Zello ‘Walkie-Talkie’ App A Huge Hit As Irma Approaches, But There’s A Catch

The mobile app Zello has gained notoriety as a so-called “walkie-talkie” app in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. With Hurricane Irma now expected to batter parts of Florida, Zello remains immensely popular on both Apple’s iTunes Store and Google’s Play Store, but is it really as easy as pushing the button to talk, and listening for other people to reply, just like it is when operating a physical walkie-talkie?

A report from ABC affiliate WPLG Local 10 News detailed how there has been a lot of misleading information spread about Zello, suggesting that the Zello walkie-talkie app, which is meant to help people communicate with each other without phone numbers, does not require Wi-Fi or cellular data. With many people believing that to be true, the company took to social media to debunk the misinformation, and encourage people to spread the truth about its app.

“Please inform others:

Zello REQUIRES Internet using either WiFi or cellular data network of at least 2G.”

As further explained by AppleInsider, having a solid Wi-Fi or data connection won’t be enough to ensure that Zello’s walkie-talkie app functions work as well as they should. Both sides of the conversation need to have a “reliable Wi-Fi or LTE connection,” while Zello’s servers need to be working properly at the time of the conversation, and not overburdened by a high number of users.

Although Zello became well-known to Americans thanks to the so-called Cajun Navy’s work in helping Hurricane Harvey victims, the app has been around for several years before that, according to a recent report from the Inquisitr. Prior to the Cajun Navy’s use of Zello, its walkie-talkie features were utilized in 2013 by Turkish protesters who wanted to circumvent their government’s censorship protocols.

Zello’s usage typically peaks during natural disasters, and that was indeed true when the Cajun Navy had mobilized its forces to rescue those in need during Hurricane Harvey. But its popularity has never been higher in America, as Zello CEO Bill Moore was quoted by MarketWatch as saying that its usage increased by “20-fold” in the last week of August. He also noted that the app is an ideal tool for “situations where you’re solving problems or (when) the stakes are high.”

According to AppleInsider, the threat of Hurricane Irma has kept Zello popular as a walkie-talkie app, as its user base increased by about 600,000 new users as of Tuesday.

Given the limitations of Zello, AppleInsider stressed that the app shouldn’t be solely relied on during extreme weather events or other related crises that may result in the “massive destruction of infrastructure.” The publication warned about the possibility of Zello’s servers failing due to overcapacity, also noting that at the time of its report, the app’s support page was not working, and wasn’t allowing new users to sign up for accounts.

[Featured Image by Vdovichenko Denis/Shutterstock]