Arrives with four lines, and additional lines are possible as needs expand. Three-way conferencing, along with 32 number speed dial, speakerphone and headset. Every button serves a single function, which cuts down on user confusion.
Speakerphone may have some quality control issues. There is no hold music, and setting up individual voicemail accounts can be challenging.
Full duplex speakerphone, meaning both parties can hear each other simultaneously. Very professional aesthetics, with traditional copper hard wiring. Display options include English, French and Spanish.
Phone service depends on a constant AC power supply. Buttons and controls have been described as confusing, and some users say they start sticking over time. Black plastic shell difficult to keep clean.
Extra large buttons and audio enhancement make this corded phone ideal for older users. 10 number speed dial and large backlit LCD display with complete Caller ID information. Operational buttons are very intuitive.
Even with audio boost, the sound quality is variable. Single line only, more suited to home or small office use. No battery back-up, which can lead to data or memory loss.
Audio quality is excellent. Installation is extremely easy and straightforward. VTech is a respected brand in the consumer electronics space.
Some concerns about quality control. The voicemail system has some glitches which can be frustrating until you get used to them.
Surprising number of professional phone features for such an affordable price. Large LCD display is easy to read and provides complete Caller ID information. Tri-lingual display options.
Does not have a built-in answering machine. Limited number of functions compared to professional level office phones. Back-up memory system tends to drain batteries quickly.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
In a society filled with smartphones, it may seem like telephone hardware on a desk is unnecessary. However, for certain types of businesses and office settings, a smartphone can’t do it all. The smartphone is a valuable tool, but it doesn’t have every feature businesses may need.
Office phones are the answer. This type of phone is connected to the system with a wire. It doesn’t have the freedom of a smartphone, but for a busy office environment, it is a must-have piece of hardware.
Two primary types of office phones are available: the traditional phone line and the VoIP phone system.
If you receive your phone signal through a line from a telephone company, a traditional office phone works nicely.
If you have multiple phones in the office, you’ll need some sort of phone hardware system. This allows the office phones to connect to the public telephone network. The phone network is able to handle multiple ingoing and outgoing calls simultaneously. PBX is a common type of system for this purpose.
For those who need to handle only one call at a time, a phone hardware system is not needed. Your office phone can connect directly to the incoming phone line and manage the low volume of calls.
A VoIP system sends and receives calls over an internet connection. You do not need to be connected to a traditional phone line for this type of service.
With a VoIP system, you can use the VoIP-enabled office phone to manage your incoming and outgoing calls. This gives small businesses the ability to simulate many of the features of a more complex PBX for a lower price than a PBX system.
Expandable office phone hardware
This AT&T office phone ships with the ability to use up to four lines, and the hardware is expandable from there. It has a large number of buttons, which allows the user to set up multiple personalized functions. The AT&T Expandable phone doesn’t require a PBX system to run, nor does it need to be connected to the AT&T phone service.
Here are some key office phone features you may need for your home office or mid-sized business.
The auto attendant feature routes calls and can keep an inbound call on hold until someone can answer it. The auto attendant can greet inbound callers, too. Some auto attendants play hold music or a hold message.
If you sometimes need multiple people to participate on a call, the conference call feature works well. It has a high-quality speaker and a microphone to pick up sounds from the room while maintaining a clear audio signal.
The display screen on an office phone provides caller ID information along with other system alert information. Display screens on office phones vary in size and the number of characters they can show at one time.
An office phone with speed dial provides a significant advantage. Phones can contain anywhere from 10 to 40 individual speed dial buttons.
For a call that cannot be answered, you’ll want a voicemail option. Giving customers the ability to leave a voicemail can help your business.
Some office phones have a battery backup feature that ensures you don’t lose your ability to make and receive calls if your location loses power.
Office phones are not overly expensive. Even phones that have quite a few features can be purchased for a reasonable price … especially when compared to the price of the latest smartphones.
Inexpensive office phones are simple pieces of hardware. If you just want a phone with no advanced call-management features, you can find one for as little as $10 to $25.
