The PowerTalkie is an off-grid communications device that connects to your iPhone or Android smartphone via Bluetooth and allows you to continue to send text messages and voice messages when you go out of range of cellular or wifi signals. Some possible uses would be when camping in remote areas or perhaps when traveling to another country where you either don’t get a signal or international roaming rates are too expensive. It even has the ability to share your current location with others in your group to help you find each other when separated. It has an SOS button that will instantly inform your group members that you need help as well. However, the SOS mode has no capabilities to contact 911, Search & Rescue, or anyone else except for other Power Talkie users (so do not rely on this as your only means of calling for help).
Power Talkie has a very rugged design and is even waterproof and dust proof! This makes the Power Talkie a great option for those who want to maintain communications while off-grid in the great outdoors. Near the top of the radio, there is an attachment point where you can use the included carabiner to attach it to the outside of your backpack, purse, or belt loop. In future models, I would like to see some form of belt clip to give users more options for attaching their Power talkies to their bags and clothing.
With the antenna attached, the Power Talkie measures in at a little over 8 inches long, a little under 3 inches wide, and nearly an inch deep (making it a little big when compared to the competition). The size is mostly due to the built-in USB battery pack charger capability. Luckily, it’s still small enough to fit in most shirt and pants pockets.
One of the features I really liked about the Power Talkie was the built-in 6,000 MAh battery pack with integrated USB out charge port. This allows you to use the Power Talkie to recharge your iPhone/Android smartphone, or any other USB powered device! Other great features include the app’s ability to store maps offline as well as quick access to a compass, altimeter, and Lat/Lon GPS coordinates (which really comes in handy when navigating in unfamiliar territory). The offline map feature really comes in handy considering your other mapping apps will likely stop working when you lose cellular coverage. Just remember that you need to download your offline maps before you head out on each adventure while you still have internet access. A minor improvement with this feature would be the ability to download terrain, satellite, and trail maps instead of just street maps.
Power Talkie operates on a frequency of around 462-463MHz (which is in the FRS/GMRS frequency range), has an RF power output of 2 watts, and has a removable antenna. The claimed operational range stated by the manufacturer in the user manual is 3 kilometers / 1.8 miles in congested areas such as cities and forests, and 6 kilometers / 3.7 miles in open areas such as mountainous terrain and over open water such as lakes or the ocean. It has a maximum possible range of 30 kilometers / 18.6 miles with direct line of sight between two Power Talkie users when each are located on mountain peaks with an unobstructed view of each other.
In my testing, I found the range estimates to be fairly accurate. I haven’t been able to test the maximum range yet, but I was able to do testing both in an urban environment as well as while camping in the backcountry. In the urban environment, I was able to achieve 1 mile range and nearly 2 miles while in the woods. My various testing was done with the Power Talkie positioned in common places such as attached to my backpack, hanging from my belt, in my pants pocket, and in my shirt pocket. By far the best performance of it was when it was attached to my backpack. Holding up the Power Talkie above the head would improve the range, but that’s not very convenient. The best way to improve your range (short of climbing up the nearest hill) would be to purchase a higher gain antenna that covers the 462-463MHz frequency range. You can even get a car roof mount antenna to help you communicate while in the car on road trips. Another antenna option is an ultra tiny antenna. It won’t improve your signal, but it will make the Power Talkie more compact if you need to carry it in a small pocket or purse. I will include links to my recommended antennas at the end of the review below.
Setting up the device and using the app is relatively easy. However, I feel it could use a little more refinement on usability along with a better layout and interface labeling. I think an initial setup assistant with popup bubbles to introduce new users to the functions and features would be an extremely helpful addition to a future update of the app. Another improvement would be to print the instructions for the long press vs short press options on the back of the radio to help users that are not as tech savvy. I would also like to see the addition of the ability to transmit/share photos between Power Talkie users.
When testing the Power Talkie with a group of 4 users, I found communications within the group chat worked great! All users were able to send text and voice messages with all users simultaneously, and I only experienced a couple messages not being delivered which was probably due to being out of range or, in some cases, being too close (only a few feet apart) can cause this problem due to over modulation (too strong of a signal) which can impede the message from getting through.
Each set of Power Talkies comes in a very nice padded zipper case with a carry handle and an inner mesh zipper pocket. It’s a very nice touch to an already well-packaged and built product.
In summary, I think the Power Talkie is a fantastic option for families, friends, and groups who want to be able to communicate off-grid when camping, hiking, biking, traveling abroad, or even when the power goes out. I really like the very rugged waterproof design and the really solid feel in your hand. The built-in USB battery bank for recharging your phone and the ability to upgrade to a better antenna really make the Power Talkie stand-out from the competition.
Made in China
Manufacturer Price: $199.00
Ebay Price: $159
Amazon Price: $119
Visit the following links to learn more about Power Talkie & to purchase:
Add-on antenna upgrade options:
High gain portable antenna:
Mobile car mount antenna:
Ultra compact mini antenna: