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REVIEW: Chirp . wait for it . chirp sluggish PTT from AT&T

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our weekly feature, Yay or Nay. Every week we’ll review a new wireless application or service from the user’s point of view, with the goal of highlighting what works and what doesn’t. If you wish to submit your application or service for review, please contact us at [email protected]
Service: AT&T Mobility’s Push To Talk service
Running On: Two Samsung Rugby phones
Yay: Ability to switch PTT call to a regular cellular call. Does not rely on data network. Extensive coverage.
Nay: Slow call set-up and intra-call latency.
We Say: AT&T Mobility’s PTT service allows the carrier to claim it offers a PTT service, but in practice the offering features little advantage over making a regular phone call.
Review: Unlike rivals that have recently launched updated versions of their push-to-talk offerings, AT&T Mobility continues to soldier on with its Kodiak Networks-powered PTT service, which relies on the carrier’s circuit-switched voice network rather than the data networks required by CDMA offerings from Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel.
While AT&T’s service performed on par with its rivals’ offerings before they upgraded, AT&T Mobility’s PTT service now appears stuck in the past.
Call set-up times were dramatically slower than CDMA-based offerings. From the time we initially pushed the PTT button, it took between 7 and 10 seconds for the other phone to ring. The CDMA offerings that we recently tested performed the same task in around 1 second. ( Sprint Nextel’s iDEN-based PTT is the model of consistency at less than a second.)
Once a call was initiated, latency for the AT&T Mobility service still lagged behind its competitors, but was much less noticeable. Call quality was also on par with the CDMA services and seemed slightly clearer than the iDEN service.
Similar to Verizon Wireless’ PTT service, AT&T Mobility’s offering also includes a “presence” feature that inserts a smiley face next to available contacts. AT&T Mobility’s service also allows users to switch from a PTT call to a regular voice call, which is something its competitors do not provide. And like Sprint Nextel’s CDMA-based PTT offering and Verizon Wireless’ service, the AT&T Mobility PTT service does not require a separate phone number as the iDEN service requires.
AT&T Mobility offers the service on more than a dozen handsets spread among consumer- and business-oriented devices, and the service worked wherever we tried it.
If the service was free its limitations could be overlooked, but at $5 per month for individual plans or $20 per month for family plans, AT&T’s service is harder to recommend since most of the carrier’s plans already offer unlimited in-network calling.
Now, if you are a fan of retro items like really short basketball shorts and AMC Pacers, the service might be appealing. But for those who are actually looking for a performance advantage from their PTT service over traditional voice calls, AT&T Mobility’s service is probably not the answer.

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