Phones that take cell service home

Last reviewed: January 2009
David Toner adjusts a phone in our Head and Torso Simulator
Heads up
David Toner adjusts a phone in our Head and Torso Simulator. The HATS listens to simulated speech and also pipes it into the phone to help us assess voice quality.
GE 28129FE2
Recommended GE 28129FE2, $130

Using a cell phone at home often means enduring patchy service, depending on your location in the house, and toting the phone around to avoid missing calls. Enter a new breed of cordless phone that promises to make it easier to use your cell service at home by wirelessly connecting to your cell phone and its service using Bluetooth technology.

Assuming your cell phone works somewhere in your home, you can use such a system to place and receive cell-phone calls on cordless handsets throughout your home. Like any cordless phones, those systems also connect to landline service. With both services connected, you can pick and choose between placing calls on the landline or your cell service. When calls come in, you can see which service they're on. The phone will also work with cell service alone, though for safety reasons we recommend keeping landline service in your home, since you're more easily located from a landline 911 call than one placed from a cell-phone.

We tested two cell-phone-capable cordless answering systems, the AT&T EP5632, $100, and GE 28129FE2, $130, and one cordless-phone system, the Panasonic KX-TH1212, $100. All were comparable in performance with regular cordless systems, though voice quality with the cell connection was a notch below that with the landline. Electronically pairing the systems to cell phones was easy enough. But you can't use the cordless handset to access cell-phone features such as speed dial or for text messaging or Web surfing.

Bottom line

Consider one of these hybrids if you want to take and make more cell-phone calls at home or save money by eliminating redundancies between your cell and landline services. The AT&T is a good choice if you need only a single-handset answerer system. The GE comes with two handsets and offers double the talk time and message capacity—10 hours and 31 minutes, respectively. It's also a DECT phone, so it's less likely to have interference issues with other wireless devices, and it has battery backup for power outages. The Panasonic, while competent, is pricey for a phone-only unit.

Regardless of the model you buy, make sure you can return it after you buy it if you can't successfully pair your cell phone to the system. Some readers have complained of pairing problems and other difficulties with an older GE system we tested, the 28128EE2.

Posted: December 2008 — Consumer Reports Magazine issue: January 2009