Jul 01, 2021


by: Paul Benson


Categories: News, Radio

What Is The Difference Between A 2 Way Radio And A Walkie Talkie?

The terms walkie talkie and 2 way radio are often used interchangeably. As both devices allow for two way communications to be made by sending and receiving radio transmissions, it’s fair to wonder if they are just the same thing with a different name.

Walkie talkies and 2 way radios both offer two way communications via analogue or digital signals. The way that the devices are referred to interchangeably by users can cause some confusion when it comes to understanding which device you need when you’re in the market for professional radio communications at work.

Read on to understand what both devices are and if there really are any differences between them.


Need free advice about radios or walkie talkies? Ask our experts – 

call 0151 263 9993 or send an enquiry.

The Differences

Before we cover the differences that exist between the two devices, we should first clarify what each piece of equipment actually is in the eyes of communications professionals. This will ensure that you can purchase the correct kit for your business needs.

What Is A 2 Way Radio?

A 2-way radio is a device which has both an audio receiver and transmitter. This means that it can facilitate 2-way communication between two or more users. 2 way radios can look like a cordless phone handset and are operated by pressing a button, speaking into the transmitter. They are generally fairly small and portable devices making them easy to transport like a walkie talkie, but they can come in wall or vehicle mounted options too.

Two way radio offers flexibility to provide a simple 1:1 communication between a small group of users or can be scaled up to have different channels for different groups of people. (You may find this useful in large organisations with different communication needs for management & general staff for example). You can use these types of sets up to speak to just one person or communicate to whole groups of people if you need to get a message to more than one person.

2-way radios can operate in a half-duplex or full duplex mode. Half-duplex means that the radio can transmit and receive consecutively but not at the same time whereas a full duplex radio will allow the radio to transmit and receive at the same time.

What Is A Walkie Talkie?

A walkie talkie is also a 2-way radio device which has both an audio receiver and transmitter. The main difference being is that a walkie talkie is always a small, portable device that can be used whilst walking around, hence the name walkie talkie.

Like a 2 way radio, walkie talkies have a similar look to a cordless phone handset and come with both a microphone and a speaker, with an antenna on top. The radios are used to enable two way communications between two or more people by one person pressing a button and speaking into the device. Once they have finished speaking, they release the button which enables the other person to respond in the same way.

As a two way radio, walkie talkies have the same flexibility to allow communication between small or large groups of people over one or multiple channels but generally tend to be used in more informal settings.

Are 2 Way Radios and Walkie Talkies The Same Thing Then?

When reading the definitions of a 2 way radio and a walkie talkie above, it would be fair to come to the conclusion that they are pretty much the same however this isn’t strictly true, especially when talking to radio specialists!

The differences can largely be summarised as:

  • User perception
  • Portability
  • Quality of function

Firstly, although both devices are classified as 2 way radios, a 2 way radio is not always a walkie talkie. (i.e portable). Examples of non-portable 2 way radios include wall mounted stations or vehicle mounted radios for example.

Secondly, although the two types of radios are generally used in the same way, the main difference seems to be the way users refer to them which largely comes down to perception of the products themselves.

Finally, walkie talkies tend to have a shorter range and are cheaper to purchase due to generally having less technical specifications than two-way radios. However, as with all products, budget and high end versions of both radio devices are available.

Perception Vs Reality

Perception vs reality

As we’ve said above, it’s largely user perception of the devices that tends to drive the interchangeable use of the words in the general population.

When using the word walkie talkie, we generally have an image of a basic radio in our minds. Perhaps similar to the ones used as toys for children, brightly coloured and easily found in high street shops or used by outdoor enthusiasts.

In contrast, the term two way radio will be used and referred to by professional users in need of high-end, feature rich radio solutions in business settings such as hospitals, security, event management, hospitality, agriculture and many more industries that require cost effective, reliable, quality and clear communication tools for large numbers of users.

The term walkie talkie is also most commonly used by users of the devices themselves whereas in communication circles, manufacturers or sellers of the devices, will nearly always use the term 2 way radio exclusively


Need free advice about radios or walkie talkies? Ask our experts – 

call 0151 263 9993 or send an enquiry.

Related Questions

How To Choose A Two Way Radio Device?

The most important things to consider when deciding which 2 way radio to purchase for your business are:

  • The range you need – this will affect whether you need a licence or not
  • Whether you need analogue or digital solutions
  • Your budget – what can you afford to spend?
  • The environment that you will use the radio – is it wet, dry or dusty for example
  • How many people need to be able to communicate and are multiple channels needed?

Where To Buy Two Way Radios?

If you are looking to buy a two-way digital or analogue radio, or would like any further information on your options, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. Whether you call it a two-way radio or a walkie talkie, Northwest Radios can help you find the right radio communication solution for your needs. Please call our friendly team on 0151 263 9993 or send an email to discuss what you’re looking for and how we can help.

Founded in 1989, Northwest Radio Communications provides professional communications solutions and excellent customer service to its clients spanning hundreds of industries throughout the UK. From farming, catering, hospitality, leisure, construction and many more, as an approved dealer for DigiX, Motorola, Hytera, ICOM and Kenwood 2-way radios, the team can find the best purchase, hire and maintenance options available for you and your business when it comes to choosing the right communication tools to use.