A common misconception is that the terms ‘two way radio’ and ‘walkie talkie’ are interchangeable. It’s easy to see why: both devices don’t rely on cell phone towers for communication and they often look similar in appearance. However, as we’ll discuss in this article, there are key differences between the two.
The biggest difference between a walkie talkie and a two way radio is in the way we communicate through them. Walkie talkies are half-duplex devices. This means that when you’re using a walkie talkie, only one person (the one holding down the ‘talk’ button) can relay a message at a time.
In contrast, there are two way radios that are full-duplex. These allow you to transmit signals back and forth simultaneously, making it more comparable to a phone call. Because of this, some people consider the two way radio to be better than the walkie talkie.
While only one walkie talkie can transmit a signal at any one time, multiple can listen in. By default, a walkie talkie is always on ‘listen mode’ and you have to hold down a ‘push-to-talk’ (PTT) button in order to speak to someone. Walkie talkies produced these days are extremely portable and lightweight, and therefore suited to a wide variety of situations, from coordinating a large scale commercial operation to outdoor activities such as hunting or camping.
Two Way Radios
The term ‘two way radio’ describes any device that can both transmit and receive radio signals. Hence, technically, walkie talkies are a type of two way radio. However, not all two way radios are walkie talkies. This is because:
- There are full-duplex two way radios, as we’ve already mentioned above.
- All walkie talkies are portable nowadays, while some two way radios, like those mounted to the interior of a vehicle or fixed to a desk, aren’t.
Most commercial two way radios also utilize the PTT system so it’s no surprise that the average person can get confused. However, now we trust that you know better. So the next time, someone mixes up the two, you can school them with your superior knowledge on the subject!