More and more workers are asking: Do I actually need a desk phone? Can I just use a softphone?
And they’re right to be asking the question. Younger workers are more familiar with smartphones than traditional phones. They chat over Face Time, Skype, or Zoom. The softphone interface is more like a smartphone.
Still, many workers prefer the familiar desk phone.
There is no single answer. You need to answer the question based on your workforce’s preferences.
But how do you know which you should choose? This blog aims to clarify the pros and cons of desk phones vs softphones.
Desk Phones vs Softphones
Both VoIP desk phones and softphones are network-based communications solutions. Rather than sending voice traffic over the PSTN like traditional telephones, VoIP phones and softphones send it over the Internet or through IP networks using communications protocols.
The most popular VoIP phone protocol is SIP. To learn more about SIP phones, see our blog What Is a SIP Phone? An Easy to Understand Explainer >
We assume you know what a desk phone is, but you might not be familiar with the term “softphone.”
“Softphone” is a portmanteau for “software telephone.” Instead of having a physical device, a phone, you have an application that acts as a phone. This application can be on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.
In other words, you use a computer or smartphone for business calls instead of a desk phone.
Why would you choose a softphone?
Cloud Phone Services
Many businesses are migrating to cloud phone services like Zoom, Jive, BroadSoft, and RingCentral to handle their telephony. As part of their offerings, these services provide softphones for desktop and mobile.
If you use or are considering using such a service, you could streamline your telephony deployment by eliminating desk phones, potentially saving a lot of money. (Though see below about headsets.)
Softphone apps make mobile integration dead easy. You can use either your computer or your smartphone to take business calls: you don’t need the desk phone.
If your office has a BYOD (bring your own device) policy, you can reduce your capex by eliminating desk phones and relying on the smartphones nearly everyone already has.
Note, however, that mobile integration is widely supported by phone systems used for desk phones, as well. This is simply a potential area to save.
Softphones are simpler to configure for open-plan offices in which workers don’t have a set workstation. For example, you might have a bank of computers that workers login to or simply spaces for workers to use laptops at.
While you can set up IP phones to change users, it’s much easier to set up with softphones. All a worker needs to do is login to their softphone account and their extension is automatically associated with them.
For professional audio and privacy when using a softphone, you’re going to need a headset.
We’ve all Skyped or Face Timed using just our phones or computers. You know the sketchy sound quality, particularly the problem of background noise.
Headsets with noise cancellation reduce background distractions. Having an excellent microphone right near your mouth improves what your audio sounds like to other people.
USB Speakerphones & Bluetooth Speakerphones
Another way to improve your softphone audio is to use a speakerphone. Speakerphones are designed for group calls with omnidirectional microphone arrays and sound processing.
USB speakerphones are plug-and-play devices for use with computers and laptops. Bluetooth speakerphones are compatible with any smartphone or tablet and offer wireless convenience. Both are almost certainly going to be compatible with your softphone.
Speakerphones are often portable, which means you can have professional group communications on the road.
Why You Need a Desk Phone
So there are lots of good reasons to go with a softphone. Why would you choose a desk phone?
You can’t overstate how much familiarity matters to workers. Familiar interfaces reduce training time and can increase productivity, because they cause less friction.
Many older workers will likely be familiar with and appreciate having a desk phone.
Desk phones are separate devices. Instead of having your softphone be lost among the clutter of the innumerable windows on your computer, you have a dedicated device for communications.
This is particularly important for receptionists and other workers who take and make calls all the time, so the phone is right to hand.
Conference Phones for Conference Calls
If you’re on a conference call, you still can’t beat IP conference phones for sound. Speakerphones are convenient, but they don’t provide the top-notch audio quality.
Conference phones also give you a depth of features and controls that are not available on speakerphones. For example, you can view contact lists, schedule meetings, and even switch between registrations using a conference phone.
Background Noise Reduction
When you use a softphone, you’re relying on the headset to provide noise reduction. And many headsets do have excellent noise cancellation.
But the background noise reduction technologies offered by desk phones can be superior. Polycom Acoustic Fence, for example, creates a virtual perimeter around your conversation, blocking extraneous noise.