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Choosing a cordless phone for your home can be just about as difficult as choosing the right mobile phone for yourself. There are a multitude of options available, each with their own set of features. And, as if that wasn’t confusing enough, different cordless phones today work on several different frequencies as well. Therefore, one has to keep in mind the operating environment and choose a phone with the right features in order to get the best possible performance and voice quality.
So here’s a low-down on the points to consider when choosing the right cordless phone for your home:
1. Analog vs. Digital:
Earlier generations of cordless phones were analog in nature. Modern cordless phones are mostly digital and therefore offer superior voice quality.
In an analog phone, the signal quality degrades over distance, and this degradation is irreversible. In a digital phone, by contrast, the degradation in the signal can be “corrected” and the original signal quality restored, thereby directly improving the voice quality of the phone. This is also the reason why digital TV (DTH, CAS, IPTV, etc.) offers superior picture and audio quality to analog cable TV.
Additionally, newer digital phones make use of Spread Spectrum techniques to further minimize the degradation by spreading out the signal over a wider frequency range.
In a cordless phone, the base unit and handset(s) communicate with each other using a wireless signal. The frequency of this wireless signal determines the range of the signal and how prone it is to interference. Therefore, one must pay attention to this aspect when choosing a cordless phone.
Modern digital cordless phones support the following frequencies:
- 900 MHz
- 2.4 GHz
- 5.8 GHz
- 1.9 GHz (DECT 6.0)
The first generation of digital cordless phones used the 900 MHz frequency band. This frequency band offers a good range and penetrates easily through walls, making it ideal for indoor use. But eventually, due to its popularity and use by various wireless electronic devices, the 900 MHz band got saturated and the 2.4 GHz band had to be opened up for cordless phones.
The second generation cordless phones use the 2.4 GHz band. This band offers improved voice clarity due to reduced interference. However, the higher frequency signals do not propagate through walls and solid barriers as well as 900 MHz signals do. Another major problem with this band is that it is also used by Wi-Fi routers and Bluetooth devices, both of which are becoming more and more common by the day. So if you have a Wi-Fi router in your home, it is strongly recommended that you do not buy a 2.4 GHz cordless phone.
To counter interference problems from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices, a new frequency band at 5.8 GHz was opened up. This band is used by the third generation cordless phones, offering better voice clarity than even 2.4 GHz phones, and has the advantage of being in a largely unused frequency band. The downside is a slightly reduced battery life due to the higher frequency, and marginally poorer performance in the presence of walls and indoor obstacles.
The latest technology to do the rounds is DECT 6.0, which stands for “Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications”. This technology uses the 1.9 GHz frequency band which is reserved solely for cordless phones and is therefore completely interference-free. Also, this band gives the best of both worlds. It has the longer range of 900 MHz phones, as well as the superior voice clarity of 2.4/5.8 GHz phones. Thirdly, by using Spread Spectrum technology, it eliminates chances of interference from other DECT 6.0 phones and provides protection from eavesdropping.
Here’s a list of some features that are potentially useful in a cordless phone:
a. Caller ID: Probably the most useful feature in any phone! It is strongly recommended to go in for a cordless phone with Caller ID support, as most telephone companies (such as BSNL, MTNL and Airtel) offer the Caller ID facility for free nowadays.
b. Phone book: Gives you the ability to store numbers on your cordless phone, just as you would on your mobile phone. This saves time when calling frequently dialed numbers, and eliminates the need for a paper phone book.
c. Speakerphone: Allows you to converse hands-free, and lets others listen to the conversation too. Great for families. And useful if you’re attending a meeting or an important call, and need to work on a laptop or other device simultaneously.
d. Multiple handsets: This can be useful in a large house, or a house with multiple floors, as it eliminates the need to provide physical extensions across the house. Also, the multiple handsets allow the phone to be used as an intercom within the house.
e. Base Unit battery backup: Can be really useful if you use your cordless phone to attend meetings or important calls. Without battery backup for the base unit, an ongoing call will be dropped the moment the electricity goes off. Given the power situation in India, it makes sense to have this feature for a business phone.
1. Digital wins: Digital phones are clearly superior to analog phones in every possible aspect. Unfortunately, it is very easy to mistake an analog phone for a digital one. For example, a commonly sold phone – the Panasonic KX-TC2100 – is actually an analog phone! So, when buying a phone, make sure to ask the shopkeeper clearly for a digital phone.
2. DECT is best: Use the following table to select the right cordless frequency for your specific needs. As you will see below, DECT 6.0 phones are ideal for most scenarios.
3. Features matter: Choose a phone with the right mix of features for you. There is a wide range of cordless phones out there, ranging from rudimentary home phones to advanced phones with business features like Call Waiting, Voice Mail, additional phone lines, multiple handsets, etc.
4. Battery: Battery life of the handset is very important for a good user experience. A longer battery life truly turns the cordless phone into a short-range mobile phone. The best battery available today (in terms of longevity and performance) is Li-Ion, followed by NiMH.
Always remember to check the battery type used before purchasing a cordless phone, and do not forget to check the talk time and standby time specs. Also, to extend the life of the battery, avoid placing the handset back on the cradle every time after making a call. Do it only when the low battery indicator flashes on the handset. This will reduce unnecessary recharging of the battery.