Onyx Smart Walkie-Talkie REVIEW Turn your smartphone into a push-to-talk device.
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“Space, the final frontier…” One of my favorite shows has always been Star Trek. It is amazing to think that technology that our parents saw on the original Star Trek and some that we saw on Star Trek The Next Generation is actually coming to life. It is true, we do not yet have warp travel, replicators, tricorders or holodecks. However, the modern cell phone is a direct representation of the original communicator. As our technology has progressed we have developed the tablet, multiple sensors and now even interactive assistants such as Siri and Cortana. Interestingly the Onyx device was inspired by the triangular communicator device from the Science Fiction programs like Star Trek The Next Generation.
Opening the device, I immediately experienced a sense of nostalgia, both for the walkie-talkies of my youth as well as for the Star Trek Lore that I have come to love. The product arrived in a very appealing retail packaging, with a large clear plastic window traversing the front. I received a pair of metallic blue iridescent (set of 2) and orange metallic iridescent (set of 2) devices. Each pair came in its own 2 3/4″ wide by 7 1/4″ tall by 2 3/8″ deep cardboard box. The top of the cardboard is colored in the same colors that you will see as you move the device around. The orange coloration will turn almost purple and the blue will also turn purple. The color change is really neat and has a definite artistic feel to it. You will notice each device has 5 LED, which is multicolored and serve as a key, linking the onyx to your smart device (match the color combination on your phone/device to the one on the onyx).
The front of the packaging details the scope of the device: easy to use, wearable, real-time, and group conversations at the touch of a button. Rotating the packaging counterclockwise, you will see the package contents: 2 Onyx devices, 2 USB (9.5 inches) charging cables, 2 travel pouches (black drawstring bags), 2 user guides. Each circular onyx device has 2 built-in microphones, speaker, a volume control button (up and down), a 3.5mm headphone jack and you can switch the device to silent mode when desired.
Turning the packaging to the opposing side, you will see 5 icons describing the activity of the onyx walkie-talkies. You can talk with a group or a single person, you press the communicator into talk and release to listen. You have unlimited range, as it uses your phone as the signal source. With an included, built-in clip, you can attach the device to your clothing or to your bag. Additionally, for more privacy, you can add headphones and plug them into the 3.5mm headphone jack. The rear of the packaging provides a long paragraph, detailing the origins of Onyx. Their goal, put your phone away and still have communication.
To use the product, you will need to download the Orion App on your iPhone, iPod, iPad or Android-based devices. Charge the Onyx devices, using the included 9.5-inch charging cable (took just about 2 hours). You will notice that the blue LED along the front of the devices will illuminate. While charging, open the application and create an account. You will need to log in with your Facebook account or you will need to put in your name, phone number and a password. Once you create the account, and your Onyx is charged, hold the volume up button to turn on the device. The app will display a sequence of five LED, which can have red, white or blue options. Make sure that the on-screen combination matches the colors of the Onyx. The app will then ask you if you would like to connect via Bluetooth. You can sync your address book with the app to invite contacts to talk. Create various groups, invite people and talk with as many people as you like (must have a device).
The two-inch diameter Onyx will attach to your clothing or to your bag with a 3-inch looped metal clip. The clip is very secure and works well to attach to a coat/lapel pocket, to a backpack, duffel etc. You can enjoy the typical 10 meters 30-foot range that comes with Bluetooth connection. If you get out of this range, the device will cease to work. I found it was a bit choppy around 20 feet away and if there were objects blocking line of sight. With the phone on your person, this is not an issue. You can use your phone hands-free, but the limitations of Bluetooth mean that you still need to have it close by. The device works well if you need privacy. The front panel will rotate clockwise and the device will enter into silent mode (no audio). Others in your group can see that you are on silent and page you, vibrating the device. Turn the front panel back counter clockwise to re-enter active mode. With the device resting on your shirt pocket, you really do have a communicator-like device.
Once you have contacts connected, you can press and hold the main face of the device. You will hear a tone, similar to the beep of a walkie-talkie. The lights on the front will turn green and this allows you to know that it is your turn to talk. When done with your message, release the button and the message will stream to the group instantly. Just remember that you do not have to say “crr” at the end (Saving Silverman). There does not seem to be a limit to how long you can talk. You can link the device to nearly every iPhone, from the 4s and beyond, the iPod touch 5/6 and Android devices running 4.4 (KitKat) and newer and any other iOS device, running iOS 9 and above.
One of the main questions that I had, was how did the device send information. The answer was not readily available on the packaging or the manual. I turned to the website and found it within the FAQ under help. The device/app uses your data to send messages from app to app, utilizing Wi-Fi when on the appropriate network or utilizing mobile data, when not. If you want to have the option to communicate with people, without the burden of your phone, this may be the ideal device for you. If you are traveling, keep the conversation up to date without the dangers of messing with your phone. If you are caravanning, you will be able to create a group to prevent people from getting lost or left behind. Is your group at a theme park? You can use this to instantly alert the entire group, instead of sending multiple messages/texts etc. Another interesting option would be for offices, where you may need to communicate with someone, without being able to have a face to face conversation. Or, perhaps you work in a place that does not allow you to access your cellphone. With a fully charged LiPo battery in just 2 hours, the Onyx should be ready for you when you need it. The communication is clear and simply works.
The app does a great job teaching you how to use the device. Join the Echo Chamber group to see a tutorial of the Onyx device. Just as above, hold, talk and release. The echo chamber will replay your message into the speakers of the Onyx. With location services active, you can see your location as well as any other contact member, who has enabled location services. Along the top right you will see three horizontal circles. Tap these and you can create a new group or switch between your groups. If you tap the 3 horizontal lines along the top left you can access your profile (name, email, password, phone number) and you can add a photo of yourself (take a photo or choose one from your library).You can touch the “My Groups” and quickly choose between the communication groups. You can additionally check contacts, notifications, and access settings (update). Out of the box, the device will likely require an update, which will take about 7–10 minutes.
To summarize the device, it is a really neat and convenient way to communicate with others. The app is streamlined and very user-friendly. You may feel that this is too “techie” for you, but all you need to be able to do is download an app to start. It comes with 2 devices, which allows you to have communication with another. Buy multiple devices or invite friends to buy devices and expand your connections. Talk without having to hold your phone. I would rate the device and app at 5/5 stars.
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Learn more about the device at orionlabs.io
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Originally published at macsources.com on June 23, 2017.