Gadgets for humans

Report: Apple’s ‘Project OGRS’ almost turned the iPhone into a walkie-talkie

Please make this a reality, Apple

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Remember those old push-to-talk phones? You know, the ones that basically worked like a walkie-talkie, letting people chat without connecting to a cellular network or dialing a phone number? As it turns out, Apple might’ve tried to stick a walkie-talkie-like feature of its own on future iPhones. The feature has since been put on hold.

A report by The Information states Apple was working with Intel on the technology. It was codenamed Project OGRS (Off Grid Radio Service) at Apple and Project Shrek at Intel. Who says giant tech corporations don’t have a sense of humor?

To be clear, this wasn’t like the WiFi and cellular walkie-talkie app on the Apple Watch. There are a myriad of apps that can turn the iPhone into a pseudo walkie-talkie using typical networks (and they’re subject to the same reliability issues as those networks).

Instead, this feature would work more like an old-school walkie-talkie, creating an independent link between iPhones across long distances, no cellular or Wi-Fi signal required. The Information describes it as “something like a walkie talkie for text messages, giving people the ability to communicate in areas unserved by wireless carriers.” Though texts seem to be the emphasis, it’s not hard to imagine the feature could be expanded to voice communications in the future as well.

It’s not hard to see how such a technology would be useful. It could also be essential for people working in remote areas or emergency responders. Even in 2019, I often come across areas with little-to-no coverage while traveling within the US. And it could save you money and headaches when traveling internationally. If you’re mainly using your phone to communicate with co-travelers, you wouldn’t have to pay exorbitant roaming fees or buy a separate SIM card when abroad.

The project was reportedly shelved when Rubén Caballero, who had been heading Apple’s modem efforts, left the company earlier this year. This isn’t to say the project won’t ever come to fruition, but it’s at least on hold for now. If you’re reading this, Apple, please make it a reality. Many a traveller will thank you.

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Published August 26, 2019 — 19:57 UTC

Apple Puts ‘Walkie Talkie’ iPhone Project on Hold on The Information