Zello is a free walkie-talkie app for smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. The app requires an Internet connection to work properly, whether it’s through Wi-Fi or a mobile data network. Unlike the standard calls you can make on the device of your choice, Zello connects you to fellow users and radio channels where large groups can talk regardless of distance.
Unfortunately, if you lose internet in an emergency, Zello won’t be of much use. If you need a truly off-the-grid app, goTenna may be a better alternative, since it enables text and GPS while offline. goTenna requires external attachments to work, but on the upside, it's lightweight and weatherproof.
How to get started with Zello
Install the Zello app. Open up the App Store or Google Play and install Zello. This shouldn’t take long if you have a reliable connection.
Sign up for an account. If you don’t have an existing Zello account, you’ll need to make one from scratch. The process is quick, only asking for a username, an e-mail address, a password and an optional phone number. You won’t be able to change your username after creating an account, so make sure your spelling is correct.
Add contacts. By entering your phone number and e-mail address, Zello can access your address book to connect you to your contacts. If you prefer to add contacts manually, the app has a search function allows you to find users by username, email or phone number. There’s even an integrated QR scanner that allows you add emergency rescue stations as a contact. And, of course, there are unfriending and blocking options if you ever need them.
How to reach your contacts
Tap and hold. To get in touch with your family and friends, all you need to do is select the Contacts field in the main menu. When you’re on the contact page, tap the name of the person you want to reach, and hold microphone button to send a voice message. Pressing this button activates Zello’s walkie talkie, so the person to whom you’re reaching out will receive the message once you release your hold. If your contact isn’t logged in or connected to internet when you send the message, they’ll hear it once they can access the app.
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