Remember when a cordless phone was something only your posh friends had? These days there is barely any difference in price between handsets attached to the wall and those that aren’t – so what should you think about when buying a cordless phone? ConnectMe asked experts Aaron Brown from Panasonic and Mark Sole from Uniden for their advice.
How does a cordless phone work?
In a nutshell, a cordless phone consists of two parts: the base and the handset (or handsets). The base connects to the line like a traditional wired telephone, so that from the telephone exchange it is treated the same as a wired telephone.
A cordless telephone simply sends your voice over radio waves using an encrypted digital signal between the handset and the base (to prevent your neighbours from eavesdropping). These radio waves are sent on frequencies described as 1.8GHz, 2.4GHz or 5.8GHz. The frequencies 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz are shared with other wireless devices, so their use is declining due to interference concerns.
These days the 1.8GHz band is the most common amongst all brands, as it uses an exclusive frequency band dedicated to only cordless phones. DECT technologies (Digitally Enhanced Cordless Telephone) are reserved for this band, XDECT for increased range and XDECT R, which include repeaters, for long range.
What are the advantages of a cordless phone and how far can I walk away from the connection?
The advantage that a cordless telephone offers over a conventional phone is convenience, mobility and productivity. In addition, there are specialised cordless phones that support specific features for elderly or hearing- and visually-impaired users, as well as ruggedised and waterproof phones for outdoor use or commercial environments. Multi-handset telephones enable you to have a phone in any room without the need to add additional telephone jack points.
The distance that you can go from the base depends on many factors. A common misconception is that a 2.4GHz will go double the distances of the 1.8GHz and a 5.8GHz will go triple the distance. This is not true. The properties of a 1.8GHz radio wave make it ideal to penetrate obstacles, such as walls, so it is suitable for most households.
DECT telephone range is typically rated at 50 metres through the walls in your home and 300 metres outside, in line of sight. If long range is your requirement, XDECT R telephones have repeaters that can offer up to eight times the talking range of your average phone.
Why should I get a cordless phone when I have a mobile?
The main attraction of a cordless telephone over a mobile phone is cost. After you purchase the phone it is free to use, with the exception of your telephone line rental. Additionally, the size and shape of a cordless telephone is designed for comfort, whereas a mobile phone is designed for portability.
What should I look for in a cordless phone, for example call quality, recharging, security? And how do I measure these in a shop or online store?
Look for ease of use. Have a play with the menu and make sure you can easily distinguish the ‘talk button’ from the ‘hang-up button’. Look for a handset that suits your needs – some people struggle with using small buttons, so a phone with bigger buttons can be handy, as can a backlit keypad for night use.
Also, ensure the screen size is large enough so that it’s easy to read. Other considerations are whether you require an answering machine and/or multiple handsets.
Unfortunately, most stores aren’t set up to test things like call quality and recharging, so these are difficult to test before buying.
With regards to security, it is quite difficult (although not impossible) for someone to tune into your conversation with digital cordless phones.
But as it is very easy for someone to tap your physical phone line anyway, it doesn’t matter what landline phone you use – wired or cordless.
What happens when the electricity fails?
How can I still ensure my phone works?
Some cordless telephones will work during a power cut, but the majority will not.
In this case it always pays to keep at least one old wired phone to use in an emergency, or shop for a cordless telephone model that has a built-in wired handset on the base and works without mains power.