Two-Way Radio Buyer's Guide
Whether you’re looking for a two-way radio for personal use or business, we break down the ins and outs of what to consider and how to choose a two-way radio for any situation.
What Is a Two-Way Radio?
A two-way radio is a radio that is capable of both transmitting and receiving wireless communications. There are three main types of two-way radios: handheld (walkie talkie), mobile (fixed mount), and base stations. In this article, we’ll review the different types of handheld walkie talkies and features you should look for when considering a purchase.
How do walkie talkies work?
Walkie talkies are battery-powered and have a transmitter/receiver and an antenna that sends and receives information over radio waves. They are used for bidirectional communications with other users on the same channel/frequency.
For walkie talkies to work at their best, it’s important to consider what affects a two-way radios range. Here are some ways you can ensure that you’re getting the best experience when using your walkie talkie:
- Make sure you use fully charged batteries
- When transmitting a message, speak loudly and clearly into the microphone
- Obstacles and terrain can limit range, so finding higher ground can improve the range and clarity of your message
- Be aware that if you’re using your walkie talkie in residential areas or cities, buildings can reduce range performance
If you’re looking for walkie talkies to be used in business settings such as in a warehouse, for retail, hospitality, or a restaurant environment, consider opting for business-specific two-way radios that can accommodate for indoor use over multiple floors and built-up areas.
Do I Need a License to Use a Walkie Talkie?
Cobra walkie talkies operate on the Family Radio Service (FRS) frequencies and don’t require a walkie talkie license, whether you’re using them for business or personal use. Many people aren’t aware that the Federal Communications Commission or FCC requires a license to use a two-way radio operating on the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) system if your radio is above 2 Watts. Licensing for GMRS for a family allows any family member, regardless of age, the ability to operate GMRS stations within the licensed system.
Can different two-way radios communicate?
Yes, regardless of brand, provided the radios support FRS and/or GMRS and use the same frequencies and squelch tones/codes. As long as all walkie talkies are set to the same channel number and squelch, they’ll be able to communicate.
Two-Way Radios for Business
Business walkie talkies are great for communicating on the job whether you’re in a warehouse, office, or work in hospitality, retail, or food and beverage industries. Clear communication is essential, so you’ll need a two-way radio that is professional and discreet, but also can cover the area you’ll be working in. The Cobra PX650 is designed for use up to 300,000 sq feet or a 25-floor range. They have an excellent runtime of up to 18 hours, they’re waterproof, and they have a voice-activated transmission which means you can start speaking and your walkie talkie will automatically transmit without the need to press a button.
If you’re looking to equip employees with a clear method of communication, look for the following features:
- Long distance range – There’s no use in having a method of communication that won’t cover your team member’s location. Invest in walkie talkies that have more range than you need to avoid lost communication.
- Long battery life – You don’t need a walkie talkie losing charge in the middle of a shift, so make sure you choose a product with a long life span and rechargeable batteries.
- Professional design and holster – Discretion and ease of use is important for employees who are on their feet and need to be mobile.
- Privacy code capabilities on channels – Keep your conversations secure and allow teams to operate on separate channels to keep communication clear.
- VOX – Voice activated transmission means your employees can activate their device when their hands are full, for ultimate flexibility.
Personal Use Walkie Talkies
Outdoor walkie talkies are a necessity for adventurers. Whether you're boating, biking, hiking, or paddling, walkie talkies are an excellent way to stay in touch in areas that have poor cell service, or if you simply don’t want to bring your phone with you. They’re also a necessity for emergencies as a backup communication option, especially if you’re in a low coverage area, even if you do have your cell phone with you. Here are the most important features to look for:
- Durability and compact design – Look for a walkie talkie that is lightweight, doesn’t take up too much space, and can withstand the terrain in case of a fall. A robust two-way radio is a great alternative to potentially damaging an expensive phone on an adventure.
- Waterproof features – The last thing you need when you’re trying to enjoy nature is to lose or ruin your device on the water. If you’re planning to be paddling or boating, a waterproof and floating option, like the Cobra ACXT645, offers is essential. Water-resistance is also a good feature to have in case you’re caught in the rain.
- Long range – Since cell service is usually poor in remote areas, make sure you can stay in touch with others, even if they’re miles away. A long range is particularly helpful during off-roading excursions and backwoods camping. Accidents can occur at any time, and if your cell service is poor, you’ll need a reliable way to contact someone for help if it’s needed.
- Weather channels – Make sure you can monitor the weather with access to NOAA weather alerts so you can always be prepared, especially in high-altitude areas, low areas that are susceptible to flash floods, or out on the water. When the weather can change quickly and without much warning, weather channels can help alert you to a potentially dangerous situation.
- Emergency alerts - Having a walkie talkie with you in case of an emergency is essential when you can’t depend on your cell phone or are in a situation where you have limited capabilities and need to rely on the quick press of an emergency button.
Kid-friendly Walkie Talkies
Walkie talkies can be fun and practical for families with children. A set of kid-friendly walkie talkies can provide hours of entertainment during sleepovers, pretend play, or on vacations. They’re also a great way to keep in touch with family members while you do different activities.
Whether you’re looking for a walkie talkie for your family, friends, or for work, Cobra two-way radios provide reliable communication and a range of choices to suit all your needs.