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Product Review

Four reasons to keep that landline at home

From improved sound to big savings, cordless phones still have purpose

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Given that you have a cell or smartphone to stay in touch with the world, is there any reason to have a landline? The short answer is yes.

Consumer Reports’ recent tests of more than 80 cordless phones (with and without built-in answering machines) found that they provide better voice quality than their mobile counterparts, so you can enjoy conversations more. They have other advantages, too. Here’s the 411:

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1. They sound better. In the tests, voice quality for talking and listening was generally better than found in the best cellphones — 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. Most cordless models run on DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) technology, which uses the 1.9-GHz frequency band, minimizing interference with 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.

2. They improve safety. Cellphones use a GPS-based method to report your location in a 911 emergency. That’s a very good thing when you’re on the road, but they don’t indicate which floor you’re on in a high-rise building. A home phone is connected to your address, including apartment number, so the 911 operator knows exactly where to send help.

Traditional copper-wire phone service automatically indicates your precise location. With VoIP service from a cable company or fiber-optic phone service, the provider must get your address when you activate service, but you have to let it know if that changes.

Another landline advantage: Home-security systems generally require a landline connection to monitor fire- and burglar-alarm sensors. If you don’t have a landline, certain alarm companies will install a special device that communicates with their office via a cellular connection, but that will cost extra.

3. You don’t save much when you cut service. Dropping a phone line from a telecom bundle might save you only $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 of Consumer Reports’ readers, 34 percent who thought about switching phone services kept the phone as part of a bundle because of the skimpy savings.

4. Cordless phones can actually help your cellphone. Certain cordless models can stand in for your cellphone. By placing a cell 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 cellphone reception at home. Certain models take that Bluetooth connection further by notifying you on a cordless handset of texts on your cellphone.

Consumer Reports writes columns, reviews, and ratings on cars, appliances, electronics, and other consumer goods. Previous stories can be found at consumerreports.org.
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