Apple Reportedly Halted iPhone Walkie-Talkie Project

Posted on August 26, 2019 by Mehedi Hassan in Apple, iOS, Mobile with 26 Comments

A new report today shed some light on an interesting new feature Apple was working on for the iPhone. According to The Information, Cupertino was developing a peer-to-peer walking talkie feature for the iPhone that would allow users to text each other without having a cellular connection.

The feature, internally codenamed Project ORGS (off-grid radio service) would use the 900MHz wireless technology that’s already used in the utility industry. The new feature would rely on Intel modems, and Apple was working closely with Intel to build the new feature, which is what made things tricky. It’s unclear exactly why Apple has stopped working on the project, but there are some speculations.

Rubén Caballero, who was in charge of the project and almost considered the project as “his baby”, left Apple earlier this year. And with Apple switching to Qualcomm modems, it’s been suspected as one of the reasons behind the company halting the project for the time being.

Here is the thing, though: Apple recently acquired Intel’s smartphone modem business for $1 billion, so there is a chance the company could pick up work on this new project in the future.

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Comments (26)

26 responses to “Apple Reportedly Halted iPhone Walkie-Talkie Project”

  1. Avatar

    SvenJ

    Not sure what the problem is. They had Walkie Talkie on the watch for a while. Dumped it at the last update. If they could do it on the watch, I see no reason the couldn't on the phone. I would guess lack of use and waning of interest at Apple.


    Nevermind. This isn't at all the same as the Walkie Talkie feature on the watch. Sure would have caused confusion if they did this and kept the watch feature.

  2. Avatar

    truerock2

    About 20 years ago, I had a Motorola phone that would do "push to talk".

    It was handy when I was camping in wilderness areas or somewhere where I didn't want to use roaming (because roaming was expensive back then)

  3. Avatar

    bluvg

    I had a phone with a walkie-talkie feature back in 2000. It was handy, but I swear it had a way of cutting out at the precise moment you needed to understand: "please check port <garbled>. Then check if VLAN <garbled> was set to <garbled>" etc. etc. Repeating the message was more of the same. So frustrating.

  4. Avatar

    Patrick3D

    Push-to-talk has existed for a few decades now on feature phones. I know Motorola used to sell a popular one used by contractors in the late 90's/early aughts. Google got their own patent in 2004 and Apple got one in 2014 after they acquired patents from Nortel.

  5. Avatar

    Dan1986ist

    Being able to talk on one's iPhone without a cellular connection with a peer-to-peer walk-talkie feature in an emergency situation where cell towers are jammed up with people trying to check up on others to make sure they are okay, makes sense.

  6. Avatar

    AnOldAmigaUser

    I guess I am showing my age, when I assumed a walkie-talkie feature would allow you to talk to another user.

  7. Avatar

    dontbeevil

    "Microsoft kills XXX"


    "Apple Reportedly Halted iPhone Walkie-Talkie Project"


    • Avatar

      puggsly

      In reply to dontbeevil:

      It is hard to say "Apple Kills" a project that is only rumored to even exist and that we don't know will not still be released. When Apple Canceled AirPower he stated it as such and even stated on twitter. "

      Apple kills AirPower, cites its lack of magic"

      So, what's your point?

    • Avatar

      karlinhigh

      In reply to dontbeevil:

      One difference here is that this iPhone feature had never been publicly available. It's not like the feature had a sizable user base with a well-loved product being taken away from them.

      • Avatar

        dontbeevil

        In reply to karlinhigh:

        yeah, JUST in this case I can agree of you... but just take a look at last 10 article about apple, google and ms... and you can clearly see how the authors are not been object and professionals at all. I would have nothing to complain if they clearly state in the article that's their opinion, or if the website had a clear sympathy name for a company

        • Avatar

          karlinhigh

          In reply to dontbeevil: take a look at the last 10 articles


          For the benefit of the community, let's do this.


          https://www.thurrott.com/tag/apple

          Apple getting mocked for fragile credit card.

