A lot has changed since Motorola released the DynaTAC 8000x, the first cell phone in the 1980’s that sold for $3,500! The subsequent tech explosion revolutionized the phone lines we use to say “Hello.” The reliance on conventional landline telephones has been challenged by mobile phones and Voice over Internet Protocol, more commonly known as VoIP. These new technologies add features and conveniences that in many ways appear to make landline telephones, well . . . obsolete. The question some are facing is whether or not they feel comfortable dropping their landlines, and communicating exclusively by cell or Internet.
The more advanced smartphones offer advantages not only over landlines, but they also compete with GPS devices, handheld videogame players like Sony’s PSP or the Nintendo DS, digital cameras, and by being an all-in-one device through features and smartphone applications. Currently, there are more than 500,000 iPhone apps and 200,000 Android apps to choose from.
So, should you call the phone company and have your landline disconnected? Even with the multifunctional benefit of smartphones, landlines do provide some advantages:
- Landlines provide almost guaranteed service reliability, while cell phone coverage and Internet connections can be intermittent
- With corded landline phones, you never have to worry about battery life, and whether or not the power is out (necessary for a plug-in phone, or for charging a cell phone)
- Emergency services can locate where a call originates, a critical benefit in case of a real emergency
- A landline number appears in the local telephone directory
- A landline call is clearer than a cell phone call; businesses need to consider the sound quality when dealing with customers
VoIP has emerged as a dependable alternative to the landline as well. Providers like Vonage, Google Voice, magicJack, Skype, or 8x8 are often more cost-efficient, though can only be as reliable as the Internet service you’re already receiving. But, if that is up to par:
- VoIP is less expensive when compared to conventional landline telephones. International calls can be made at lower rates, or even free, as with Skype’s computer-to-computer service.
- VoIP is more flexible: You can integrate capabilities of computer applications such as desktop sharing.
- VoIP has web integration: Benefits include web conferencing.
- VoIP is more mobile: You can make VoIP calls from your main phone number anywhere there’s an Internet connection, including your smartphone.
- VoIP is easy: You don’t need huge cable infrastructures; VoIP often only requires installing software, not hardware.
Like most things, the final decision on whether to keep a landline, use your cell phone exclusively, or make the switch to VoIP, comes down to a personal or business decision. Although a landline may be just as relevant as it was decades ago and serves as a reliable way to communicate, and the current generation may not yet relegate their landline to the status of an 8-Track player, some believe that it’s just a matter of time before they join the floppy disk as yet one more transitional technology.