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Apple has reportedly put a technology for iPhones on hold that would have let people send text messages to other iPhones over a 900MHz radio spectrum that’s typically used for dispatchers in the utility and manufacturing industries, allowing the phones to act like walkie-talkies for texts, according to The Information. It appears this would have been different than Apple’s Walkie-Talkie feature for the Apple Watch, which is essentially a push-to-talk (PTT) FaceTime Audio call.
The Information says Apple and Intel were working together on the technology, which would have been integrated into Intel chips in future iPhones, before it was put on hold. At Apple, the project reportedly went by Project OGRS (pronounced “ogres”), which is likely referencing patents it filed a year ago regarding something called Off Grid Radio Service (“OGRS”). The patents describe a wireless device-to-device communication system that sounds as if it would work, well, off the grid, much like the reportedly shelved technology would. (Intel allegedly called the effort Project Shrek.)
The Information’s report says the internal champion on the project, Rubén Caballero, left Apple earlier this year. The industry-shaking news of Apple settling with Qualcomm earlier this year along with Apple’s expected move from Intel modems to Qualcomm modems could have played a part as well. That shift was big enough that Intel wound up selling its entire smartphone modem business, which Apple later bought for $1 billion.
Putting a walkie-talkie into a phone isn’t a new idea: industrial workers have used phones with PTT buttons for years now, which give them priority on cellular networks to make walkie-talkie-like calls. There are also phones with an actual walkie-talkie built in, if you want something like that.