Cordless Phone Buying Guide
Are you looking for a phone that delivers clear sound, privacy and the freedom to roam? Equipped with advanced technologies and a mind-boggling array of features, the right cordless phone can meet these three vital requirements.
The days of telling callers, "Just a minute…I'm on a cordless…let me switch phones" are long gone. Today's cordless phones offer excellent sound quality, virtually no interference.
A cordless phone consists of a base and at least one handset. With a cordless phone, you're free to move around your house and yard. Instead of a cord, a cordless phone uses radio frequency (RF) to transmit your conversation between the base and the handset. (And, thanks to technological advances, you can forget old fears about others listening in on that transmission.)
Choosing the right cordless phone for you will depend on your answers to the following. How much are you willing to spend? What range do you want? What type of security do you need? Do you need extra features such as multi-handset compatibility? What about an answering machine?
You'll pay less for analogue than for digital technology, and more for DSS (DSS offers the most freedom from eavesdroppers and interference).
Adding multi-handset compatibility or an answering machine to your cordless phone may also increase its price.
Standard features on most cordless phones include volume control, redial, number storage.
Analogue and digital:
Analogue: It offers a shorter range, as well as the least security and protection from interference. "Analogue" refers to a process of amplifying signal strength and varying frequency to control what you hear.
Digital: This technology offers better security and less RF interference than analogue. Instead of interpreting a fluctuating signal, digital technology decodes information that is transmitted as strings of "0" and "1" called bytes.
Most cordless phones have displays to show the name and number of a caller (if you have Caller ID service from your phone company) so you can decide to answer a call, ignore it, or let go to voicemail or your answerer. Many cordless phones also have Caller ID on Call Waiting, so you can see the identity of a second caller, and decide if you want to switch to the second call. Cordless Phones with Caller ID usually have memory to capture names and numbers of up to 50 callers so you can call them back later.
Cordless Phones Multi-line operation:
You can get a cordless phone that works on two or four lines, if you have more than one phone number. There are also multi-line cordless phones designed to work with specific multi-line phone systems, with as many as 12 lines.
Cordless Phones Multi-handset operation:
Most cordless phones are actually telephone systems, with one base and up to eight cordless handsets, and intercom from handset to handset and handset to base and base to handset. The Panasonic cordless phone range include automated attendant and voicemail, with up to nine mailboxes. Some Philips cordless phones allows you to announce calls through the small speakers in the handsets.
Cordless Phones Redial:
Also called LND (last number dial), this button redials the last string of digits you dial. Some models (usually corded, not cordless) automatically keep trying over and over again if called number is busy.
Cordless Phones Speaker Phone:
This function permits hands-free conversation and is one way to accommodate several people with one phone. While the speaker and microphone are usually located on the base, some handsets feature a speaker as well. Speakerphones vary in quality – the best are “digital duplex.” In cordless phones, the speakerphone feature is usually part of the base, not the handset, and some bases with speakerphones do not have touch-tone dial “pads,” so you’ll have to dial from the handset, or use the speaker phone just for answering calls. Some cordless phones, such as the Philips Zenia voice and the Panasonic KXT-CD 715 have speakerphones in both handset and base.
Cordless Phones Lighted Keypad:
Many cordless phones have internal lighting to make it easy to see the buttons for dialing in the dark. Display are often illuminated, too.
Cordless Phones Mute:
Also called a privacy button, the mute button or switch allows you talk to someone in the room without being overheard by the person on the phone. It’s very useful if you’ve been put on hold, but unfortunately this feature has become very rare on cordless phones. Some headsets, have their own mute switches, and can be used with phones that don't have mute features.
Cordless Phones Hold:
On multi-line phones, a hold button allows you to switch to another line without losing the first call, or to leave one phone to resume the call on another phone, or temporarily suspend a call to answer the door or go to the bathroom. A few single-line phones, such as the BT Diverse 4010 Classic , have hold buttons.
Cordless Phones Conference:
Found on multi-line phones, the “CONF” button allows you to set up three-way conversation. Be aware that there is usually a drop in volume between the two “outside” people.
Cordless phone dual keypad:
A base unit equipped with its own keypad - in addition to the one on the handset -is like having an additional phone. It lets you dial out and use the base's speakerphone, no matter where you've left the handset.
Cordless Phones Memory:
(Also known as speed dialing.) By pushing one, two, or three buttons, you can dial from 10 to 50 pre-programmed frequently called or emergency numbers. Some phones have buttons ("jog dial," "navigator key") that let you scroll through a list of names in memory, and then push a button to make the call. Some phones have alphanumeric displays to show names and numbers in memory, some use a special “memory” or “auto” button in combination with the touch-tone buttons for speed dialing, and some phones (usually corded, not cordless) have separate memory buttons to speed-dial police, fire, and ambulance numbers.
Cordless Phones Headset Jack:
Many cordless phones have headset jacks on their handsets, so you can walk and talk, or work and talk, without having to hold the phone. Most cordless phones with headset jacks also have belt clips; and you can also buy protective holsters to clip to your belt, waistband or pocket. Cordless phones are designed to use headsets with 2.5mm plugs, and won’t accept headsets with modular plugs that are commonly used with office phones.
