Remember those Nextel phones with their "push to talk" feature? Nextel is now just a marketing name for Sprint, but the feature is still around – you can pick a contact, and then hit a button, and use your phone like a walkie-talkie (with the right phone hardware, of course). Saves you dialing, but instead of a two-way phone call, you push the button to talk and release to listen.
So what's the advantage over just calling? You got me – maybe that's one reason Nextel isn't around anymore. But what if you could add a couple of features to make it worthwhile? That's where the Hey Tell app comes in. This app lets you select a contact, hold down a virtual button, and give them a call.
So what's different? For one, when you call the other person, your message is saved on your phone, so you can replay it later (same with their responses). Also, you can forward anything you said via email (but not the other person's messages, for privacy reasons).
But there's more. If the other person doesn't have the app up, they get a push notification (if they have allowed them) letting them know they have a message, and who it's from. You can then open the app, and it will play. So you can leave a brief message.
In addition, you can turn on the location feature – this sends your location to the other person along with the message. It's off by default, so you only give out your location if you decide to do so. There's a nice map that takes over the upper portion of the app when you turn on location.
Another thing I like about this app over many other messaging apps, besides the voice nature of it, is the fact that you don't need to set up an account – just load it up, tell it who you are (your contacts come up and you select), and you're ready to go. You can also choose who can call you, from three settings – Low (anyone else with the app), Medium (your contacts with the app and their contacts), or High (only those you invite). When you go to make a call, you tap on a contact list button to bring up your contacts, or tap on a recent contact at the top. If you haven't talked to the person before, and they have the High setting on, you will be given the chance to send them an email or an SMS message with a link to allow the call to go through. This is only the first time – after that, you don't need to do this anymore. You can put people on a "block" list too, if necessary.
One more great feature – this app is cross-platform – it also works on Android. So you can call to/from Android, iPhone, whatever. It also works on the iPod Touch (if you have a microphone) and the iPad (as an iPhone app). It also works on WiFi or EDGE/3G. I did notice some slowdowns testing with 3G when I had only one bar of service. With a few bars, it didn't seem any different than WiFi.
This app is free as well. So how can they afford to do this? There are a few add-ons that are in-app purchases – none of which are required, but add extra functionality.There's a "voice changer" so you can sound like a robot, another add-on to add Emoji icons to your name, an add-on to automatically expire messages on your phone (you might want that so you don't have to delete them manually – they'll pile up after a while, I'm sure), and a Group Broadcast feature that lets you send to multiple people at once. They're all $1.99 (except the Group Broadcast, which is $2.99).
There's also some sort of Facebook functionality, but as I don't use it (yes, I'm that guy, now get off my lawn!) I can't speak to what it does.