Zello Vs. Walkie-Talkies: Which Is Best?

Compare Zello and walkie-talkies to find the best communication tool for your needs. Learn about features, pros, cons, and use cases.
walkie talkie vs zello

Zello is one of the most popular walkie-talkie apps today. Besides the general popularity of walkie-talkie apps, Zello has proven to be a reliable app. It has even been used for mission-critical communication over the years. But is Zello better than a traditional walkie-talkie? 

For short answer, although the Zello app is convenient, other factors will determine if it’s the best choice for you. Such factors include the intended use, budget, and location. And often, the ultimate decision depends on personal preferences. 

In this article, we’ll provide a detailed comparison of the features of the two choices and help you choose the right one for your needs. We’ll cover topics such as range, cost, durability, and battery life, to name a few.

Let’s dive in.

What Is Zello?

zello logo
Zello Logo

Zello is a walkie-talkie app, which means it mimics walkie-talkies. It uses WiFi or a cellular network, allowing users to talk over long distances. As a walkie-talkie app, Zello allows you to make individual or group calls with the push of a button. 
You can download Zello from your app store for free. There is also a paid subscription called Zello Work which offers higher security and more features. But this paid version is suitable for businesses and organizations. Casual users can use the free version.

How Does Zello Work?

zello screenshots
Zello App Screenshots on iOS

Zello can turn any smart device into a walkie-talkie. And as a user-friendly app, anyone can use it. All you need to do is to download the app and install it. To join Zello, you must create a user account. Once you create your account, you can use the app. 

The next thing to do is to search for contacts, or you could even invite friends. There are also hundreds of channels on Zello, and you can join anyone that interests you. You can as well create your own channel. 

When you want to send a voice message, you must press and hold the large circle on your screen. That circle is the microphone you talk into. Always remember to remove your hand from the circle so the other person can reply.

Advantages of Zello

Below are the benefits of using the Zello app: 

1. Increased Range and Usability

Zello works with WiFi or mobile networks, making communication possible over longer distances. It connects users across countries, continents, and cultures as long as there’s mobile coverage. Users can even create new channels or join existing channels that can connect up to 6,000 users. 

2. Secure Communication

Zello secures users’ information using 256-bit AES to encrypt private messages. It also uses 1024-bit RSA and TLS to improve security. Zello Work also offers higher protection by encrypting both one-to-one and channel communication.

3. Cost-Effective

Zello is a free app. All you need is to download it and access it with WiFi or a mobile network. You don’t need to buy dedicated hardware because it works on your existing device. 

But there’s also Zello work, the paid subscription plan for businesses and organizations. But for casual users, the consumer Zello app is cost-effective. 

4. Message Replay

Zello allows you to save voice messages and replay them later. Hence, you can revisit old messages and listen to 

5. Compatibility 

Zello provides a solution for people who want to use both the Zello app and legacy radios. With tested gateways, your Zello app can connect with your existing walkie-talkie devices. Hence, you can have a more robust network. 

zello app
Zello App

What is Walkie Talkie?

A walkie-talkie or handheld transceiver is a portable radio for two-way communication. The walkie-talkie sends and receives audio signals from a transmitter to the receiver using radio waves. They transmit over short distances, usually 5 to 36 miles.

How Walkie-Talkies Work

Walkie-talkies use radio waves to send and receive voice signals. They make communication possible with the help of other components like the speaker, microphone, and antenna. Transceivers don’t require cellular networks, which makes them suitable for remote areas. 

To send a message or start a conversation over the radio, you must press the push-to-talk (PTT) button and talk into the microphone. Your transmission then travels as an audio signal to the receiver’s walkie-talkie so they hear you through the speaker. But you must release the PTT button after talking so the other person can respond. 

Read our article on how walkie-talkies work for an in-depth explanation. 

walkie talkie 1
Walkie Talkie

Advantages of Walkie-Talkies

Some of the significant advantages of walkie-talkies are: 

1. Easy to Use and Setup

Walkie-talkies are easy to use, and you can almost use them right out of the box. All you need to do is set the channel, push the PTT button, and start talking. 

2. Reliable Communication

Walkie-talkies help you communicate anywhere, even in remote areas. Although they only cover a short range, they are very reliable. 

Typically, walkie-talkies allow you to communicate in areas where there is no mobile signal as long as both users are within the communication range. Hence, hikers, campers, mountaineers, and other users in remote locations prefer to use them. 