Cordless Phones Ringer control:
Lets you adjust ringing volume or turn ringing off completely. You may also be able to choose from several ringing sounds or a vibrator alert. Some cordless phones have ringing in the base as well as the handset, some allow you to select a different ring tone for a certain caller.
Cordless Phones Intercom:
Allows you talk from base to handset. Intercom calls can usually be initiated from either handset or between base and handset. Automatic intercom activates the other unit for hands-free response, or remote monitoring.
Cordless Phones Page/handset-locator:
A button on the base activates a BEEP alert at the handset, to request a pre-arranged function (such as “c’mon in; lunch is ready”) or to help find a misplaced handset.
Cordless Phones LCD Readout:
Many cordless phones have displays to show the phone number you dialed, elapsed call time, time of day, battery condition and Caller ID information. Some phones have displays on both the handset and base, some on just the base or just the handset. Some displays are illuminated to help you read them in dim light.
Cordless Phones Voice Mail Indicator Light:
If you have voice mail service from your local phone company, you can get a phone with a light to indicate that a message is waiting for you in your voice mail box.
Cordless Phones Flash Button:
An electronically-timed brief disconnect is used to switch between calls if you have Call Waiting service from your phone company, or to get a “fresh” dial tone to make a second call.
Cordless Phones NiMH battery:
Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries can offer up to three times the capacity of the same size standard Nickel Cadmium batteries. Due to their increased capacity and energy density features, users can expect longer talk time and longer standby time. Manufacturers can use NiMH technology to increase operational time and/or decrease the size and weight of a phone.
Cordless Phones Dialing restriction:
Also called “electronic station lock,” it’s a feature that prevents people from making a call unless they enter a password with the touch-tone buttons. Some phones can also be programmed to prevent outgoing long-distance calls and calls to mobile phones or calls to individuals or groups of numbers you choose.
Cordless Phones Two-piece or Three-piece design:
Most cordless phones are composed of two parts: a base station that plugs into the phone line and electrical outlet, and a battery-powered portable handset. Some are three-piece sets with separate handset, charging cradle, and a base that can be mounted up high for maximum range, or kept in a closet or other out-of-the-way location. Some cordless phones allow multiple handsets and charging cradles.
Cordless Phones Frequency:
Cordless phones use FM radio signals to transmit voices between base and handset. They are susceptible to interference from electrical devices, other radio transmitters, and other cordless phones. The original cordless phones operated in the 27MHz band and later the FCC allowed use of frequencies in the 46 to 49 MHz band, the 900MHz band, and the 2.4GHz band. In general, phones operating at higher frequencies cost more money and have better voice quality, but there are exceptions to this rule. Don't believe advertising claims about 2.4GHz phones providing extra long range.
Cordless Phones - Basic Science:
With all else being equal, radio transmissions with higher frequencies, have shorter range than lower frequencies. That's why UHF (ultra high frequency) TV stations don't reach as far as VHF (very high frequency) TV stations; and why FM stations (transmitting in the 88 - 108 megahertz band) don't reach as far as AM stations using the 540 - 1600 kilohertz band. Phones operate on specific channels in their designated bands, and better phones can automatically select a channel to avoid noise, or interference from other nearby phones.
Cordless Phones Digital Transmission:
A growing number of cordless phones use digital, rather than analogue radio transmission. This provides higher security, less interference, and may provide longer range.
Cordless Phones Frequency Hopping:
This is a variation of spread spectrum, where the signal rapidly moves from one frequency to another (usually hundreds of times each second) to make it extremely difficult for anyone to listen-in on your conversation with another cordless phone or a scanner.
Cordless Phones Digital Answering machines:
Answering machines are no longer machines, and they don’t use cassette tapes anymore. Today, answering is just one more feature built into a phone, and adds a fraction of the price that a separate answerer used to cost. Performance is better, too, with no belts or tapes to stretch or break, and no motor noise. There are new features, too, like the ability to selectively erase and delete messages. You can usually change your outgoing message (“OGM”) and retrieve your incoming messages (“ICM”) from the phone’s base or handset, or remotely from any phone in the world. Recording time for digital answerers is typically 15 minutes. While this is less than older tape-based answering machines provided, it is usually enough, because the average incoming message is just 20 seconds long.
Cordless Phones Page Alert:
This feature allows your cordless phone/answerer combo to activate your “beeper” after a message has been recorded. Some phones can also transfer Caller ID information to your beeper.
Cordless Phones Time/date stamp:
Many phones with answerers can tell you when a call came in, with a synthesized voice chip. Two-line models may also tell you which line the call cam in on, useful if you have separate home and business lines, for example.
Cordless Phones Announce only:
Many answerers can be set to play an outgoing announcement only, such as office hours or event schedules, but not record incoming messages.
Cordless Phones Toll saver:
You can set many answerers to pick up on the fourth ring for the first call and on the second ring for later calls. When you call your answerer for messages, and it doesn't answer by the third ring, you can hang up, knowing that there are no new messages, and you won’t pay for the call.
Cordless Phones delete:
Pressing this button deletes the message you are listening to, without affecting other messages.