It might feel to you like the traditional home phone is a thing of the past, replaced by the mobile – but there are still good reasons to buy a handset for your landline, not least because they're actually quite cheap.
Plenty of internet service providers require you to have a landline and offer phone deals as part of your contract, so you might as well get what you're paying for. And, unlike smartphones, landline phones don't cost the Earth: the models I tested for this article topped out at £100. Honestly, I found half that amount was sufficient to buy you a good product.
And there's the health aspect too. It doesn't take me to tell you that our smartphone addiction is revealing some knock-on consequences, from the relatively menial (thumb tendonitis) to the seriously worrying (mental health issues). For those who find the constant deluge of information and notifications from modern smartphones unappealing, a landline is a good way to stay in contact while being slightly ‘off-the-grid’ (though mobile phone manufacturers are aiming for that market too, with the rise of the basic phone.)
Finally, cordless landline phones are just more reliable than mobile phones – especially in an emergency. Mobile phones need signal, and their batteries run out quickly; neither of which applies to your home phone. If you need to call 999, the latter is the product to depend on.
So, what's the best home phone out there? I've spent more man hours than I care to recall trialling, testing and reviewing the different options from the major manufacturers, to find which ones are worth picking up and which should be left off the hook.
One of the first things that became apparent was that the call quality – the sound you get through the earpiece – is essentially identical. So I looked elsewhere for points of difference: design, functionality and ease of use.
Across the lot of them, a built-in answering machine and nuisance call blocking feature come as standard (all but one of these phones had the former, and all had the latter) so don’t be blown away by those features. In fact, you won’t even be able to use the latter unless your service provider allows it; read up before you buy.
Instead, I’d recommend looking at the battery life of the handsets, whether they can read SMS messages, and the range of how far the device can be from its base station. And, of course, how simple they are to pick up and dial a number.
Here’s what I found on my hunt for the best cordless phone, starting with my favourite...
1. Panasonic KX-TGD62
Why we like it: At a bargain price point this phone offers tonnes of functionality in a sleek handset
The truth is that no home phone is ever going to be mega exciting – we're not talking cutting edge 4K TVs here; the design has hardly changed in the past ten years – so you're looking for something that does the job at a friendly price. To my eyes, that product is the Panasonic KX-TGD622 (catchy name, isn't it?).
The handset itself is a nice size and light, so it feels good in the hand during long phonecalls. The buttons are big enough for those with viewing difficulties to be able to see what they’re doing. And the design is reasonably sleek: handset and base station slot together in a nice, ergonomic fashion.
At 16 hours of talktime and 200hr on standby, the battery life is standard; and the range of 100m should be big enough for most homes.
The phone itself is very easy to use: just dial the number and press the green button to call. Everything else is a little more complicated but at least it's thoroughly explained in the manual. And what a wealth of features there are. Aside from basic things like answer phone and call blocking (accomplished with the press of a single button,) the phone can act as an intercom, a phonebook for your contacts, a baby monitor, and an alarm. There’s also a handy ‘do not disturb’ mode than silences the phone at night, and a locator in case you lose the handset.
All in all, Panasonic seem to have covered all bases with this one. Those looking for a solid phone to sit in their kitchen will find it simple enough, and those who want something a little more elaborate will find plenty to dig into.
2. BT Premium Phone/Advanced Phone
Why we like it: A joy for thwarting nuisance callers
I’m going to cover these as one because they’re basically exactly the same (except for a few little bits that I’ll go over at the end of this review) and are both really good phones.
The design does the job here: nothing special but nice enough (noting a theme yet?). I prefer the Advanced Phone as the Premium Phone has a glossy surface on the keys which picks up fingerprints very easily – but aside from that they’re easy to use and have nice clicky buttons which are satisfying to press. The phones are a good size and comfortable to hold with a decent heft which makes them feel sturdy.
