About two out of five American households have disconnected their home phones and rely solely on cell service to stay in touch with the world. If you're thinking of joining the mobile-only movement, though, you might want to reconsider: Here are five reasons to stick with a home phone, whether it's a landline (traditional copper-wire connection) or VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) service from your cable company.
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.
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.
Also, a phone with a corded base can work during a power outage, as long as it's connected to a conventional landline or VoIP service with battery backup.
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.
Dropping a phone line from a triple-play telecom bundle might save you as little as $5 or so a month. That's because the discount for an Internet and TV double play is usually less than for a triple play with phone service. In a recent survey, about 40 percent of Consumer Reports readers who thought about switching telecom services kept the phone as part of a bundle because of the skimpy savings.
For more information on the best home phones, see our cordless phone buying guide and Ratings.
Some new cordless phones can stand in for your cell phone. By placing a cell phone near the cordless phone's base, you can access your wireless service using Bluetooth technology and use a cordless handset to make or take cell calls. In addition to the convenience of using one handset for all of your calls, you might get better cell-phone reception at home. For example, if you don't get cell service in your basement, you might be able to make or take cell calls from there using a cordless handset.
If you're less than impressed with your old cordless phone, maybe it's just time for an upgrade. New models have lots of convenience features, like big, soft-touch buttons, easy-to-read displays, and backlighting that's great in a dim room. Talking caller ID announces the caller's name or number, so you don't have to find a phone to see who's calling. A voice mail indicator lights up when there's a message on phone company voice mail. A built-in answering machine is handy for screening calls.
DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) technology provides loud, crystal clear sound with nary a crackle, with little if any interference from devices such as microwave ovens, which use other frequencies. DECT phones also tend to have relatively long talk times, so you won't run out of juice in the middle of ordering takeout. Some models support up to 12 handsets from one base, and handsets can be used as close-range walkie-talkies in large houses.