          Apple security flaw allowing jailbreak.

          Apple trying to ban ads on apps for children, and developers aren't happy.


          https://www.thurrott.com/tag/google

          Google trying to improve user privacy without hurting ads business

          Google making enemies with Genius.com over content scraping

          Various new less-major features and product updates


          https://www.thurrott.com/tag/microsoft

          Microsoft cancels Minecraft update (Hey, it wasn't "kill" here, either?)

          Microsoft has no further plans to bring Xbox content to Nintendo things (Again, no "kill")

          Microsoft Surface ad getting mocked, features a man named "Mac Book"


          I didn't do a deep analysis of the articles, mostly just looked at the content the tags bring up. Perhaps I am missing the worst objectivity-lacking examples?


          I notice another factor here is the role each writer plays. Mehedi's articles are more frequent and somewhat tied to each company's latest newsworthy events. Paul's are often more in-depth, because history.

          • Avatar

            dontbeevil

            In reply to karlinhigh:

            It's not nice cherry picking, fot the benefit of community you should compare similar articles, let me do that for you when I'll be home

          • Avatar

            dontbeevil

            In reply to karlinhigh:

            "Apple Issues Emergency iOS Patch to Fix Security Flaw"

            Put emphasis on the apple good job refixing the same bug, but in previous article was advertised like a feature, not like a huge security flaw

            "iOS Bug Enables iPhone Owners to Jailbreak After Years"

            (not really as you said "Apple security flaw allowing jailbreak.")

             

            "Microsoft Contractors Listened to Voice Recordings of Xbox Owners (Updated)"

            But when it's up to apple they put the emphasis on how good behaved apple (MS did the same)

            "Apple Suspends Siri Grading Program"

             

            "Gmail No Longer Gives You an Excuse to Send Emails With Spelling and Grammar Mistakes"

            For some reasons they forgot to say that outlook.com already provide the same feature for ages, but when it comes to MS, they really pay attention to put the emphasis on copy

            "Microsoft Copied the iPhone’s Animoji and Made It More Accessible"

            Oh they forgot to write copy also when it comes to

            "In-Display Fingerprint Scanners Will Make a Debut on the iPhone in 2021"

            And

            "Apple Introduces New Migration Feature for iPhones"

            And

            "Apple Testing Face ID and Touch ID Sign-In for iCloud.com"

            And

            "Google Services Going Passwordless on Android"

            But suddenly they remembered again that apple has something similar to point out here:

            "Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo Announce New AirDrop-inspired File Transfer feature"

            (and of course there was nothing similar before airdrop…ehm bluetooth/nfc file transfer)

             

            "Microsoft Made a REALLY Lame Surface Ad Comparing It With the MacBook"

            Please not REALLY (with caps) Lame, but when it's up to google becomes

            "Google Enlists Bill Nye to Push Chromebooks"

             

            "Apple Beats Estimates as iPhone Revenue Drops Below Fifty Percent"

            Note the emphasis on beating the estimates, distracting from iPhone drop, when it comes to MS

            "Microsoft Q4 2019 Earnings Show Growth in Surface As Azure Growth Slows Down"

             

            "Microsoft Shares Edge Roadmap, Plans to Block Auto-Playing Media"

            They show this like something new, but this is already present in Edge for ages and they're just porting it to new Edge

             

            "Apple to Limit Third-Party Messaging Apps on iOS"

            "Apple Delays Privacy Crackdown in Kids Apps Following Developer Concerns"

            (if it was MS they have put emphasis on how bad was MS behavior against 3rd party apps and devs)

             

            "Apple Reportedly Halted iPhone Walkie-Talkie Project"

            but when it's up to MS becomes

            "Cortana Is Being Removed From Its Own Thermostat"

            "Microsoft is Kicking Cortana Off Xbox One, Too"

             

            "Microsoft’s Original HoloLens Will No Longer Receive Major Windows 10 Updates"

            (they don't write the same when a few years old iDevice stop receive major updates)

             

            Google Wants to Continue Selling Ads While Protecting User Privacy

            (Strange that they didn't put emphasis on how google is eager to earn from ads and personal data at any cost)

            • Avatar

              karlinhigh

              In reply to dontbeevil:

              Hey, "lemon picking" isn't any nicer than cherry picking. :) And that list goes beyond just the last 10 articles, doesn't it?


