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The iconic Motorola walkie-talkie is entering the smartphone age

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Featuring a touchscreen and voice controls

Image: Motorola Solutions

Motorola Solutions is releasing a new version of its APX radio for first responders that adds a touchscreen and voice control support to the device for the first time. The APX Next can connect over LTE in addition to offering a walkie-talkie’s standard LMR (land mobile radio) connectivity, and it can even transmit an officer’s location data directly to a dispatcher.

While many of these features have been available on smartphones for years, they’re much more challenging to implement on a device meant for first responders, according to Fast Company. The touchscreen has to work in the rain or while using gloves, and Motorola Solutions (which is distinct from the Motorola Mobility smartphone division that’s now owned by Lenovo) had to be careful for the LTE connectivity not to cause interference for the device’s LMR connection. LMR is a vital technology during emergencies when typical cellphone networks can become disrupted or overloaded.

The walkie-talkie now features a touchscreen for the first time.
Image: Motorola

The APX Next’s voice control capabilities also have to work differently than they do on smartphones. For starters, they rely on being activated by a button rather than using a wake word. Officers will also have to press a button to hear the result of their query to prevent the voice assistant from accidentally blurting out sensitive information in public. It’s also optimized to work in extremely loud environments, using four microphones to cancel out background noise.

Motorola says the ViQi voice control system will launch with the ability for officers to search for license plate numbers, driver’s license information, and vehicle identification numbers (VIN). In the future, it hopes ViQi will be able to call for vehicle assistance, take statements, and translate languages.

Motorola isn’t commenting publicly on how much the APX Next costs — Fast Company notes that pricing varies too much depending on how many devices are being bought — but the walkie-talkie is available to order now.