Although a growing number of users are dropping their landline and using their cell phones for all their calling, there is still a case to be made for having a home phone. In our tests, voice quality for talking and listening on a cordless home phone was generally better than that of the best cell phones--important if you suffer from hearing loss, your household is noisy, or you spend a lot of time on the phone, especially in a home office. Home phones provide enhanced security, as well. Cell phones use a GPS-based method to report your location in a 911 emergency. That's fine when you're on the road, but if you live in a high-rise building, it won't indicate which floor you're on. A home phone is connected to your address, including the apartment number, so the 911 operator knows exactly where to send help even if you can't talk. Another advantage: Home-security systems generally require a home phone connection to monitor fire- and burglar-alarm sensors. If you don't have one, certain alarm companies will install a special device that communicates with their office via a cellular connection, but that will cost extra.
When shopping for a phone, you'll need to decide whether you want one with an integrated answerer. Many people still do, despite the ubiquity of voice-mail capability on both cell and hoome phones. Single- and multiple-handset phones come in versions with a built-in answerer. Such phones often cost little more than comparable phone-only models and take up about the same space.
Features such as a speakerphone for hands-free communication, a keypad for dialing from the base, and a large LCD screen can help you get the most from your phone. Choosing a model with a corded base means that the phone can work during a power outage, as long as it's connected to a conventional landline or VoIP service with battery backup.
Some cordless models can stand in for your cell phone. By placing your cell phone near the cordless phone's base, you can access your wireless service using Bluetooth technology and use your cordless handset to make or take cell calls. Besides the convenience of using a cordless handset for all your calls, you might get better cell-phone reception within your home. (For example, if you don't get cell service in your basement, you might be able to make or take calls from there using the cordless handset.) It also makes it easier to use whichever account offers unused talk time. But before you buy such a phone, make sure your cell phone is compatible by checking the vendor's Web site. If you're considering an answerer, you need to think about voice quality.
In our tests, we found some differences in the quality of the greeting and the recorded messages left by callers. Phones that let you record your greeting through the handset (using the remote handset access) usually sounded better. Some let you listen to your greeting through the handset, as opposed to listening through the base speaker; that gives you a better indication of how the greeting will sound to the calling party.