Accessories maker Pryme Radio recently introduced the Pico, a wired-microphone system designed to address the specific needs of push-to-talk-over-cellular (PoC) users on smartphones and tablets that do not have a dedicated push-to-talk (PTT) button.

“The neat thing about the Pico is that we’ve finally solved this dilemma that we’ve had with all of these push-to-talk-over-cellular devices, which is that iPhones and Android phones—for the most part—don’t have any way to attach a wired PTT button to them,” Pryme Radio President and Chief Engineer Dave George said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

“The Pico will be a nice product for customers, because they can just plug it into their iPhone, their Android phone or their tablet, and it will work just like a traditional surveillance kit—they push the button to talk, and they release the button to listen,”

While PoC technology has become increasingly popular, users typically interface with the PoC application via an on-screen button, the earpiece that comes with the smart device or a wireless push-to-talk (PTT) button that connects to the device via Bluetooth, George said. But each of these approaches have limitations, he said.

Using the on-screen button is not ideal for users in the field that need to keep their heads up and utilize their hands to do something other than holding the device. The earpiece kit that comes with the smart device is designed primarily to let the user handle phone calls and execute other functions on the smart device, which can create problems for the user, George said.

“That [earpiece] button does a whole bunch of things,” he said. “If you hold it down too long, it launches Siri. If you bump it really quickly, it may start playing MP3 music. It’s really designed for answering a phone call, hanging up a phone call or taking a selfie picture—it wasn’t designed for PTT.

“And, because they have a limited number of connections in those plugs, when you push the button, you actually ground the mic element. So, even if you made software that would accept it as a PTT, you’ve actually killed the mic while you’re holding it down—it’s not a push-to-talk, it’s a push-to-silence. It’s like I’ve keyed up my radio, but I can’t talk.”

Wireless PTT buttons that connect to the smart device via Bluetooth “work fine” when properly implemented, but they can create logistical and operational challenges, particularly for larger enterprises, George said. Such PTT buttons need to be charged regularly, but the biggest issue is associated with the pairing process between the button and the smart device, he said.