When will I use the walkie-talkie app?

As a parent of a very active four-and-a-half-year-old, I’m always on my toes, and the walkie-talkie functionality, if it was more consistent, could be more useful than you may think.

For one, it’s easier to respond via your wrist than a phone when you’re carrying a little one, or carrying just about anything because you can hear the person calling you without needing to answer it.

For another, our local supermarket and the surrounding stores have horrendous 4G blind spots, making the usual “Which aisle are you in?” texts to my partner much harder to send. Being able to quickly ask where we need to rendezvous, with my son invariably asking to go anywhere else, would be a very handy option to have.

Naturally, then there are a whole host of other reasons to use it for more professional purposes. Construction workers relaying instructions while multiple stories apart, for example, or security guards checking in. Sadly, the Walkie-Talkie app, at least in its current form, does little for anyone.

Lloyd Coombes
Freelance writer

Lloyd Coombes is an experienced freelancer from Essex, UK, specialising in consumer and fitness technology. His work can be found across the internet, including TechRadar, iMore, and plenty of other Future sites. A keen weightlifter, he's also editor-in-chief of GGRecon by day. When he's not writing or working out, you'll find him spending time with his son or playing Magic The Gathering.