As a kid, I remember how pleased I was when an uncle came home from an overseas trip with a pair of walkie talkies for me. My friends and I had hours of fun playing with those things. Me being me, I even managed to hook an antenna up to them and use them as a little shortwave radio transmitter.
Voice is still the killer communication medium for a lot of things. It is so much less ambiguous than text. You can tell when someone’s saying something in jest or when they’re serious. It’s more personal, and in the age of the touch screen, sometimes it’s more efficient. Why bother pecking out a text message, or risking annoying errors with speech recognition, if you can just fire off a quick voice message.
For that reason, there’s no shortage of push to talk apps for the common mobile platforms.
For one on one chats and private groups, my favourite of these apps on iOS is Voxer. While I’ve not personally experienced it on Android, I have seen references to people using it there with TalkBack. On iOS, Voxer is fully accessible, with the developers having improved accessibility with VoiceOver over time in response to user feedback.
In terms of its feature set, I like voxer because it incorporates both text and voice, so you can use whatever medium suits you at any given time. If you have family spread around the world, you can text for free. Yes, iMessage will let you do this too, but some of my family are on Android. My son is a huge Android fan.
Unlike a number of these apps, there seems to be no time limit on the voice clips. If there is, it’s a big one, since I’ve had Voxer messages lasting up to 30 minutes. Voice quality is good, and the platform is stable. There is no need to hold down the talk key, so it’s easier to use for longer messages.
Voxer streams. With some push to talk apps, you have to wait until the message has been completed before it is sent. But you can start hearing a Voxer message even before the sender has finished it.
Contact and FaceBook integration is seamless, and a number of features that are in-app purchases with other apps are built in, such as the ability to set up group chats.
If there’s one big feature I’d like in Voxer, it’s custom notification sounds for specific contacts. Hopefully that will come.
Edit. When I originally wrote this post, it was in response to a tweet which said that Voxer for Windows was coming. However, when I investigated a little more, it turns out that they actually mean Windows Phone 8, which of course remains completely inaccessible to blind people. I’m disappointed that they aren’t yet headed to the desktop after all, and of course frustrated by the continuing inaccessibility of Windows Phone 8. Nevertheless, if you use an accessible mobile platform, check Voxer out, it’s a great app.