If you’ve been searching for a cross-platform means of communication using voice messages, text and images that works on both internal wifi and cellular networks, then Voxer is the app for you. Voxer is designed to be a push-to-talk (PTT) walkie-talkie replacement that works on both local and global networks.
Using the Internet and local Wi-Fi connectability, Voxer removes the restraints associated with radio frequencies while also operating as a standalone cross-platform messaging service that gives WhatsApp a run for its money. You can send voice, text and picture messages between iOS or Android devices – for free!
The age-old concept of a walkie-talkie that depends on a maximum operating range (the more you pay, the bigger the range) is still valid in many situations. If you’re taking a trip to the mountains or an area of exceptionally bad mobile signal, walkie-talkies and spare batteries will serve you well and smartphones probably won’t. To put it frankly, Voxer is not a direct replacement for dedicated units that use radio frequency and various bands. Don’t get caught out cold in the wilderness!
That said, in many situations the app can serve this purpose. Voxer can also serve a more useful purpose, allowing communication between both iPhone and Android contacts using free voice, picture and text messages, much like WhatsApp but without the $0.99 price tag. The app even works in the same way, with users able to identify each other using their real phone number (though the number won’t be publicly visible).
After downloading and launching Voxer for the very first time, you will be prompted to register. All you’ll need to surrender is your name, a valid email and a password before the app lets you start talking to people. On the iPhone version I tested, the app requests access to your contacts (naturally), notifications and location. I set up two iPhones on the same network, with minimal profile information, and without any work on my part both devices could see each other straight away.
Voxer allows you to fill out your profile with city and country information and a custom profile picture, but none of that is necessary if all you want to do is chat. You can also look up users by name or email address, just tap the new conversation button in the top-right and search using the search box. It can be tricky finding people by name and picture only, though it’s nice to have access to the full Voxer database.
With iMessage, WhatsApp, Skype, and good old SMS, communication is something we definitely take for granted these days. Siri and Android speech-to-text features are nice for composing text messages, but none of these services allow you to send audio snippets. That’s where Voxer comes in.
At the bottom of the chat window is the push-to-talk button – tap and hold it, wait for the signature walkie-talkie beep to finish and begin speaking. Before you’ve let go of the PTT button the person you are speaking to will begin to hear your message, and in true two-way style only one person can technically “talk” at a time. Of course, this isn’t a problem because Voxer lets you replay any audio message sent in case you miss something.
To hear a message again tap the “play” button next to it, and Voxer will run through the whole conversation, message by message. This is a particularly nice feature, bolstered by the fact that each message displays the duration and a location pointer, for seeing where the message was sent from. The ability to send an “I’ll wait for you here” message without having to describe where you are is a pretty nifty feature I can actually see myself using.
In addition to voice, there are two extra buttons at the bottom of the screen for photos and text, both are nice features that I definitely take for granted since iMessage arrived with iOS 5. Tap the chat settings button in the top-right corner while viewing a chat to change personal and chat preferences. You can add more participants to the chat along the top of the screen, mute speakerphone, clear message history and block contacts if you need to. There’s also one more feature that I really wish Apple would implement, and that’s the ability to mute push notifications on a per-chat basis, so if you’re part of a loud group chat you can check in when you need to as opposed to being inundated with notifications all the time.
Finally there’s one last little feature that might just pique your interest if you’re not already rushing to the App Store, and that’s the Note to Self feature. From the main chat list, tap the Settings cog in the top-left, choose Account followed by Profile and then Note to Self. This places a chat titled Note to Self on the main chat list which serves as a dictaphone, allowing you to quickly add voice notes.
Aside from a few feature requests I can’t find much to fault about Voxer, it’s both genuinely useful and fun to play with. The ability to set up a public Voxer voicemail and host it online would definitely be a feature I’d love to see, and an easier way to connect with all Voxers in your area would be great too.
If you’re young at heart and always wanted walkie-talkies for Christmas then you’ve just found your new favorite app. If you’re working in an office, on a building site or somewhere else where quick voice messages are useful then it might be one of the best apps you can download. If you’re in an area where mobile reception drops calls, but you can still send an email then Voxer might also appeal to you too. And if you’ve not yet fallen for WhatsApp messenger and want a different, entirely free way to communicate cross-platform you can do a lot worse than Voxer. That’s why it’s on our Best Of iPhone Apps page, where it should be!
Have you used Voxer? What did you think? Any features you’d love to see? Have your say in the comments below this post.