              Also, I think criticism can only be called "constructive" if it points to a positive example. What authors or publishers are the model for professionalism and objectivity in tech reporting? Who's out there that is getting this right? Or is everything terrible all the time?

    • Avatar

      Thom77

      In reply to dontbeevil:

      As persistent and slightly obnoxious your obsessive posting about this issue is .. it pains me to admit ... you DO have a point.

  8. Avatar

    GT Tecolotecreek

    peer-to-peer walking talkie feature for the iPhone that would allow users to...

    How about walkie talkie allowing users to....


    Besides the typo one would have to wonder how useful it would be range wise as phones have pretty low power radio transmitters and without repeaters (aka cell towers) it would be pretty limited line of sight capability.

    • Avatar

      BeckoningEagle

      In reply to GT_Tecolotecreek:

      900Mhz can reach pretty far distances on low power. When Hurricane María brought the communications infrastructure in Puerto Rico to its knees, this would have been a God sent.


      I don't have information on how Apple was going to implement this, but speculating that it involved some sort of caching then it would have worked great if it had been available


      I send a message from my phone, it caches it and hands it off to several phones in a line of hundreds of people waiting for water or food.


      These people go home, and in the way they get a bit of cell signal from the few operating towers. Since carriers were allowing free roaming and sharing during the emergency, then there is a very likely scenario that these messages could jump from phone to phone to cell tower to phones and finally reach the intended target.


      I live 20 minutes from my parents house. During the emergency, because of the damage to the infrastructure I was not able to know if my parents and siblings were ok for more than a week. I know it sounds incredible, but it was a new reality for us.


      I'm of course, speculating on how I would have implemented this, not necessarily on how Apple would have implemented this, but I can see it working under specific circumstances and I'm dissapointed that they have gave it up.

      • Avatar

        GT Tecolotecreek

        In reply to BeckoningEagle:

        Actually it's range peer to peer is pretty limited, especially compared to VHF or UHF handheld units.

        Regarding your story about reaching your parents, let me do a ham radio PSA. You can get a ham radio license for next to nothing, FCC has made the test very easy to pass for a basic license (no morse code anymore) and 2 meter repeater capable radios are available for under $100.00. In an emergency/disaster scenario they will be the only thing working. The core principle of the ham radio community is emergency service and repeaters are built and maintained to be reliable through any type of emergency. Locally my radio club works directly OEM group during disaster such as fires and floods. If you are interested I'm sure their is a local club that can mentor you on getting started. I got my license after a wild fire took out all of our communications and power.

        • Avatar

          BeckoningEagle

          In reply to GT_Tecolotecreek:

          HAM is definitely the go to technology for this, but it takes preparation and equipment you don't plan on using unless this sort of thing happens. I don't know if they still require a big ass antenna as my neighbor had, but those antennas fell down with the winds.


          A phone, is a technology which is available to almost anybody. Poor people can even get it subsidized. You can also charge it with very small power banks when electricity or power generators are not available.


          Power was out in 100% of the island, and all generators coming into the island was being hoarded by FEMA, National Guard and Hospitals (for obvious reasons).


          I'm not saying that it is the best technology out there, but it is a good alternative when there are no other options.



    • Avatar

      Skolvikings

      In reply to GT_Tecolotecreek:

      Also how does Project ORGS (off-grid radio service) make sense? The letters in the acronym are in the wrong order.


      EDIT: all the other news sites are reporting it's Project OGRS so I'm assuming another typo. It's okay Mehedi, it happens to the best of us. Just grab another cup of coffee. :)

  9. Avatar

    faustxd9

    This almost sounds like it could be extended into a BBS like system. Of course then people might not like their resources being used by others.

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