Smartphones Be Damned: You Still Need A Cordless Phone!

Smartphones Be Damned: You Still Need A Cordless Phone!

It is believed that by 2019, there will be over 2.6 billion people using smartphones – that’s a little over 36% of the world’s population! With so many people using some kind of mobile device, it’s a little hard to believe that nearly 46% of people still have a cordless phone and landlines - and with good reason!

There once was a time when people used mobile devices for emergencies, or they are viewed as a status symbol for the rich and powerful. Today, the are more of a common place. It was once believed that renters and young adults are most likely to have a mobile device because the phones allow them greater mobility and freedom.

Cordless phone.

Today, we want to shed some light about the telephone and its history, the reasons why you should keep your landline, and more.

We have a lot of ground we’d like to cover, so let’s not waste time!

Before The Cordless Phone: History Of The Telephone

In school, we are often told that Alexander Graham Bell was the sole inventor of the telephone, but that isn’t necessarily true. Back in the 1870s, there was another man called Elisha Gray who also invented a device that would transmit a person’s speech electronically to another person. Both Gray and Bell would finish their projects and hurried to the patent office.

Unfortunately for Gray, Bell made it there first and his prototype for the telephone was approved. This led Bell to being known as the creator of the telephone and Gray is just… Forgotten.

The Telegraph Evolves Into The Telephone

Before the telephone, people were using the telegraph for 30 years. The problem with using a telegraph to communicate is that it used Morse code, and it could only send and receive a message one at a time.

Bell understood how sound and music worked and he was able to figure out a way to send more than a single message along the wire at a time. His solution to this problem was called the “Harmonic Telegraph.”

This harmonic telegraph was based off the principal that musical notes could travel down the same wire at the same time if they have different pitches.

Alexander G. Bell with the first telephone.

Over time, Bell would work with Thomas A. Watson to develop a prototype for the very first telephone. With this phone, sound waves would cause an electrical current to change in frequency and intensity. This would cause a thin plate made from soft iron (called a diaphragm) to vibrate.

Those vibrations would then be magnetically transferred to a wire that connected from the diaphragm to another device further away. When the receiving diaphragm vibrated, the original sound can be replicated.

Just three days after Bell filed the patent for the telephone, Bell sent the very first intelligible message. Know what he said? “Mr. Watson, come here. I need you.”

The Birth Of A Telephone Network

The first telephone line stretched from Boston, Massachusetts to Someville, Massachusetts in 1877 and the Bell Telephone Company was founded in the same year.

Bell merged his company with The American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) and had a monopoly on the American phone market all the way up to 1984 when the US Department of Justice ended AT&T’s hold on the telephone market across the country.

Rotary Dialing And Switch Boards

In the beginning, people had to lease a pair of telephones through their provider. Then they needed to put up their phone line in order to connect with someone else. It wasn’t until 1889 when Almon B. Strowger from Kansas City invented a switch board.

Strowger received a patent for the first automated phone exchange in March 11, 1891. The first exchanged with the Strowger switch was opened in La Porte, Indiana the following year. To use the system, people had to tap a button on the phone in order to create the required number of pulses.

In 1896, Strowger’s associate reworked this idea so that instead of pressing a button, users would use a rotary dial to dial a number. The last major area to give up dual service that used rotary and button telephones was Philadelphia in 1943.

The Pay Phone

The pay phone was patented by William Gray in 1889 and the very first one was installed in the Hartford Bank in Connecticut. What was unique about early pay phones was that the user would call someone and only pay after the call has been completed.

The first payphone.

Today, you won’t see many pay phones in shops because people have mobile devices. With that said, there are less than 300,000 pay phones operating in the US.

The Touch-Tone Phone

The first touch-tone phone was created by researchers at Western Electric, a manufacturing subsidiary of AT&T. These phones use tones to activate a telephone connection instead of a pulse. AT&T introduced touch-tone dialing, which became the new evolution of telephone tech.

By the 1990s, more homes would have touch-tone phones than rotary models.

The Cordless Phone

The cordless phone was first introduced in the 1970s. The Federal Communications Commission permitted phone companies to use the 47 to 49 MHz frequency range for the cordless phones so that the phones required less power to operate, but would also have less interference.

In 1990, the FCC increased the frequency range for cordless phones to 900 MHz.

With the invention of digital cordless phones in 1994 and digital spread spectrum in 1995, the FCC understood the importance of increased security for cordless phone users. The frequency range was increased to 2.4 GHz in 1998. Today, most cordless phones operate on a 5.8 GHz range.

