Of course we agree on the fact, that cellphones aren't that good in the great outdoors cause they just don't work if you are too far from civilization. That's why we use devices like Walkie-Talkies etc.

So, since everyone of us has a smartphone already, is there any hard- or software to transform these into outdoor-prove devices? So that I can stay in contact with my group even if there isn't any connection to the mobile network (and wifi of course)?!

Aravona added a good point. It's eventually even cheaper to buy a common walkie-talkie than a phone-addon (especially if it's something like iWlkieTalkie ;P). However, just share your thoughts nevertheless if it would be more expensive.


This question is about connecting smartphones together not about interconnecting walkie-talkies and smartphones.

The situation is like this: me and my buddy do any kind of outdoor activity where we neither have wifi nor mobile network. Nevertheless we want to stay connected. Since we both already have a smartphone I wondered if we can connect these two smartphones, so that we can use them to speak/text to each other.

  • So you want the phones to communicate directly without using a relay?
    – user2766
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 9:36
  • @Liam Yes, but over at least mid-ranged distances (so creating a wifi-hotspot etc. wouldn't fit).
    – OddDeer
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 9:43
  • Any update team? Commented May 13, 2021 at 4:07

4 Answers 4


The answer is, you can do this, but I don't recommend it at all. Wallow talkie apps for the iPhone and android phones should be considered nothing except toys.

  1. Firstly, the range of wifi and Bluetooth is abysmal and the use of the cellular system does increase that range, but that defeats the why try in a remote location with poor or nom-existent coverage.
  2. the apps do no run in the background, that means everyone would need to run their phone ON at all times and would therefore burn the battery charge very quickly. This also would defeat any use for this as an emergency situation, because unless everyone is poised to listen to you, you will not be heard.

There are very inexpensive 2 way radios suitable for camping in even wet conditions, and they don't sit in a full on state to work. While the radio is listening and the squelch tuned properly, most of the radio isn't even powered on, and the battery will last much much longer than your iphone will.

The frequencies used by many 2 way radios have a much greater range than any of the frequencies used by cell phone. A walkie talkie using CB bands (11meter wavelengths), can send and receive signals up to 10 miles away under most conditions, and when using special features such as single sideband modulation, can reach 100s of miles at the right times of the day.

Don't try to use your cell phone for this, this is like the difference between using designer sneakers for ice climbing when you should be using yak tracks.

  • 1
    A handheld CB band walkie talkie can send signal miles away with clear line of site, but with a much shorter range in most normal conditions. Even a car CB with an full size antenna on the roof typically reaches only a few miles. I'd be surprised if you could consistently get more than a mile of range while hiking in normal terrain using a handheld with typical short antenna with no ground plane. Getting 100's of miles of range over SSB is done by skipping the signal off the ionosphere, so you could be in a situation where you can reach someone 200 miles away, but not someone 5 miles away.
    – Johnny
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 21:14
  • The point is trying to use a pair of smart phones as walkie talkie replacements is not a smart idea.
    – Escoce
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 21:16
  • 1
    I understand that, but you're giving unrealistic expectations of handheld radios - you're not going to get 10 miles of range between any handhelds in typical terrain.
    – Johnny
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 21:33

Not really. The only long-distance communication method phones have is GSM/CDMA-based, and requires a tower (at which point, just call each other).

Other signals they carry are usually Bluetooth and WiFi, with an effective range of respectively 10 and maybe 30 meters.


I'm a little bit surprised about these answers. There are devices out there doing exactly what you want.

I hope it's okay to name actual product names here?

Me and my wife are using something called "GoTenna". It's like an antenna which is connected via bluetooth to your smartphone. It connects with other "GoTennas" in the area.

A few key facts:

  • You can achieve mid-ranged distances (from my experience about 3 miles)
  • You can connect (and broadcast) to any other goTenna device
  • It comes always in pairs

Read more in the FAQ

Especially interesting in this context for example:

Why is goTenna better than a walkie-talkie?

  • Integrates with the smartphone you already have on you
  • Texts allow for less miscommunication (and poor timing) than real-time voice
  • Delivery confirmation & automatic message retry for one-to-one messaging
  • Chat with specific individuals or groups, or anyone within range of you
  • Don't worry about being on the same channel or having your conversation interrupted by others
  • Share your location and points of interest on detailed offline maps
  • End-to-end encryption for total privacy
  • Small and light form factor
  • Upgradeable to include new features via firmware & software updates
  • this doesn't cover off the main problem @Escoce raised: battery life, and this has got to be one of the top priorities.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 9:53
  • @RoryAlsop Walkie-talkie on standby is probably 12 hours, Smartphone is usually >24, and gotenna claim 20 hours. (has it's own battery). 'text message' and GPS location sharing will use a load less battery than voice comms, also.
    – Roddy
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 13:35
  • Roddy - Walkie-talkie on standby is > a week. 20 hours is definitely a deal breaker for me - that's no safety margin at all.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 15:14
  • @RoryAlsop a week - Where do you find those? These show 10 hours on NiMh. or 26 hours on alkaline disposables. motorolasolutions.com/en_us/products/two-way-radios/….
    – Roddy
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 20:09
  • Will try and find the specs on the set I got the kids for skiing. We didn't need to charge them over a 4 day period, and even then only did to be extra safe
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 20:26

As other answers point out, their are issues with using your cell phone as a walkie-talkie. The answer as they point out is you, can but it really does not meet the need.

Your need/desire is to communicate with cell phones when "you are too far from civilization". Depending on what country you are in and/or your desire to communicate lawfully, the solution is to build and bring your own cellular network with you.

Build yourself a mobile cell tower/network, install it/them on a vehicle(s) parked strategically, or a single vehicle and a balloon. Call others in your private network, and everything works just like being in civilization, except no roaming fees, and no minutes deducted.

  • Keep in mind that the ceulluar bands are licensed spectrum in the USA, so running your own cell tower on carrier owned frequencies can subject you to steep fines from the FCC. The carriers are very protective of their spectrum and will track your transmitter down if they find interference.
    – Johnny
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 21:17
  • Keep in mind 94% of the dry land on our planet is not in the US. Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 11:43
  • That is true, though in some countries, interfering with communications will get you immediate incarceration. So check local laws before you setup a personal cell tower.
    – Johnny
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 18:03
  • @JamesJenkins Of course. However, other countries with well-developed communications infrastructure are likely to have similar regulations to the US, so we're actually talking about much more than 6% of the world's land surface. (It's certainly illegal in the UK, and probably everywhere in the EU, which gives you another 3% for a start.) Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 13:28

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