My favourite feature of these phones is the call screening service. This is actually something that Google launched on its brand new Pixel 3 recently, but BT have been doing it for much longer. Once you've set it up, the caller has to say who they are, and then you can choose whether or not to accept or ignore the call. It works pretty seamlessly (though setting it up is a bit of a faff) and, don’t worry, contacts you’ve already got saved in your phonebook will be directed straight through. Your mother won’t have to deal with a machine every time she calls.
BT have gone big on putting a stop to nuisance callers. They’ve put their “block” button right at the top of the keypad, so it’s very prominent and easy to find. One press and you’ll block whoever is calling. Also, unlike most of the other phones on this list, the blacklist is extensive, allowing you to block hundreds of numbers, rather than the poxy 20 or 30 on most of these phones.
You can make sure no one runs up the bills by putting a blanket ban on certain types of calls. You could block all 0800 numbers from being sent and received, for example, or block all international numbers. Useful for teenagers with far-flung love interests.
As for the differences between the Advanced and Premium models, the latter is about £10 more expensive, offers 3,000 contacts, records up to 60 minutes of messages, 21 hours of talk time, and has those glossy keys I mentioned before. Meanwhile the advanced model is cheaper but only stores 200 contacts, has matte keys and can save half an hour’s worth of answerphone messages; though it does come with a slightly better battery life offering 22 hours of talk time.
I marginally preferred the look and functions of the Panasonic, which is why the BT models come second in my list – but we're talking degrees of difference rather than a gulf. A worthy runner up.
The first thing you’ll notice about this phone is that it looks quite different from the box art. The keys are a little brighter and the handset is a little chunkier. Still, don’t let that put you off. This phone looks and feels premium, with a pleasing metallic sheen and a nice heft.
There’s a sort of early mobile-phone quality to the handset and much of the same functionality too. As with the others at the top of this list, you’re getting a phone that’s also a baby monitor, an intercom, a phonebook and a calendar.
Honestly, this one could have made it to the top of the list had it not been for a few small issues. For starters, the screen picks up fingerprints (and earprints) way too easily, which sort of spoils the luxurious design.
Speaking of the design, the lovely ‘floating’ look is great, but it’s too easy to miss the charging pins when you place the phone down onto the base station. You might very easily place the handset down, thinking it’s charging, only to find out that it wasn’t charging at all and you’re out of battery when you need to make a call.
Finally, I noticed the phone screen keeps showing a little slideshow of the phone’s capabilities when it’s not in use. It seemed like a waste of power so I tried to turn it off, and couldn’t find any explanation of how to do so. Annoying.
Still, overall, this is a great phone and ideal for those who are looking for a handset which will stand out from the crowd.
4. BT4000 Big Button Advanced
Why we like it:User-friendly and easy to understand, with an older user in mind
£54.70, Amazon (two handsets)
As a phone specifically designed for older people, this one gets a lot of stuff right. It certainly lives up to its name with nice big buttons that should be easy to read for those with visual impairments. The text on the screen is also large enough to be easily legible and the few menu buttons are self-explanatory enough. The handset is nice and chunky but probably slightly heavier than most of the other devices on this list.
Among the usual features (aside from one major omission that I’ll get to in a minute) there’s also compatibility with hearing aids, which should reduce background noise and make it easier to hear the person on the other end of the line. As I don’t have a hearing aid, I wasn’t able to test out this feature myself... so I asked my granny, who happens to a) use a hearing aid, and b) own this very phone. She said she thought it worked fine once someone set it up for her.
And therein lies a problem. The instruction manual for the Big Button isn’t great. It seems to have been written for people who are more well-versed in technology than this phone’s target audience. In addition, some features of the phone aren’t mentioned in the instructions at all, forcing users to go online to find out how to do certain things.
It's not the only problem, either. This is the only phone I reviewed that doesn’t have an answering machine. A baffling exclusion if you ask me. Older people are the very generation who still use answering machine messages!
5. Gigaset S850A GO
Why we like it: Save on your phone bills with free internet calls over Broadband
£94.99, liGo (one handset)
I think it’s fair to say that I don’t particularly love the design of this Gigaset phone. Looking back at my notes, I've written that it's a “a sort of crappy mobile phone, very cheap and nasty".
