Zello Walkie Talkie has shot up to the top of the free apps chart of Apple's App Store as Hurricane Irma charges toward the coast of Florida.
Hurricane Irma, now the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in recorded history, will cause devastating damage, and people in its path will need all the help they can get to prepare for the incoming storm.
Zello Walkie Talkie App: What Can It Do?
Zello, available only for iOS devices through the App Store, allows users to communicate with each other using their smartphones that will function as two-way radios. This is very helpful in emergency situations, as it enables immediate voice communication to all users on a shared channel compared to calling up a single person and hope that he or she picks up.
The app is also capable of sending text messages and pictures and is ad-free.
The widespread usage of Zello started last week during the onslaught of Hurricane Harvey with a 20-fold usage increase in Houston, according to the startup's CEO Bill Moore. It has become the go-to app for communications between rescuers in Houston, and as Hurricane Irma looms, thousands more users are downloading Zello and signing up for an account.
Zello Needs An Internet Connection
Zello uses a form of voice-over IP to function and is designed to operate even when mobile network signals are weak.
However, contrary to misconceptions made by some users, Zello still requires an active internet connection to work. In addition, the servers of Zello need to be operational and not overloaded, an issue that is already being experienced by new users.
Through a tweet, Zello revealed that it was experiencing difficulties with its servers, as sign-ups have increased to as many as 7,000 new users per minute. As such, Apple Insider noted that users should not rely only on Zello during a crisis, as its infrastructure is apparently not stable enough.
iMessage and FaceTime, a pair of Apple's own communication apps, also require internet connectivity but are powered by servers that will likely be reliable enough despite a sudden load of users. While Zello is a good app to have as Hurricane Irma rages on, users should be prepared to have backups in case its servers are not able to handle the expected massive load.
The Wrath Of Hurricane Irma
Hurricane Irma has already caused significant damage by destroying buildings and causing major floods in several Caribbean Islands. The Category 5 storm has winds of 185 miles per hour as it travels along a path through Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba before making landfall in Florida over the weekend.