Turn Old Nextel Phone Into a Walkie-talkie

New life for obsolete Nextel phones

Sprint has killied the Nextel Motorola iDEN network in the United States. That’s too bad, but if you have a pair of Nextel phones you can turn them into very good two way radios that will function even without the cell phone network.

Many, if not all newer Motorola Nextel phones have the “off network mode” also known as MOTO Talk which turn the phones into walkie-talkies completely independent of the phone provider’s network. The radios don’t use encryption, although the privacy settings allow users to communicate with select private groups and to individual units.

A SIM card is mandatory, although network service is not. I suspect any SIM card will do the trick. Without one the phone just hangs up at a screen that ask to insert a SIM card.

Nextel phone off network mode menuI tested a pair of Motorola i576 phones in an urban low-rise environment with hills and natural and man made obstacles occluding the line of sight. One unit was stationary and another was in a moving vehicle. I was able to transmit and receive completely clear voice up to one mile (1.5km) distance.

It is reasonable to expect that in a line of sight applications the range would be far greater. The range may also depend on the model of the phone.

To enable the off network mode simply go to the phone menu, turn the Direct Talk on and make sure the channel selection and privacy codes are matched on all the units you intend to use.

The U.S. Nextel network was shut down in 2013.

47 thoughts on “Turn Old Nextel Phone Into a Walkie-talkie”

  1. Thats the amazing thing about these phones they’re great digital radios. People been using motorola i355s a lot and they have better range than frs. I got my i576 for 3 dollars from someone who though it won’t work anymore haha. Ordered another one.

    1. HAHAH
      i have ic502 IC902 I880
      BUT all asking me for sim card
      what sim card i need ??? im from algeria

  2. Thanks for the note Emily. I miss using these phones. I mean, I like all the conveniences of a smartphone, but i576 was such a great small phone with a powerful speaker. It wasn’t as sturdy as the design would suggest, but it did ok. I just looked on Ebay. They sell for $20-30 which is surprisingly high.

    Do you happen to know if the off-network 2-way mode uses encryption?

  3. They are frequency hopping. Anyone listening in would have to have identical phones with the same channel settings.

    1. I have a pair I’m not using, but I don’t know… I feel I should shed some junk, on the other hand I kind of feel I should hang onto them.

      1. hey i read your comment the u might have some sextet phones would u maybe be willing to sell them? i am a guardian angel chapter leader in nye n really could use them.

  4. im from algeria and i have tow ic602 but missing nextel card
    is there is way can Access to menu without sim card or withe any other gsmsin
    if there is hard wer ??

  5. I still have an i415. Would it work? One of the best on the side of a noisy freeway could be heard over the noise better than the company-issued flip-phone.

  6. I need help
    I work in hotel resort and the radio system is dead
    We have a radio system
    We got talking about nextel and what if
    And i found this post
    So the question is can this be done
    If what u say is true
    How do we do this
    Call it 10 nextels we need with good battterys
    Is it just 2 nextels or can i use multiply
    Where do i buy a fair condition used nextel with a good battery
    Again help
    Thanks for your time if u reply

    1. Vincent, I have 8 Motorola Nextel i265 phones brand new in box, they have the walkie talkie feature mentioned, all will include chargers, feel free to email me

    1. None of those phones will work with this. However, the i850, i870, i580, and many other models will work with this. Many of these phones can be found online for decently cheap.

  7. Does anyone know how to re-enable this mode on a used Southernlinc phone which ship with the feature disabled?

  8. I know this is a very old post and is probably closed at this point however, would anyone have or be interested in selling their models that can do the Direct Connect Feature WITHOUT having to use the GSM or iDEN Network? Please email me if you do or know of someone. Thanks


    Thanks all again.

  9. I would also like to buy two phones if they are in good working condition. Or if I buy two Nextel phones online could I get them to walki talkie each other ?

  10. The i580 phone works with wifi except for the alert feature.
    Is there a walkie talkie, or push to talk phone that works just like the old i580 phone with wifi capability, and intermittent page alert ?

    1. My Android phone came preloaded with Zello app. It’s a similar PTT application. The phone has an extra key on the side that can be used as a PTT key. Still, this is all a far cry from Nextel’s Direct Connect service.

  11. Me and my co workers have all Nextel but we all have i870s and i880s and they all work on the direct talk mode brought back a lot of memory’s

  12. Is anyone interested in 2 Nextel i50sx phones? Still in original boxes. Slightly used with all the original accessories and instructions book. Plus I have a new Nextel i530 new in box, also with all original accessories. Let me know.

  13. I came across a Motorola i60C and got it for my daughter to play with. This thread has me thinking I could repurpose it and use it to chirp her when shes outside playing just like the old days. Is that possible on that phone. Also since the iDen network has been dead for many years now is it possible to create a small network in the 800mhz range for personal use? I know Im grabbing a straws but how cool would that be to communicate with your family using old cell phones and old tech that is obsolete in 2020.

  14. How can I get my i60c Nextel to just use walkie talkie only ?? Found ten brand new in boxes cleaning out an old school . I

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