A Look Inside Relay, the Smart Walkie-Talkie by Republic Wireless

Simplicity can be high-tech. As technology advances, tools should get easier to use. That’s what we were thinking when we started making Relay. We saw some of your questions about how Relay works, why it works that way, and what we’re doing to make it better. Let’s tackle some of those topics with a little help from our engineers and the Relay team.

I’ll start by saying that Relay is not a phone. But it has some similar technology on the inside. By that I mean that it has most of the same parts, just re-arranged a bit.

Here’s a recap:

  • It uses a SIM card to connect to cell service to get messages where they need to go

  • It has a WiFi radio and can connect to networks via the companion app

  • It uses WiFi-first, cell towers second just like Republic Wireless

  • It has a powerful custom battery (you can expect two days’ charge)

  • Real-time GPS functionality controlled via the companion app

“It has three buttons: one for talking, one for volume, and one for changing the channel. You just press the button and talk, and it works.” That’s what Sam, one of the innovators behind Relay, told me. It’s not your average walkie-talkie, but it’s as simple as that.


Relay has unique external features you won’t see on most smartphones. Here’s the rundown on those:

Water resistant gasket on the outer casing

  • Don’t take it swimming, but an accidental splash, spill or jog in the rain won’t hurt anything.

No screen and no fragile parts

  • Don’t run over it with a truck, but a tumble down the stairs, falling from a tree, or a landing on pavement should be fine.

LED light ring to show battery level, talk status, and more

  • It has sixteen LED lights. We recently increased this from eight lights, meaning that each light now uses less power to create the same brightness. This saves battery life and makes for smooth motion and color transition.

Magnetic charging

  • No USB port means more room inside Relay for the hi-tech goodies we want. It lets Relay be a little smaller, a lot more water-resistant, much more durable (we all know USB ports wear out eventually) and magnets are just cool. Plus it can stick to your refrigerator.

Headphone jack, Bluetooth, and NFC

  • Because speakerphone isn’t always your first choice.

So what about Relay makes you really happy? It there anything you’re not-so-excited about? What would you like to know more about? As Relay gets closer to launching, we want you to be in-the-know. You can stay up to date with all things Relay through our newsletter and by keeping up with this series!

Next time we’ll get into the process of creating Relay, talking about the things that worked and some of the things that didn’t in the Relay Design Journey.

You can sign up for the newsletter by visiting the Relay website and clicking the “sign up!” tab. Click the logo below to get started.

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Any option to send a text to or leave a message on the Relay? We’re thinking of these for our school-aged kids. They can’t use phones or devices during school, but if I could leave a message on the Relay that they could check as soon as school lets out, that would be amazing. This functionality will likely make the decision for us.

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Let’s say a child accidentally, or on purpose, changes the channel, and a parent tries to call the device. How does that work? Will the voice message go through even though the channels are not synced?

Thanks for raising that question! Relay works a lot like a walkie-talkie, so there is not a text feature. There also is not a feature at this time that would allow a parent to leave their child messages on the Relay. However, when a Relay sends a voice message to the companion app, that can be listened to at a later time if the app is not open. (We’ll get into the specific features of the companion app later in this post series!)

What has worked for many of our team members with their kids is having their children check in when they get out of school so that their parents know its ok to talk.

Edit: The “leaving a message” feature is something our engineers are working on adding in the future!

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Thanks for the question! At this time, our channel features are still in development. Our engineers are making sure that messages will still go through in that case.

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My phone has NFC, Can you give us a couple of examples of how and why it would communicate with relay using this feature? Since most of the RW phone offerings don’t have NFC what will those without it be missing?

@billg Hi there! To answer your question, the NFC feature is built in to support future channels that we expect to add to Relay via software updates. So at this time, NFC doesn’t factor into the communication channel. It will be exciting to see it incorporated into voice-first games and other channel additions. Because those channels haven’t been added yet, I’m afraid I don’t have any specific examples for you.

I would say that those without NFC capability on their smartphones will not be missing out on any key features.

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Will the Relay device operate on multiple networks, both GSM and CDMA, or will it roam to different networks?

Thanks for the question! Relay will work with Republic’s CDMA cell partner.

As for roaming, Relay should be able to connect to roaming partner towers if necessary.

Edited to correct information!

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This seems like a bit of a pain point. What is the incentive for a user to connect to Wi-Fi?

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Thanks for raising that point! For me, I’d probably connect Relay to WiFi at home as cell signal isn’t too great indoors where I am. For others, that might not be necessary. It all depends on what you need or want from Relay. It will work just fine without WiFi too.

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My dog comes when called. This will be just great attached to her collar. She responds to at least a dozen words like “treat” and phrases like “take a dump.”

Magicians would love this for the “talking dog” illusion.

It would also be fun to install it in the head of a ventriloquist’s dummy for a 2-room act.

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The Relay website says “Available in early 2018!” How do you define early?

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Early™ hopefully not like Soon™ :kissing_heart:

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Good question! I can’t give out any specific dates, but we will be keeping you all updated here in the community as well as through the Relay newsletter.

No kidding. In the way I define it we passed “early” on March 31.

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This article doesn’t mention Google Assistant. Will it still have that built in? If so, can that be activated with voice (“Ok Google”) and button (e.g. long press of “talk” button)?

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That’s a great question! Our engineers are working on adding a Google assistant channel for Relay. Many of the channels are still in development, and that is one of them. Since Relay is a push to talk device, you would be holding down the talk button while addressing the Google Assistant.

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Because of the letdown on the late release I most likely will not purchase a Relay. I was hoping for this product to come in early 2018 as promised, but decided it was taking too long and went with another product. Will the Relay continue on to have another generation in the future?
I mean, imagine if Apple said, “New iPhone coming early 2018”, and we’re in April and still no decided date. People would be pretty disappointed. This was a product I was excited for and now I’m already disappointed in.

Thanks for letting us know about your concerns! We’re sorry to hear that we missed the mark for you. I know it’s late to say it, but we’re trying to make sure everything is ready and in good working order before we make Relay available for purchase.

To answer your question about another generation, that’s an awesome idea! At this point, we are looking at adding new features to Relay via software updates instead of releasing new generations of devices.

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