Cordless phones work better and do more than ever
phone might seem like a simple purchase compared to a cell phone, but this
choice is more complicated than it looks. Options range from simple, low-cost
devices to sophisticated systems that can integrate fully with your cell phone.
But all cordless phones, regardless of their cost or complexity, now have technology
that lets them perform more reliably than ever before.
Types of Cordless Phones
Basic Cordless Phones
The simplest, and least expensive, cordless phones don't have built-in answering machines or other advanced features. However, they do offer DECT 6.0 compliance, which means they can typically provide good call quality and range. You'll also find basic features like programmable phone books and speakerphone and intercom functions – all for $50 or less.
Cordless Phones with Answering Machines
These models, which cost between $50 and $150, take the basic cordless phone and add on a full-featured answering machine – and sometimes a whole lot more. Though the cheapest models are less well-equipped, many of the best regarded options have features like talking caller ID, call blocking, Bluetooth connectivity and a battery backup to keep the base unit up and running during a power outage.
Amplified Cordless Phones
Many cordless phones have adjustable volume, but these models go a step – or many steps – beyond. Ideal for seniors and others with hearing and vision limitations, these phones enhance usability with features like amplified sound, large buttons, and spoken feedback. However, they tend to be lighter on the type of advanced tech found on high-end cordless phones with answering machines. Amplified cordless phones range from $60 to $250 in price, with most models costing around $100.
phone uses radio frequencies (RF) to communicate between the portable handsets
and a base that connects to a standard landline. In the past, cordless phones
were often plagued by interference from other devices using the same
frequencies, such as microwave ovens, Wi-Fi networks, and game controllers. Today,
however, cordless phones in the U.S. comply with the DECT 6.0 standard. (DECT
stands for Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications.) DECT 6.0 uses the 1.9 GHz radio frequency
band, which is reserved for voice communications only. This eliminates
most interference problems and also stops the neighbors from overhearing your
conversation on their baby monitor. Once a special feature that commanded higher
prices, DECT is now standard on cordless phones, including cheap cordless
phones. All of the cordless phones recommended in this report are DECT 6.0
Cordless phone technology has advanced
in other ways, as well. For instance, caller ID is now standard – and
some models will even spare you the effort of getting up to look at a display
by announcing the caller with talking caller ID. Also, some cordless phones
have the ability to link to your cellular phone via Bluetooth. That lets you
leave your cell phone in a convenient spot in your home (presumably wherever
cell reception is best) and place and answer cellular calls, along with landline
calls, through any of your cordless phone's handsets.
Many cordless phones now include
built-in telephone answering devices (TADs). You can save a few bucks by opting
for a basic cordless phone without a TAD, but you'll also be giving up
sophisticated features such as talking caller ID and Bluetooth connectivity,
which are typically available only on higher-end phones.
Some cordless phones/answerers include
a corded phone on the base unit. This comes in handy during prolonged power
outages, since corded phones don't need a power source other than the phone
line. Phones that lack this feature often have a backup battery instead, which can
keep you connected for at least a little while when the lights go out.
Even as the technology for cordless
phones has improved, the price has dropped. Single-handset models now run from
as low as $15 to about $100. You can also choose cordless phones with multiple
handsets. These sets typically come bundled with two to five handsets, and you
have the option to add on extra handsets for $15 to $40 each - though it's generally
cheaper to purchase them as a package when you buy the original phone. Some
multiple-handset phones let you hold conversations between one handset and
another, like a walkie-talkie. Others let you transfer calls from one handset
to another or hold conference calls with two or more handsets plus a third
Only a few companies are currently
making cordless phones for sale in the U.S. Panasonic and VTech (which also makes AT&T models) offer the most models. Telefield,
which primarily makes phones for the business market, also offers phones under
the RCA brand. Clarity is a specialized brand, offering amplified cordless
phones for folks with some level of hearing loss. Some well-known
cordless-phone makers have left the U.S. market in recent years, including
Uniden and Motorola, though you can still find some of those brands' models at
Finding The Best Cordless Phones
"The Best Cordless Phone"
For this report, we found a few good,
current expert reviews. ConsumerReports.org has the most comprehensive coverage,
but there's also a good hands-on test at Wirecutter.com. TopTenReviews.com, a
resource of sometimes variable quality, also weighs in with an excellent,
testing-based review. These sources provide the most reliable expert information
about call clarity and range.
We then turned to user reviews, which
are plentiful on sites like Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, for information on
long-term reliability and which features are most useful to real owners. We put
all this together to select our Best Reviewed choices – as well as a few
backup picks – for basic cordless phones, phones with answering machines,
and amplified phones.