However, the functionality is undeniably strong. You’ll get 300 hours out of the battery on standby, call blocking, baby monitoring, and a calendar, plus texting and even a wacky picture viewer (I'm unconvinced of the latter's use, frankly).
It comes with a secondary box that boosts phone signal (useful in large houses; redundant in the rest), and plugs into your router to make free calls via the internet. Oddly, you can’t make internet calls over WiFi – the base station has to be plug into your router, but it’s still a great and unique feature.
It's just a shame the design is so backward looking.
6. Panasonic KX-TGJ422
£99.99, Currys (two handsets)
What a pleasantly boring phone. It’s not necessarily bad but it fails to distinguish itself. A dull, average design which looks like a 2006 mobile phone in a glossy black (I am sick of saying this: tech manufacturers, stop making products in glossy black. I don’t want to see fingerprints all over my gadgets!)
The one interesting feature of this phone is that it can announce who is calling if you’ve got their contact information saved in it. “Ring ring, Jack is calling, ring ring,” says this phone. Cute, but honestly, what kind of monster calls someone on a landline and doesn’t immediately say who they are?
7. Gigaset C570A
£69.99, liGo (one handset)
Everything I said about the previous Gigaset device is also true of this one (aside from the internet calling) but there’s nothing really to make this one stand out. You get 17 hours talk time out of the batteries which is alright, but aside from that it’s a very standard phone.
As above, basically. When the KX-TGK222 phone is in its base station they look like a tall white column – which is eye-catching and creative and a bit different. Until it rings, you wouldn’t even know it was a phone.
And then you separate phone from the base station to make a call, and it all falls apart, metaphorically speaking. The phone just feels a bit cheap and nasty, and the display is a bit meh. Set up is also quite fiddly.
9. BT Essential Phone
£39.99, Robert Dyas (two handsets)
Essential is a rather bold moniker for this phone. There's call blocking but nothing else and the design is an uninspired as they come. Pretty unessential, I'd say.
Frequently asked questions about landline phones
Can I get a landline phone with a cord?
As you may have noticed, none of the landline phones I tested come with a telephone cord. That’s because, basically, it’s really hard to find corded landline phones anymore. Of the major brands I reached out to, only BT offers corded phones as a matter of course. Even then, they are considered outdated technology. Comparing the quality of these cordless phones with my desk phone which has a cord, I didn’t notice any real difference.
In general, landlines with cords are often more expensive and lack functions such as call blocking or a built-in phone book. However, there is one very good reason to use a landline phone: they work without power. During a power cut, corded landline phones draw power from the local telephone exchange which usually has a back-up generator. Cordless phones can’t do this because usually the base station requires power too. This means you can call the emergency services in the event of a fire or accident. Then again, most of us will have a mobile phone as a back-up, so a corded phone is still probably not necessary for the vast majority of people.
If you’re looking for a new phone with all the best features, you’re best off going cordless, but if you’re set on having a corded phone, the cheapest option I could find was the BT Duet which costs just £12.99.
Which home phone has the best sound quality?
Having tested them all by making calls on every single one, I can honestly say that I noticed absolutely zero difference in call sound quality. Allegedly Gigaset do the best with a variety of special equalising features but I really doubt the layperson will be able to hear much difference between them all.
Why do you still need a landline phone?
Simply put, you don’t. The reasons why owning a landline were necessary are slowly starting to evaporate. Mobile phones contracts usually offer more free call time than landlines, they make it easier to block nuisance calls, and obviously their utility isn’t limited to when you’re at home.
In the past internet service providers needed a landline to transfer data to and from your router. However, with fibre optic broadband becoming much more commonplace, even that necessity is dying out. Fibre optic broadband is an entirely separate kind of cabling, thus making it unnecessary to have a landline to use the internet.
The most compelling reason to buy a landline, as mentioned above, is to call the emergency services during a powercut when your mobile phone is dead or out of signal but unless you’re literally a character in a horror movie, that seems like a pretty specific and unlikely set of circumstances to be in.
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