Walkie Talkie Vs. Radio: Major Differences


If you’re confused regarding the differences between the walkie talkie vs. radio, I’ll go over both the similarities and differences between these two devices to better help you understand how both types of communication devices work. In many cases, most people seem to use the term handheld radio and walkie-talkie interchangeably. This is a common misconception, so I’ll  go over the differences to make it easier for you to determine which type will suit your needs, whether you’re in need of a reliable communication device for hunting, camping, or hiking, or you need a handheld radio or walkie-talkie to help keep track of your kids when they’re playing around the neighborhood.

In terms of walkie-talkies and radios, the two terms are quite often used interchangeably. Technically speaking, these two communication devices are not the same thing, however in some cases they can be. The two-way radios are able to operate in a couple of ways and have the ability to receive and transmit a radio signal. The two way radio can either operate in a full duplex mode or half-duplex mode. The half-duplex mode will allow it to receive or transmit however it cannot do both simultaneously.

 But the full duplex model radios are able to receive and transmit at the same time. These devices are also referred to as transceivers since they are able to both receive and transmit radio communication. To sum it up, the two way radio can receive and transmit. The walkie-talkie is a type of portable two-way radio that is handheld. With this type of device,  you can speak on the radio as you walk around, hence the name. High-definition walkie talkies are considered two-way radios, however, the two-way radio is not considered a walkie-talkie. This is because there are some types of two-way radios that cannot be used as a handheld device. 

The Walkie Talkie

Not every walkie is created equal and some may have very limited range and frequency options. There are models designed for kids, families, and long range devices that you can rely on in rural areas. Because of this, it will take some research on your part to find a set of walkie talkies that can meet your needs based on application. The walkie-talkie was developed during World War II by the military and it eventually spread to commercial and public use after the war. These handheld communication devices are very similar to a telephone handset and come complete with a large antenna that sticks out of the top. They’re also equipped with a large built-in speaker that can be heard by anyone in close proximity.

Man with

Modern models  still utilize the push-to-talk feature and are available in a wide range of price brackets, from devices sold as the best walkie talkies for adults to more commercial units such as the best long range walkie-talkies.

Commercial grade walkie talkies are also referred to as two-way radios, and these devices tend to have a more durable construction, complete with a metal case, and they only come with two or three pre-programmed frequencies.

Consumer-grade walkie talkies are usually lightweight and very compact. These devices are typically able to access any channel within a specified band.

Despite the many advancements made to walkie-talkie development over the years, most models still feature a rather short range and are limited to a few watts of power output. Some models will allow for the use of a repeater, which is a type of device that works to increase the walkie talkie’s coverage and range. This type of device  works on a single frequency and retransmits on another. Because of this technology, you can easily extend the range of your device by as much as three to five miles.

Basic Use

The walkie-talkie is commonly used among amateur radio operators and they’ve become increasingly popular for personal use. Personal models are usually sold in a compact design with a simple layout of buttons used to change channels and settings. Some models are specifically designed for kids and can allow you to keep in close contact with your children when they’re playing at the neighbor’s house or hanging out in their fort in the backyard.

Two-Way Radios

Commercial two-way radios are handheld transceivers just like walkie talkies and they also utilize the push-to-talk system. You can find these devices in stationary and mobile base configurations. Two-way radios operate independently from any other type of system, unlike cell phones which rely on cell phone towers. These devices can operate without the use of electricity and will allow you to communicate within a set party of people within a fixed location. These handheld devices are much more rugged than your standard walkie-talkie and are often used by college campus security, military, construction teams, security personnel, emergency medical Teams, firemen, and police.

The Big Difference Between these Communication Devices


As I mentioned earlier walkie talkies and two-way radios are terms that are often used interchangeably. This is because both types of devices are able to send and receive radio transmissions. So what are the major differences between these two communication devices?

Basically, not all two-way radios are walkie talkies, but all walkie talkies are two way radios. As an example, a desk or vehicle-mounted mobile unit cannot be used as a walkie-talkie since it isn’t a handheld device. Because of this, the main differences between these two communication devices is really in how they’re marketed. Often, walkie talkies are perceived as inferior and are usually marketed towards amateur users however there are high-end devices available.

When a person refers to a walkie-talkie they typically have a two way radio in mind, or a toy designed for children. This device is often sold in attractive hard plastic casings that are brightly colored.  As I mentioned earlier, they have fewer features, shorter range, are more affordable than a standard two-way radio, and have a lower quality build construction.

The Better Option

The two way radio  offers a feature-rich, high-end, construction and is designed mainly for commercial use. This type of communication device usually features a much stronger build and comes with an IP rating which is why it’s a better choice for commercial use. In most cases, two-way radios are usually more expensive than standard walkie talkies, but their durable construction and improved range capabilities will make them worth every penny.

Related Questions

What’s the Best Affordable Set for a Large Family?

I recommend the Retevis H777 two-way radios, which has a reputation for providing crystal-clear reception and a beginner-friendly design that makes this set perfect for both kids and adults. This set consists of six handheld communication devices, which makes it perfect for larger families on a budget.

How Far Can It Reach on Average?

With most models of walkie talkies, you can expect an average range of four to six miles, which is perfect if you’re looking for a communication device you can use on your next camping, hiking, or hunting adventure. However, there are some models that are capable of a twenty-five to thirty-five mile range. Keep in mind, these devices often come with a higher price tag, but they also offer improved clarity and a more durable design.

Are These Beginner Friendly?

Many models are, however, devices designed for commercial use can be difficult to use and learning how to adjust a signal to minimize static and interference can be a hassle. Fortunately, most manufacturers include detailed user guides that will walk you through how to use it, common walkie talkie talk code, and other usage tips. If you’re purchasing a set for the kids, then I recommend reading my guide on the best walkie talkies for boys. Models designed for kids may come with a very limited range, but they’re much easier to use.

Final Thoughts

So, which type of communication device will work the best for you? Do you need a model that’s highly portable and lightweight? One that offers a range of more than a couple of miles? The answers to these questions can help you determine the type of communication device you need, so you can choose a set based on the features they have to offer.

Now that you know the differences between walkie talkies vs. radio, you can easily choose between these two types of communication devices and find a model that will work for you, and your family and friends. Remember, all walkie talkies are considered two-way radios, but not all two-way radios can work like a walkie talkie. Both devices come with their own pros and cons. In the end, it will be a matter of choosing a device based on the underlying need, whether you’re in search of a communication device that’s more durable, affordable, or one that offers a longer range.