Walkie Talkie app Zello adds 6 million new users as Hurricane Irma hits Florida


TechSpot Editor
Staff member

Walkie talkie app Zello has reached the top of the US Apple app store charts after it added over 6 millions new users since last Monday. The increased number of downloads is a direct response to Hurricane Irma, which has been making its way toward Florida.

Originally a Russian app called Loudtalks, Zello Inc. acquired the technology and launched its rebranded application in 2012. It simulates traditional two-way radios through the use of WiFi or cellular data, and now boasts over 100 million users worldwide.

As Zello allows between two and one thousand people to communicate live with each other from dispersed locations, it can be especially useful in search and rescue situations. As Category 4 hurricane Irma brings 130 mph winds, tornadoes, and flooding to Florida, it’s hoped the app, which also lets users add screenshots and important information, can be put to good use.

One of Zello's new Irma relief groups – users can start their own channels - includes the South Florida Hurricane Irma channel, which has over 1800 members. "With the crush of new users and emergency situations, most of the Zello team is working long days either maintaining capacity or helping with customer support," said company CEO Bill Moore.

Zello made headlines in 2013 when it was used by Turkish protesters to avoid government censors. It’s also been used during protests in Venezuela and was popular with relief workers in the aftermath of Texas’ Hurricane Harvey.

In a recent blog post, Zello CTO and developer of Loudtalks, Alexey Gavrilov, warned that the app “is not intended as a replacement for instructions from government emergency agencies or sanctioned rescue organizations.” He emphasized that Zello won’t work if there is no WiFi and cellular data service, but added that mobile data networks often remain at least partially operational after natural disasters.

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TS Evangelist
If it needs Wifi or cellular data, how is it any different than using Facebook, Viber or whatever?
It's voice-focused, and push-to-talk. But I do agree that needing cellular or Wifi is a critical weakness. Old-school VHF and UHF radios will remain king in the search & rescue 'industry' for some time.


TS Evangelist
Well... The only other solution would be peer-to-peer celular using the very devices... but that would need close distance (something like direct wifi)... Technnically possible, yes.... Viable? Don't think so. Also, gov can kill Celular tower in a really though situation (for the gov, like a riot...).

If something can kill radio (emp), perhaps the only other reliable comm left would be GoT style brids, horse-riding messengers... But we would be back to medieval times.

Dave A

TS Rookie
In my opinion, the headline and subheadline of this article are misleading... Should read "App gains many users through viral misrepresentation that could be life threatening in a disaster".

Although limited range probably won't help, a quick search shows there are Apps To Chat And Text With No Internet Connection Via Mesh Network. Better solutions are sattlite phones / gps messengers or Ametuer radio.

Hurricane Harvey and Irma lost very little cel service and we should see this improve as we have more weather related disasters. The cell companies and new legislation (like the Mobile Wireless Resiliency Order in response to Sandy https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-16-173A1.pdf) are helping them to be more proactive in preparing for disasters, making sure backup generators are serviced and fueled, reacting quickly to outages and deploying mobile backup towers called COWS (cell cites on wheels)

Dave A

TS Rookie
Well looks like they removed the sub-headline which is great thank you! It can be useful in a disaster as long as people understand that it won't work without service.


TS Enthusiast
Like this kind of application, Google map can easily realize the function of the emergency rescue, these enterprises should shoulder their social responsibility, this is more than they spend on advertising please star to win public favor and trust.