Mid-range phones have multiple telephony features. They’ll have hold and transfer buttons. You’ll be able to save common extension numbers that are accessible at the press of one button through speed dial. Often, there is a display screen for caller ID and for status updates. These office phones cost $25 to $75.
For a high-end office phone, you could pay anywhere from $75 to $250. These phones can handle multiple lines at one time. They can also use an auto-answer feature to route calls or record voicemails.
If you have a hosted private branch exchange (or PBX) system in use at your office, you will need an office phone that’s compatible with PBX.
If you expect your business to need additional phone lines in the future, look for hardware that allows for expansion with a phone that can manage more than one line.
As you compare office phones, it helps to be familiar with the acronyms and terms associated with these products.
Cloud: A cloud phone system uses VoIP technology, but the system hardware is in the cloud. The word cloud simply refers to the fact that the system is stored and operated offsite. You’ll still have your office phone hardware, but the rest of the system hardware is located elsewhere.
KSU: Short for key services unit, KSU is a technology built into an office phone that allows it to handle multiple lines and communicate with other extensions. It’s a must-have feature for offices with more than 10 but fewer than 50 employees. KSU requires a traditional landline from the phone company.
PBX: Short for private branch exchange, PBX is a phone management system made for mid-to-large size offices of more than 50 employees. PBX-compatible office phones have multiple telephony features for managing a heavy volume of calls. PBX requires a phone line from the phone company.
VoIP: Short for voice over internet protocol, VoIP phones don’t use a traditional phone line. Instead, they connect to a computer network and receive and send calls over broadband internet. The VoIP-compatible office telephone will look like a standard piece of phone hardware. However, it has an adapter, so it will work over an internet connection instead of a traditional phone line.
Simple and inexpensive
The oversized buttons and large backlit LCD of this AT&T phone work nicely for employees who have visual or hearing impairments. Each of the buttons on the phone has a specific function, which makes it easy to use. It’s limited to a single line, and it doesn’t have many call-routing features, so it’s only suitable for a simple office environment.
The office telephones in our matrix deliver a lot of desirable features, but we identified some additional units that may have a few extra features to precisely fit your needs. The Polycom VVX 411 is a pricey model, but it can handle up to 12 lines with plenty of advanced telephony features. If you want to save a bit of money with a customizable phone, the Panasonic KX-T7731 includes 24 programmable buttons. It’s not quite as powerful as some other models, but it’s an easy-to-use office phone.
If you have a Nortel PBX system, the Norstar T7316E Speakerphone is an inexpensive model with numerous advanced features. Unfortunately, it’s not flexible enough to work with other brands of PBX systems. For one of the best values in an office phone, we like the easy-to-operate Cisco SPA303-G1. It can manage up to three lines, but it needs to connect to an internet telephone service provider to operate properly.
Q. How do I know if the office phone I choose will work with my phone system?
A. Before purchasing an office phone, it’s important to understand what type of phone system you have in the office. If you work in a home office or a business with a few people, nearly any office phone would work. However, if you work in a business with 10 or more people, it probably has a particular type of phone call management system. You will need a phone that is compatible with whatever system is in use.
Q. Do office phones have the ability to create automated answering?
A. Some office phones have an auto attendant feature to answer all incoming calls. This is a nice option when you don’t want to miss any calls. Depending on the phone’s features, the auto attendant may be able to route calls to certain extensions or to record voice messages. As an added benefit, with an auto answer attendant, a small business will seem larger to the caller.
Q. What are some must-have features in an office phone?
A. You may appreciate having a headset jack in the phone, as it gives you a hands-free option for answering calls. Speakerphone capabilities are nice, too, since multiple people can join a call that way. If you frequently forward calls to other extensions, dedicated speed dial buttons are helpful. We also like a battery backup option, which allows you to continue a call during a power outage.
Q. Do I need an office phone that can handle multiple incoming lines?
A. Some office phones can handle handle three, four, or even more incoming phone lines at once. This is a nice feature for a growing small office, as it ensures you don’t miss any incoming calls. Other office phones only need one phone line at a time, which saves you money on your phone bill. Evaluate how busy your office is to determine how many lines your office phone needs.
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