The Mobile Phone

The cellular network that we know and use today dates back to 1947 when Bell Labs (a research lab of AT&T) created a system that would connect phones through a network of transmitters or “cells,” rather than via wires.

Long before we walked around with mini computers in our pockets (also known as our smart phones), the earliest mobile phone was actually intended to be used in a vehicle. These early versions of a mobile phone was incredibly cumbersome and expensive to own. Perhaps the biggest problem with these types of phones was that it had a very limited range.

Old mobile phones.

Motorola would be the first to introduce the handheld cell phone in 1973.

The Early Answering Machine

It’s hard to picture a world that doesn’t have answering machines or some type of messaging system. The first answering machine was created in 1971 by a company named PhoneMate. The company introduced the Model 400 answering machine. The machine featured an earpiece that would allow someone to listen to incoming messages.

At first, Bell Telephone was apprehensive to embrace answering machines because they were afraid people would stop making phone calls because they didn’t want to be recorded.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the case and answering machines paved the way for the introduction of what we use today: voice mail. Voice mail was patented by Gordon Matthews in 1979.

If you’re like us, then you probably can’t picture life without an answering machine or voice mail!

Why Should You Have A Cordless Phone And/Or A Landline?

Many people grapple with the idea of keeping a landline in their home if they have a mobile device. With the rising cost of cable and wireless data plans, who can blame consumers for not wanting to pay an arm and a leg for a service they’ll rarely use?

Before you decide to join the rest of the population who have 86-ed the landline in favor of having the freedom and mobility going mobile can give you, perhaps there’s a reason to hold on to old faithful.

In fact, we have several reasons why you may want to keep your landline and upgrade your old corded phone with a new cordless option.

Emergencies

One of the main reasons many people keep their landline phones is because it will work even if you do not have power. A hurricane could knock power out in your development, but you would still be able to hook an old touch-tone phone up and make calls to check on loved ones.

Cordless phone in the dark.

Landlines aren’t just useful for when Mother Nature decides to take her frustrations out on mankind by way of bad weather. Landlines can also help in an emergency situation.

Let’s say someone breaks into your home. You can use a cordless phone to dial 911 and not even talk. Dispatchers can trace the call and send help to your location, hopefully before anything bad happens. If you were to do that with a cell phone, the dispatcher would only be able to trace the call to the nearest cell tower, rather than your specific location.

Office Use

Landlines and cordless phones are a terrific way to communication within a business setting. Instead of relying on cell service or internet messaging services, you can use the phone to make business calls, conduct conference calls and meetings anytime you need to. This is especially useful if your IT department has troubles keeping the internet running smoothly.

Ease Of Use For Seniors

Making a phone call on a touch-tone or cordless phone is so much easier for the elderly and non-tech savvy people to do. All you have to do is pick up the receiver, dial the desired phone number and wait. The hardest part about using a phone connected to a landline is just trying to remember all those phone numbers!

Affordable

Did you know the average cell phone bill for one person is at least $100. Sometimes it can go as high as $200 if you aren’t careful. When you compare that to the average cost for a basic landline service, which is anywhere from $15 to $30 when paired with other services, it’s hard to see why we are so quick to ditch our touch tone or cordless phone.

Better Range

When you make a call on a landline, you will notice that you will have fewer dropped calls and the connection is clearer. This is because of DECT, digital enhanced cordless technology.

A woman talking on a cordless phone.

With this technology being included in many cordless phones, you can enjoy those long conversations with your loved ones without worrying about the phone cutting off during the chat. Not only that, but there are even some cordless models that allow you to use up to 12 handsets to one base – thus turning your cordless phones into fancy walkie-talkies.

Cordless Phone Technology

A cordless phone is what you get when a telephone and a radio transmitter/receiver have a baby. Because these phones are a combination of the two, you are going to have unique challenges that a basic phone wouldn’t have.

The range of the phone indicates how far the handset can be away from the base without noticing a difference in the sound quality produced. The sound quality is also affected by the distance of the call, the way the radio signal is transmitted, and any objects that may interfere with those transmission signals.

Since information is being transmitted over the airwaves, security is another issue that is a concern with cordless devices.

All of these problems are related to technology that your phone uses: radio frequencies, analog vs digital tech, and number of channels.

Frequency

Since your phone uses radio frequencies to transmit and receive information, the FCC sets guidelines for phones just like they do with any other kind of radios. The cordless phone operate on the main frequency bands:

  • 43 – 50 MHz: Older cordless phones and cheaper modern phones often use these frequencies because they use lower frequencies. These phones have poor phone sound quality and they have a tendency for the conversation to be picked up on devices like police scanners and even baby monitors.
  • 900 MHz: This is the most common radio frequency because it provides you are further range (5,000 to 7,000 ft. / 1,500 to 2,100 m.) and improved sound quality. Unfortunately, even conversations had on these phones can be picked up on commercial radio scanners.
  • 2.4 GHz: The FCC opened the 2.4 GHz range for cordless phones in 1998. You can find 2.4 GHz and  5.8 GHz phones available that will cover the largest range and have improved call clarity. This is possible because they operate on higher frequencies that cannot be picked up by most radio scanners.

