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Cordless Phones Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

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Woman speaking on a cordless phone handset

For your home phone line, a cordless phone is really the simplest way to make sure you can take calls in any room in the house. This cordless phone buying guide will help you figure out how to buy cordless phones that really meet your needs.

Buying a Cordless Phone:

  1. Analog cordless telephones: Analog cordless phones are fully serviceable, but you will experience more line noise than on other phones. Also, the wireless signal from these phones broadcasts in the clear, meaning your signal can be picked up by radio scanners.

  2. Digital cordless phones: When compared to analog telephones, digital cordless phones are really superior. Reception is clearer and security is higher because digital signals are not as easy for scanners to read as analog signals.

  3. Digital spread spectrum: DSS is a very secure telephone technology that resists interference. The phone chops the conversation into short sections, each section being sent on a rotating series of frequencies. Look for DSS in cordless phone descriptions.

  4. Digital-enhanced cordless telecommunications: DECT is the newest mode, a European import which gained FCC approval in 2005. It is designed specifically to allow several handsets to connect via Wi-Fi and to operate through one base unit, then through the base unit to regular phone service. At 1.9 GHz, DECT phone signals are interference-free and don't intrude on signals for wireless computers or other devices.

  5. Frequency: Cordless handsets use various frequencies to communicate with the cordless phone base. Newer cordless telephones have adopted different frequencies:

  6. 900 MHz: The old standard, 900 MHz phones are still available, but the frequency's popularity is decreasing quickly because so many users crowd the range.

  7. 2.4 GHz: Far superior in range and security over 900 MHz, it has one downside: the 2.4 GHz frequency is also used by home wireless networks, which can lead to interference.

  8. 5.8 GHz: With a similar range and security to 2.4 GHz and fewer users, this frequency doesn't interfere with wireless networks as much. If you use a Wi-Fi network at home, you may want to go with a 5.8 GHz cordless phone.

  9. Batteries: Cordless phones use rechargeable batteries. Which batteries your cordless handset uses have different effects on how you use the phone:

  10. Nickel-cadmium: Ni-Cd batteries are durable, small and inexpensive, but they suffer from the "memory effect"; so the battery must be fully drained before recharging or the capacity of the battery will be reduced.

  11. Nickel-metal hydride: Ni-MH batteries have twice the capacity of Ni-Cds and don't suffer from the memory effect.

  12. Lithium: Li-ion batteries are very light and don't suffer memory effect. They can be manufactured in more shapes than other technologies to fit a wider variety of electronics.

  13. Bluetooth: Some new-model cordless phones can attach to cell phone services through your cell phone's Bluetooth network. They may also allow you to connect hands-free accessories, such as Bluetooth headsets, to use through your landline.

  14. Channels: Each frequency band is divided into channels. Cordless phones scan these channels and use those with minimal traffic or interference, which can be very useful in crowded neighborhoods. The more channels your cordless phone is capable of using, the clearer your phone conversations will be.

  15. Dual keypads: If the base has a corded phone or speaker phone and the handset has a keypad, you effectively have two phones for the price of one.

  16. Multiple handsets: Most digital cordless phones have just one handset per base station. A base station designed with multiple handsets in mind will come with multiple cordless handsets or allow you to add additional handsets later. Multi-handset phones can also operate as intercom systems, a useful feature in a big house or small office.

  17. Base station: Your cordless phone base-station charges cordless handsets and often houses a digital answering machine. Mid-grade models might include an LCD display, speaker, call waiting and caller ID capabilities. Full-service base units may include multiple phone lines, a digital phone book, speed dial, an additional corded handset, answering machine, clock, radio and more.

  18. Multiple phone lines: If you have more than one phone line at home, you may want to find a cordless phone that allows you to switch each cordless handset between lines.

Tips from Overstock.com:

  1. Phone service, like almost everything else, is now available via the Internet. You'll find IP (Internet protocol) phones and even video phones in Overstock.com's electronics store.

  2. A regular corded phone is still good to have in emergencies or power outages. If the power goes out, your corded phone will still work.

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