The world of answering machines has changed a lot since the early 1950s, when Code-a-phone invented the technology. We used to have 10-15 models of stand-alone answering machine. Now, we only have 3. Plus one model with a corded phone built in. However, there are now many models incorporated into cordless phones.
Features to look for in an answering machine -- whether stand-alone, corded, or cordless -- include the following:
One of the most popular features on corded phones, the speakerphone allows handsfree 2-way communication and also allows a small number of additional people in the room to share in the conversation.
Speakerphone quality varies, with duplex speaker products sounding more natural than simplex units. Digital duplex or other technologies designed to reduce echo, clipping, and background noise will make a better speakerphone.
If you are the sole user of the phone, you may find a headset to be more useful than a built-in speakerphone and some units have both a speaker and a headset jack.
The first thing to know about caller ID is that it requires service from your local phone company -- which may or may not entail paying an additional monthly charge. And, of course, it requires a caller-id-enabled phone. Also note that call waiting caller id may not be included as part of your caller ID service package; call your phone company for details.
All caller ID cordless products Phone Source carries include the call waiting caller ID feature, so, if your phone company provides it, the phone will display it.
Features to consider in a caller ID-equipped phone include:
Available on most office-style phones, this feature allows storage and quick retrieval of oft-dialed numbers. The feature varies, both in number of entries allowed, and how the information is stored and retrieved. Many phones use one-touch buttons; store the desired numnber under such a button and simply press it to dial the call. To store more numbers in less space, some of these phones have a shift key so 2 numbers can be stored on each button. The other storage method uses an internal database of names/numbers which can be accessed through the display.
One-touch buttons are quicker to access, but usally provide more limited number of storage locations (between 12 and 32, depending on phone model)
If you are planning to use the phone with Centrex, the flash key should be allowed as one of the programmable digits in a speed-dial number.
An indicator on your phone that lets you know there are new messages in your phone company mailbox. These indicators are often found on caller id equipped phones and never on answering machine equipped phones (you'll have a new msg indicator for the answering machine itself, of course).The indicators are generally compatible with the FSK and Stutter methods of notification and may or may not work with your particular phone company's voicemail message waiting notification method.
The Phone Source Buyer's Guide helps you cut through the razzle dazzle by isolating and explaining what's important.
Most cordless products now employ some sort of digital transmission technology, except for a few 900 MHz models still on the market. Digital technology improves sound quality, reduces background noise and interference, and enhances range, while deterring eavesdropping.
The majority of new cordless models employ 2.4 GHz (2.4 gigahertz or 2,400,000,000 hertz), nearly 3 times the frequency of 900 MHz phones, and almost 60 times the frequency of the earliest cordless products. This high-frequency technology has two benefits:
Within the 2.4 GHz frequency, phones are divided into those which use plain digital technology and those which employ digital spread spectrum (DSS) or frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS)technology. DSS products have a higher effective power output, because they transmit throughout the available range of frequencies (bandwith) and they therefore provide better range, security, and clearer sound than plain digital. FHSS products go a step further and randomly vary the frequencies which are used for transmission, many times per second, thereby making eavesdropping highly unlikely.
The latest frequency being used for cordless phones is 5.8 GHZ (5.8 gigahertz or 5,800,000,000 hertz). This enhancement is available in a relatively few models at the present time, but has some advantages over 2.4 GHz:
Nearly every cordless phone has some facility for storing and dialing oft-called numbers. There are two basic approaches to this feature:
The first approach associates each speed-dial number with a single digit on the phone keypad. The number can be dialed by pressing an auto-dial key followed by the digit associated with that number. This method is simple and easy to use, but generally limited to a total of 10 numbers.
The second approach actually has a built-in alphanumeric directory, capable of storing name and number. These directories often hold 50 or more entries and are user-friendly to dial; simply bring up the list on the built-in LCD screen and point to the number to be dialed. Cellphone users will be familiar with this technology, as it is in use in all cellphones.
If speed-dial is important to you, be sure to note which type of system the phone you are looking at employs and the total number of entries it supports.
A speakerphone permits handsfree conversation. In the case of cordless products, a speakerphone may be on the base, on the handset itself, or both. In addition, a speakerphone on the base may or may not have a keypad for dialing. If it does not, then calls can only be answered from the base, not originated; fortunately, answer-only base speakerphones are increasingly rare. If you see a keypad on the base of the cordless phone you are considering, you can be sure it has a speakerphone.