Analog Vs Digital Tech

Many inexpensive cordless phone models use analog technology. The drawback of this dated technology is that the sound quality tends to be relatively poor because they’re more susceptible to picking up interference. Not only that, but analog signals can be picked up and read by radio scanners.

Digital cordless phones.

With digital technology, you will get a clearer sound without worrying about security. In 1995, cordless phones were introduced to digital spread spectrum (DSS).

What this technology does is divide digital information into pieces that are spread out over a few frequencies between the base and receiver. This technology essentially makes it impossible for someone to listen in on a conversation being had on cordless phones.

Channels

Every frequency band can be further divided into different channels. Let’s say you have a 900 MHz phone. The base of the phone is going to search for a set of frequencies or channels within its range that aren’t being used so that it can communicate with the handset.

If your base has the ability to search through a lot of increments, it is going to be able to find a set of frequencies that will be free of interference, thus providing you with improved sound quality.

Other Technology

Beyond these basic technologies, many newer cordless phone models features impressive technology such as:

LCD Screens 

The LCD screen is usually located on the base and the handset, and it will display the caller’s name and address. The screen can also provide you with other information such as battery strength on the handset, date and time. If you have a phone with call waiting, the LCD may also show you the information of the incoming call.

Ability To Connect To Smartphones

Even if you have a smart phone, a cordless phone is a great option because you can find models that’ll connect your cordless to your smartphone.

A smartphone connected to a cordless phone.

This is useful when you lose or break your phone, or if the battery dies because you watched to many YouTube videos, you can rest assured that you’ll never miss a call again.

Digital Answering Machines

Instead of missed calls or running out of tape on an old answering machine, digital answering machines are much simpler. These digital answering machines give you the ability to listen to personal messages privately because the system allows the caller to direct where the message should go.

For example, if someone calls someone who runs a catering business from home and wants to leave a message, they can specify which mailbox the message is delivered to: the personal mailbox or the business mailbox.

Work With Numerous Handsets 

Instead of having multiple phones strewn about the house, why not get a single phone with multiple handsets? Not only will it save money, but the handsets can also be used to communicate between one another when you put the phone on intercom mode. If phones don’t have this feature, they will at least give you the ability to transfer the call to another phone.

Ability To Work With Numerous Phone Numbers

Phones with this tech are able to take calls for two (or more phone numbers). This is incredibly useful for people who have chatty family members or if you’re running a small home business.

If you’re concerned about how to decipher a call from one number from a call from the other number, you can find phones that have the ability to designate a specific tone or ringer for one of those lines.

Speakerphone 

Speakerphone is technology that allows you to chat with someone on the phone without having to hold the handset. Speakerphone is usually used in an office setting for conference calls, but homeowners can find this tech quite handy, especially if you have your hands full and an important call comes through.

In terms of how these phones are powered, the base itself usually will plug into the wall. The handset, on the other hand, will use a rechargeable battery because they are rechargeable and cost effective.

There are three types of battery chemistries that you’ll find in these phones: Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH), Nickel Cadmium (NiCad), and Lithium Ion (Li-ion). The Nickel Cadmium batteries aren’t used much anymore because cadmium is extremely toxic. In its place, you’ll find nickel metal hydride batteries.

The downside to these batteries is that they do not have any “memory” which significantly reduces the maximum capacity of the battery.

Lithium Ion batteries, on the other hand, is very popular and has great battery memory. The only reason why you don’t see them used in a lot of cordless phones is because the battery is expensive to make, which that expense is passed on to the consumer.

Final Thoughts On The Cordless Phone

The cordless phone is one of those things that you don’t think about often because you never leave home without your smartphone. However, as we’ve discussed, having a landline can be incredibly useful in emergency situations, as well as for general use.

A cordless phone on the table.

If you’re thinking about looking at a new cordless phone but you aren’t sure about what to look at, we can help.

Check out our buying guide that’ll shed some light on the topic. We highlight five products that we think are worth being called the best of the best. We also give you a brief look at the phone’s features and what other customers had to say about the phone!

Leave us a comment below and let us know what kind of phone you had growing up: did you have an old fashioned rotary phone or did you have a cordless? We’d love to hear from you!

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