Apple Reportedly Drops Planned ‘Walkie-Talkie’ Feature For Upcoming iPhones

The iPhone XR, XS Max, and XS on display during their September 2018 launch.
Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

A new report suggests that Apple has stopped development on a so-called “walkie-talkie” feature that might have served as a key selling point for future iPhones due to its ability to allow people to text each other in areas that don’t have cellular coverage.

Citing a report from subscriber-only publication The Information, MacRumors wrote that Apple was working closely with Intel on the feature, which would have worked by allowing iPhone users to send messages over long-distance radio waves in the 900 MHz radio spectrum, thus eliminating the need for a cellular connection. The shelved feature, which shares a name with the Apple Watch’s Walkie-Talkie feature (which uses Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity), was supposedly designed mainly for iPhone users on skiing or hiking trips, due to the lack of cellular coverage that often comes with these activities.

Separately, Engadget cited the same report from The Information, noting that the technology was known behind the scenes under the codename Project OGRS and that the aforementioned 900 MHz spectrum is typically used by the utility, oil, and gasoline industries.

While it’s possible that Project OGRS will resume at some point in the future and allow the feature to debut on future iPhones, development appears to have been halted for the meantime due to a number of concerns, the report added. None of the aforementioned reports mentioned when the walkie-talkie technology was expected to arrive for iPhone users.

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As explained by Engadget, the feature was reportedly put on hold because of organizational and business issues. Talking about the former issues, the outlet wrote that Apple executive Ruben Caballero, who was in charge of Project OGRS and considered the technology “his baby,” left the company earlier this year. For the latter, it was speculated that the postponement of the project may have also been driven by Apple’s expected shift back from Intel to Qualcomm modems beginning next year.

Despite the chances that next year’s iPhones won’t include a practical selling feature that allows for communication in areas where cellular or Wi-Fi support is not available, Apple’s 2020 iPhones are expected to introduce several new features to the smartphone line, unlike this year’s rumored incremental upgrade. As reported earlier this year by Tom’s Guide, rumors have hinted that next year’s high-end iPhones will be the first to support 5G technology and come with depth-sensing time-of-flight rear camera sensors, while all three variants could ship with OLED displays that also have variable 60 Hz/120 Hz refresh rates for smoother scrolling.