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Telephone Buying Guide

Whether you're looking for tech for a new home or upgrading your small business, landlines are still a must-have. Explore our comprehensive guide that will give you all the information you need on how to buy a new telephone.
A black corded phone being dialed by someone wearing a suit

Getting Started

Telephones are essential communication devices in a home or a business. Some households have opted to communicate via smart tech and not use a landline at all. However, in some spaces, landlines are necessary. When you are in the market for a phone, consider the following types and features: they're really not all the same.

Types

Corded VS. Cordless

One of the most obvious aspects of a telephone is whether it's corded or cordless. If you are always on the run, you may need a cordless model. Cordless phones offer portability and versatility. Perfect for wandering around the house and handing it from one family member to another, these are great for homes. However, if you just need a basic model, a corded phone will give you the best value. They are affordable and easy to use, and they stay in one place.

Analog VS. Digital

After deciding whether cordless or corded will best suit your needs, you'll have to choose between digital or analog signal formats. The difference lies in how your voice is transmitted via a radio frequency. Analog phones are less expensive: your voice is converted to electronic pulses before it's sent to the receiver. There are a few cons, though. As an analog handset moves farther away from its base, clarity begins to diminish. There's also little security—anyone whith a radio scanner can actually tune in and listen to your conversations. Plus, when you move away from the base itself, you might experience extra static.
That being said, the next best option signal-wise is digital. These picks sound better, their signal travels farther and they are more secure because outside radio scanners rarely pick up their signals. That's all based on how they work: transmitting your voice using binary code, which the other landline then decodes. You'll rarely hear static or interference, and users will have better range compared to an analog model.
There's a third option too: Digital Spread Spectrum. A type of digital sending, DSS jumps from channel to channel constantly as you speak, all while using binary code. The result is an extremely secure line that's difficult to eavesdrop on. Moving from channel to channel actually increases the clarity of sound, too: there won't be as much interference from noise in a single channel's background. If you're looking for the best in clarity and privacy, you'll want a DSS telephone.

Dive Deeper: DECT

DECT stands for digital enhanced cordless telecommunications, a term that would only apply to a cordless landline. It all ties into the concept that your telephone is really on a radio frequency, with different platforms that can affect the clarity of your call. Other factors that can affect your signal's clarity include interference from other devices like radios and baby monitors, as well as physical obstructions in your space. Learn more about the different types of frequencies:
  • DECT 6.0 PLUS: The newest and clearest platform, with error correcetion upped 80 times compared to other frequencies. Why choose it? DECT 6.0 PLUS phones won't cross with lots of other wireless devices, like 2.4 GHz computer accessories, routers and other appliances. Since it's digital and not analog, you won't have to worry about poor sound quality or anyone listening in, either.
  • DECT 6.0: DECT 6 was created exclusively for use with a cordless landline; these phones have amazing sound quality and just like DECT 6.0 PLUS, they won't run into interference from other devices. When using DECT 6, you'll have a stronger range than 5.8 and 2.4 GHz as well.
  • 5.8 GHz: A good midrange, the biggest pro of these models is that they run on their own band, instead of the crowded 2.4 GHz band.
  • 2.4 GHz: These telephones are less common than they once were, mostly because their channel is becoming overcrowded with frequencies from microwaves, wireless networking accessories and even baby monitors. That being said, this channel can support all kinds of features, like answering machines and speaker phones. But if you feel like your 2.4 GHz band might be a little too crowded, upgrade with one of the versions above.
  • 900 MHz: A cluttered range, this is a very common frequency for telephones. That being said, you're most likely to have radio scanners picking up on this band, and you'll experience more interference and static.
A black cordless phone on top of a table

Features

Do I Need an Answering Machine?

Phones are available with or without answering machines, but even most cordless ones have answering machines. If you are often outside the house, or run a small business where every call is important, an answering machine feature is necessary. You'll be able to save and delete the messages you want to keep or remove. Consider how large you'd want your recording capacity. High end models can have as much as an hour, while entry-level picks often have about 10 minutes. Depending on the device, you may have the option to remotely access messages while away.

Speakerphone

A great feature for business tech, you can use speakerphone during group meetings and conference calls. It's great for large family calls, too. Meanwhile, units with multiple cordless handsets can use an intercom system allowing you to talk from one telephone's speaker into another.

Two-Line Telephones

If you have a home office, modem, fax machine, or a teenager who's always calling friends, you may need a phone with two lines. That extra space gives you the flexibility you need.

Caller ID

Most manufacturers provide the caller's incoming name and number on the display screen. Additionally, some phone companies allow you to connect your model to a computer via a USB port and download a picture that you want associated with a number or put the contact information on a TV screen.

Caller Block

If you're hoping to keep out spam calls, sellers and other irritating notifications, keep an eye out for models that allow you to block multiple numbers—some picks can even filter out international or withheld numbers, too. For an even mightier system, explore options that ask potential nuisance callers to leave their name, all before the phone asks whether you want to take the call or not.

Bluetooth Connectivity

Take your landline into the smartphone era with Bluetooth functionality. With this, you can both make and take cellular calls from any handset.

Multiple Handsets

When deciding on a product, determine how many telephone jacks are available and how many handsets you may need. If you have a large living space and don't want to be tied to one location when you get a call, multiple handsets can be placed in the most visited spots of your home.
While the era of a landline in every room isn't exactly around anymore, they're still popular for homes and businesses everywhere. When choosing yours, keep a couple of key takeaways in mind: DSS phones offer a more secure connection than both analog and digital, and a higher frequency means you'll have a more clear connection. If you're still not sure which pick is right for you, our experts are here to help. Call us at 800-860-3577 to speak to our team of specialists and we'll help you find the right model for your needs.