PTT, or Push To Talk, is pretty common for business teams that are spread out and I can see why. You may need instant information from a peer who’s at another job-site, for example. Using PTT, your phone is essentially a half-duplex, walkie-talkie so you can have a semi-real-time conversation. Well, that’s assuming you can translate the oft-garbled communications; I think my vintage G.I.Joe walkie-talkie kit from the 1970’s sounded better in some cases.
Some U.S. carriers offer handsets that support the PTT service, but it requires specific hardware and typically works only within the particular carrier’s network. HipVoice intends to change the rules for PTT with their service that’s carrier independent. Another rule they’re changing is the traditional definition of PTT, because their clever solution is designed very differently from standard Push To Talk services. You still press a button to talk, but what happens after that is completely different from today’s PTT.
In this demonstration video showing HipVoice on two BlackBerry devices, one on AT&T and the other on Verizon Wireless, you’ll see what I mean. There’s a bit of a delay between the sender and the recipient, which tipped me off that HipVoice is different under the hood. And then there’s the PTT History feature where you can replay any of your received messages.
While it’s a super feature, it makes me think that what HipVoice calls PTT is really an application that digitally records your voice message and then quickly sends the recorded file to your recipient. On their handset, the HipVoice client application plays it back. It’s not quite as fast as true PTT, but it does improve it in two ways: you have a history of your conversations (well, half of them anyway) and it’s offers far better audio quality. HipVoice says that they can store all messages on their server for audit purposes, making the service useful in the enterprise where this type of communication is required to be archived. An additional benefit: the company says that their PTT service works between handhelds and desktop computers. That’s a nice feature for quick communications between a job-site and the home office.
HipVoice already supports Windows Mobile, Motorola/Symbol devices and other platforms, mainly through OEMs and costs as little as $10 a month. The BlackBerry support launched a few days ago and the company is finalizing support for Symbian handsets soon. Additionally, the plans include HipVoice on Apple and Android devices. HipVoice might not be PTT as we’ve known it, but perhaps it’s the natural evolution of PTT.