While I was exploring some of the new icons on the BlackBerry Bold 9650 from Verizon, I jumped into the Application Center and saw the Push to Talk. There was a decent amount of buzz about it when it was released, so I figured I'd download it and give it a shot. The feature has to be added to your account (at $5/month) and currently works on both the Tour 9630 and Bold 9650. I was pretty excited to fire it up, and since I'm not a big phone guy I thought I may get some good use out of it. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Verizon's idea of Push to Talk isn't what you would think. Its not a quick "press a button and send a message". Verizon actually connects you to the contact through a PTT "call" where you then push the left convenience key to record your message. From this point on the entire process was lost to me. I could just as easily call a contact and talk to them instead of calling them via PTT and having to press a button to talk to them.
You add contacts using their Verizon phone number and they appear in your PTT contact list. There aren't a ton of options in the app itself. You an enable or disable PTT (at which point you show as unavailable). There are no options to choose your PTT key either. The app takes over your left convenience key which could be bothersome for certain users (like myself). You can then initiate either an "alert call" or a "barge call" to your contacts. The alert call option will show your contact you are trying to start a chat and they will have the option to accept or decline. This works as it should and is fairly unobtrusive. The barge call however simply broadcasts your message to the recipient without an alert. Extremely annoying and mostly pointless in my opinion. I for one wouldn't want my contacts blasting messages without alerting me first.
Once connected to a contact, you press the convenience key to record your message and it is sent. Messages from your contact come in while connected and that's that. Want to do something else on your device while connected? Press the End key and you can go for it ... only your chat is ended and you'll have to reconnect again to pick things up. I couldn't figure out if it is at all possible to stay connected to a chat and use other features on the device at the same time. I really don't think there is a way to do it and found the overall process confusing.
You an also create groups within PTT which is useful for chatting with a large number of contacts at the same time - family members, friends, employees etc. I can see the benefits in using the group chat, but again the drawbacks of the service itself take away from the overall usefullness of the app.
All in all I really fail to find the point of Push to Talk with Verizon. It sounds like a great idea, but the execution falls short. There is really no benefit from what I can see to using PTT over just calling a contact. Sure its great for quick "walkie talkie" style chat, but it doesn't quite pull it off. If you're thinking about trying it out, save yourself the $5 and just make a call, it's much less frustrating.