WatchOS 5: How to Use Walkie-Talkie

Connect to friends and family directly from your Apple Watch

Two white collar workers using tin cans on a string to communicate.

 Planet Flem / Getty images

Walkie-Talkie is a new communication app for Apple Watch, available starting in watchOS 5. And, just like the name suggests, Walkie-Talkie is a real-time and direct way to talk back and forth with other Apple Watch users on watchOS 5 — similar to walkie-talkies of the past.

Walkie-Talkie works over an internet connection (not phone-call minutes) so if you don’t have the cellular connection Apple Watch, you’ll need to be on Wi-Fi or have your iPhone — same as data worked before.

Get Started With Walkie-Talkie App in watchOS 5

walkie-talkie functionality on watchOS 5
Walkie-Talkie demo.

The Walkie-Talkie app comes bundled with the latest watch operating system so after updating to watchOS 5 or buying an Apple Watch which comes with the latest software; you don’t need to download anything else to get started.

Add or Remove Contacts From Walkie-Talkie App

Contact card in Walkie-Talkie app
Contact card in Walkie-Talkie app.

While you don’t have to download anything to get started, the first thing you’ll need to do is to open the Walkie-Talkie app and add a contact. On first open of the app you’ll be shown a list of potential contacts — those people that have a compatible and updated Apple Watch. This list will grow as your friends and family members update to watchOS 5.

Select a person and they will be added to your list of Walkie-Talkie contacts. In its initial form, Walkie-Talkie is a direct path to your wrist and watch speaker, so you’ll want to select the privileged contacts carefully. When someone adds you, you have the option to allow or dismiss.

To remove someone after-the-fact, slide left on their yellow contact card and tap the red “X."

How To Become Available or Unavailable

Toggle Walkie-Talkie availability
Toggle Walkie-Talkie availability.

If you scroll to the very top of the yellow Walkie-Talkie contact cards you’ll see a toggle to become available or unavailable. If you are available, people can reach you at any time. Conversely, no one will be able to make a Walkie-Talkie connection to you when you are unavailable.

Can Someone Just Start Talking To Me Anywhere?

Even if you are available, you'll need to let someone connect with you each session. That way you'll know that someone has the potential to speak each time. After several minutes of no activity, the session closes out, until the next connection is made.

While someone could use Walkie-Talkie to try and prank you in a meeting by yelling silly things, accepting connections and the ability to be unavailable should make that hard to do.

Using The Walkie-Talkie App

Once you have added a Walkie-Talkie contact and they have accepted, you can talk back and forth directly. 

Tap and hold on the “Talk” button for the entire time you are speaking. When you’re finished, let go. The person on the other end will be able to press the “Talk” button once you let go.

The functionality and name are taken from old-style walkie talkies which could only support sending one transmission at a time. You would have no way of speaking while the other person was holding down the button to talk.

The Yellow Icon Explained

Yellow Walkie-Talkie icon on Apple Watch
Yellow Walkie-Talkie icon on Apple Watch. 

If you close the Walkie-Talkie app or navigate to something else on the Apple Watch, while still connected to someone, you’ll notice a yellow icon at the top, center of the screen. This icon provides quick access back to the app and conversation.

Tap it to go directly back to the app.

Other Useful Items About Walkie-Talkie

  • Walkie-Talkie conversations are currently one-on-one, though you can have multiple conversations happening with different people.
  • You can use AirPods or wireless headphones directly with Apple Watch and Walkie-Talkie conversations will go through the headphones and not the Apple Watch speaker. People around you will still be able to hear what you’re saying out loud, however, just like talking on the phone.
  • The volume of the person speaking is adjustable with the digital crown inside the Walkie-Talkie app.
  • A connection will remain persistent for about 5 minutes after the last communication before you’ll be asked if you want to connect with that person again.