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Features to Look for When Buying a Walkie Talkie

An effective and quick way of communicating over short distances is to use a walkie talkie. If you plan to buy one, this Buzzle article lists a few points that will help you pick the right walkie talkie for you.
Features to look for when buying a walkie talkie
Did You Know?
The first walkie talkie was invented by Senior Constable Frederick William Downie of the Victoria Police Australia, way back in 1923.
A walkie talkie can be a very handy gadget for short-distance communication between two people. They are especially useful when an individual wants to constantly remain in touch with another individual at a remote location. This versatile instrument which was initially only used by the police, now even finds its use as a baby monitor (one-way radio). If you're out to buy one of these versatile devices, you might want to keep a few simple tips in mind so as to pick one that best suits your need. Let's take a look.

Frequency
Most walkie talkies available in the market function on Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radio waves that fall between 400 - 512 MHz. These are ideal for use over short distances or indoors. Over longer distances, Very High Frequency (VHF) radio waves are preferred. These have a range between 136 - 174 MHz. VHF walkie talkies could be used if you are out trekking or camping. Both these radios are mainly used for commercial purposes and by large organizations. Apart from these, there also are the FRS (Family Radio Service) and GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service), which are mainly used for recreational purposes. GMRS works on 23 different frequencies, out of which 7 are shared by FRS. FRS is reserved mainly for personal use, and most recreational walkie talkies use this type of radio. A point to remember would be that a walkie talkie of a particular frequency can only communicate with another walkie talkie operating at the same frequency.

Range
Most walkie talkies used for recreational purposes have a small range of up to 2 miles. GMRS is mainly used by commercial organizations and has a much greater range than the conventional FRS radios. You, however, would need to procure a license from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to use one of these devices.

Battery Life
Walkie talkies either come with built-in rechargeable batteries or use other standard batteries. These usually can power the unit for 2 - 12 hours, depending on the device. For extensive use, devices with inbuilt rechargeable batteries are ideal (provided you have access to a power source), whereas walkie talkies that use standard batteries are a better choice if you are out camping. Wakie talkies that use AA batteries are a lot better than the ones that use AAA batteries, as the former has a much higher capacity. These, however, would probably be a lot bulkier than the ones that use AAA batteries.

Build Quality
Almost all walkie talkies are made of plastic. The quality and durability of the plastic, however, differs. Most regular walkies have a high-gloss plastic body. These usually fit just perfectly in your palm and have grooves along the sides for better grip. Higher grade devices use a rubberized plastic body that feels a lot more rugged and is often dust and waterproof. They also come with a hands-free option, wherein you can make and receive calls using a small earpiece that fits snugly into your ear. The earpiece has a cable that connects it to the walkie. Some versions that are meant for kids allow for the walkie talkie to be strapped on to the wrist.

Additional Features
There a lot more features that can be found on high-end walkie talkies. Some of these are very useful, let's take a look.

- Channels
The standard walkie talkies that are used for recreational activities operate on just a couple of channels. More advanced devices offer up to 22 channels. The more the number of channels, larger is the number of people who can connect with each other on the device.

- Wattage
Wattage is another factor you may want to consider while buying a walkie talkie best suited for your needs. The wattage ranges from 0.5 W to 5.0 W; the higher the wattage the better the range.

- Privacy codes
Privacy codes allow for your calls to be encrypted, accessible only to the other person with the same privacy code.

- Backlit display
These displays help you see the contents of the display in the dark. These are especially handy when you're outdoors.

- GPS
This is a rather useful feature to have in your walkie talkie if you're out trekking or exploring a new place.

- Weather updates
Some walkie talkies have weather updates that are frequently updated on the screen of their walkie talkie.

- Digital Compass
The compass along with the GPS system on the device can make life a lot easier for someone out exploring the wild.

- Flashlight
Your walkie talkie can double up as a guiding light for you when you're outdoors in the dark.

- Thermometer
A built-in thermometer in some walkie talkies is a welcome addition when you are out camping and helps you gauge the conditions better.

- Noise-cancellation
Some walkie talkies have a dedicated mic for noise-cancellation. This is a very useful feature if you need to use the device in a noisy environment.

With advances in electronics and encryption, these little devices are extremely useful and safe to use. Before you head out to actually buy a set, it would be wise to compare various options online or physically at retail stores. Over and out.
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Published: December 18, 2013
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