A new Apple app called Walkie Talkie, which will allow Apple Watch users to communicate directly with each over their devices, will not be available in the UAE, Apple confirmed on Wednesday.
The Walkie Talkie app, named after Second World War-era technology that first allowed soldiers to communicate using radio waves, will be rolled out when Apple’s WatchOS 5 software launches this Fall. The app was announced on Monday at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference, and journalists and developers were told that Watch users would be able to talk directly to other Watch users, if those devices were connected to Wifi or a cellular data connection.
However, a source has told Gulf News that Apple is not offering the service because of the same regulatory issues that prevent the company from launching its FaceTime app in the UAE. FaceTime offer live video chatting on Macs, iPhone and iPads. However, both Walkie Talkie and FaceTime use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoiP), which in the UAE can only be offered by a licensed telecom. The UAE currently has two licensed telecoms: Etisalat and Du.
The ban on third parties offering VoiP services in the UAE, which includes Microsoft’s Skype and others, was first introduced in 2006. However, Microsoft told Gulf News in April that is was in talks with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) to lift the ban on Skype. The TRA has not commented.
Apple on Tuesday also announced that the Watch with cellular data connection would be available in the UAE starting June 15. The cellular-enabled device will require a separate SIM card with a data connection. So far, only Etisalat has announced that will offer data plans but has not yet said what it will charge for the service. Du has not yet made any announcement regarding the new Apple Watch.