Handset speakerphones are a more recent innovation and provide a couple of great benefits:
Cordless manufacturers have worked hard to improve the sound quality of speakerphones, reducing echo, background noise, and the clipping once associated with all speakerphones. Manufacturers have various names for this improved speaker sound; Panasonic uses the term digital duplex.
How much control you have over the ringer on your cordless phone varies by manufacturer. Panasonic always provides an off/lo/hi control for the handset and, if there is a speakerphone on the base, for the base as well. If being able to turn the ringer off is especially important to you, be sure to determine how the model you are interested in handles this issue.
Some manufacturers allow you to vary the tone of the ringer as well as the volume; these models will usually advertise something like "programmable ring tones."/
In addition, some models will have some sort of visual ring indicator on the handset, the base, or both -- this is helpful for use in noisy areas or for hearing-impaired use.
Once an unusual feature on a cordless product, the 2.5mm headset jack is a standard part of most cordless phone handsets these days. It allows connection of the phone to a large variety of compatible headsets, which have 2.5mm plugs, therby permitting handsfree operation.
Phones with a headset jack usually come with a belt clip as well, but generally do not include the headset. Headsets come in a variety of shapes to accommodate different tastes and Phone Source carries a large selection, which are displayed as accessories under each cordless item.
The first thing to know about caller ID is that it requires service from your local phone company -- which may or may not entail paying an additional monthly charge. In addition. it requires a caller-id-enabled phone. Also note that call waiting caller id may not be included as part of your caller ID service package; call your phone company for details.
All caller ID cordless products Phone Source carries include the call waiting caller ID feature, so, if your phone company enables it, the phone will display it./
Features to consider in a caller ID-equipped phone include:
Cordless phone battery life has improved steadily and it is not unusal to have to charge your cordless only once a week or so (depending on usage, of course). The advancement in talk-time has resulted mainly from more efficient circuitry, rather than better batteries, although newer battery technology such as NiMH (nickel metal hydride) and LIon (lithium ion) have begin appearing on some models.
Customers will call us requesting a phone with a particular battery type; in our opinion, it is better to concentrate on desired features, since, as mentioned above, all models have reasonable talk and standby times these days.
All cordless phones have, at a minimum, a button on the base you can press to make the handset ring so you can find it (cordless phones, like wallets and carkeys, having the property of spontaneous disappearance). This button will usually be labelled "Page", "Find", or "Locate."
Some phones will have an intercom between the handset and the base, allowing you not only to locate the handset if it is lost, but also to talk between the handset and the base. On models with a base speakerphone, this intercom feature usually allows a call to be answered on the handset and then transferred to the base or vice versa.
If intercom is important to you, read product descriptions carefully and note the following caveats:
An indicator on your phone that lets you know there are new messages in your phone company mailbox. These indicators are often found on caller id equipped phones and never on answering machine equipped phones (you'll have a new msg indicator for the answering machine itself, of course).
The indicators are generally compatible with the FSK and Stutter methods of notification and may or may not work with your particular phone company's voicemail message waiting notification method.
Headsets are a great leap forward in telephoning convenience and an absolute must for those whose professional activities require them to spend a lot of time on the phone each day. For heavy telephone users, a headset reduces neck strain and fatigue and can increase productivity as well. For anyone, a headset is a big improvement over cradleing the phone in the crook of your neck and shoulder.
Phone Source carries headsets for call centers -- these are most often used by staff in high call volume applications and also by indivduals who simply need the best headset with natural sound and durability.
Call center headsets are lightweight, feature excellent sound (most callers cannot tell the difference between talking to someone who is wearing a call center quality headset versus the same person talking w/o the headset), have replaceable parts and long life./
We also carry headsets for cordless phone, cellphone, and computer users. These units all feature the appropriate plug to interface to those devices: the cordless/cellular headsets use a 2.5mm plug compatible with virtually all cordless phones and many corded phones with a built-in 2.5mm headset jack, and many cellphones (note: most Nokia cellphone models require a special Nokia version of the headset). Computer headsets are designed to work either with the 2 jacks found on PC soundcards or via the USB port.