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inTouch takes on Nextel’s Push-to-Talk

Clarity Communication Systems is breaking into Nextel’s walkie-talkie stranglehold with its inTouch Push-to-Talk solution. The technology combines a portable handset client with VoIP and SIP to deliver push-to-talk capability on standard CDMA wireless phones.

According to Clarity’s literature, the solution is being marketed to both businesses and individuals and can be used across disparate wireless networks on a variety of phone types. For the purpose of this review, I used a pair of Kyocera KX444 phones with Verizon service. Clarity installed is push-to-talk solution easy. I didn’t have to go through any of the hoops to install the service as my phones came programmed and ready to rock. So, I advise users to contact the company directly with any questions about implementing this solution for your firm.

Functionality

If you’re familiar with Nextel’s service, this is very similar. The first step is setting the phones up with one of the carriers who offers the service – it is currently available from Eloqui Wireless with others soon to follow. Once that decision is made, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to chatting walkie-talkie style all over the country.

For the sake of this review I’ll explain the use of the Kyocera phones, but the procedure is similar for any phone with a push-to-talk button. According to their literature, Clarity can actually configure just about any CDMA Brew phone to work with inTouch. So stay tuned for more models.

First step is turning the phone on and then getting logged into the inTouch system. It’s as simple as holding down the walkie-talkie button on the side. Then the screen illustrates two arrows going in opposite directions – which means you’re being logged in. The first time you do this you’ll have to enter your inTouch username and password, but subsequent connections will log you on automatically.

As with Nextel, you need to program in the other users with whom you want to connect, but that’s as easy as putting in their usernames. Once users have been entered, they can be grouped into different collections of people if you need to contact entire teams at once.

The visual cues on the phone tell you who is available and who’s busy so you can easily decide who will be around to take your call. In my mind it’s better than trying to reach a co-worker who might be stuck in a meeting or otherwise unreachable. With inTouch’s system you save time when you decide to contact people.

Adding and editing pals is easy and menu driven. You can also log off of the push-to-talk function with the phone on. The system logs off automatically when the phone is shut off. Additionally, Clarity provides a quick-start book that is only four pages but covers practically everything you need to know when using the product.

Overall Impressions

When you start using the inTouch system, the one tiny difference you’ll experience is the time to call and receive via the push-to-talk system. I felt that it was just a hair longer than Nextel’s network, but that could be because I spent a lot of time using it alone and seeing how long it took the signal to go up, follow the network and then come back down to the same location. When I used it with a colleague, it was quick and responsive at all times.

Finally, the ‘beep’ you hear with Clarity’s inTouch is funny because I fully expected any walkie-talkie cell phone to give me a resonating ‘gee-geek’, just like Nextel. I guess that’s just a measure of what we get used to.

Overall, the inTouch system takes very little getting used to and could be a great asset for the company or person who feels that they want to use a different cell provider than Sprint/Nextel while still enjoying push-to-talk convenience.

About Jeff Cutler

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