3. Rugged Construction

Most walkie-talkies have tough casings, making them strong enough to withstand different environments. They have dust-proof and drop-proof to suit various settings. 

Some transceivers are even waterproof. Generally, walkie-talkies are more suitable for construction workers, motorcyclists, kayakers, hikers, and campers because of their durability. 

4. Longer Battery Life

Good walkie-talkie batteries can last for 17 hours and more. Some also use replaceable batteries, making it easy to change them when the current one runs out. Such handhelds are suitable for locations like campsites, mountains, and hike trails, where there are no charging points.  

Factors to Consider When Choosing between Zello and Walkie Talkies

Several crucial factors will guide you when choosing between Zello and walkie-talkies. They include: 

1. Range 

One crucial factor to consider is how far you wish to communicate. Walkie-talkies cover a shorter range than Zello, so Zello is the preferred option for unlimited coverage. 

With a walkie-talkie, you can only communicate over several miles, typically between 5 to 36 miles. And often, obstructions like trees and buildings can further shorten the range. 

However, Zello relies on a cellular network, allowing you to communicate without a range limit. You can talk to people in different regions, countries, and continents. 

2. Cost 

Generally, Zello is less expensive than a walkie-talkie if you already have a smart device. The Zello app is free to download. All you need is mobile data or WiFi. 

Although the yearly subscription for the paid Zello Works costs $81.6, it’s for businesses and organizations. On the other hand, walkie-talkies have an upfront fee that can fall between $30 to $200, depending on the brand and features. 

And for a more advanced walkie-talkie, especially for businesses and organizations, you will need to pay for a license. But like with Zello, license-free walkie-talkies are ideal for casual users. 

3. Signal Strength 

Mobile phone signals may be unavailable in remote areas, making it impossible to use Zello. But walkie-talkie provides clearer communication and better coverage in remote areas. 

Hence, you need a walkie-talkie if you plan to go hiking or camping or in areas outside mobile coverage. Typically, Zello will fail in such areas.

4. Privacy and Security 

The Zello app allows you to create password-protected or private channels to talk without no one eavesdropping. As long as you set a strong password and protect it, it remains difficult for hackers to steal your account and information. 

The Zello app also uses the AES-256 encryption method to code messages. Hence, it becomes difficult for eavesdroppers to decode your message. So for businesses or organizations that prioritize information security, Zello may be the best option. 

Conversely, walkie-talkies generally use shared channels. Hence, anyone on the same channel and within the communication range can hear your conversation. But you can use privacy codes to reduce interference.

For organizations, digital walkie-talkies provide higher security using digital encryption methods to prevent interception. It is also advisable to get licensed radios that offer restricted channels. But such features come at a higher cost, adding to the price of purchasing walkie-talkies.   

5. Durability 

Zello app’s durability depends on the device you installed it on. But generally, most smart devices are not very durable. They can’t withstand harsh environments and may get damaged when they fall. 

However, most walkie-talkies have rugged casings. Their tough exterior can withstand rough environments, multiple falls, and extreme temperatures. Some walkie-talkie models also have features like, waterproof, anti-slip, and explosion-proof to protect against challenging environments. 

So, if durability is an important criterion, walkie-talkies are your best bet. They are more suitable for construction sites, hiking, and bike trails. 

6. Battery Life 

Zello relies on your smart device’s battery, so if your device is down, you can’t use the Zello app. Usually, your smart devices will run down faster than walkie-talkies because you use them for other things. Fortunately, you can recharge with a power bank if you are in an area where you can’t charge.

Walkie-talkies are dedicated devices used mainly for communication. Hence, their batteries last longer. Some walkie-talkies use replaceable batteries, so that you can buy an extra battery for use. 

mobile radio and walkie talkie
Walkie-Talkie and Mobile Radio

Final Thoughts 

Zello is a walkie-talkie app that mimics a push-to-talk walkie-talkie. Walkie-talkies themselves are two-way communication devices that use radio waves to enable communication. 

Zello and walkie-talkies offer similar benefits. But choosing which is best for you will depend on factors like the cost, required range, and battery life. 

About The Arthur
Picture of Kenny Zhang
I've been running a factory that manufactures two-way radios & their accessories. We want to share some knowledge and news about Walkie-Talkie from the sight of the supplier.

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