We live in a world where, when we talk about our “phone”, most of the time we mean our smartphone. And that means that when we talk about our “phone”, we’re also talking about our music player, GPS, calculator, email and messaging terminal, contact book, agenda… even our barometer or level or magnifying glass. It’s truly amazing and truly wonderful.
Sometimes, however, the best tool for the job is a tool that does its one job and does it to perfection. Which is what a hotline phone does. It’s not a phone that’s also an automatic Japanese translator: it connects the user to a preprogrammed extension, and that’s it.
This blog seeks to answer three questions in particular:
- What is a hotline phone?
- Do VoIP phones have this functionality?
- When do you need a hotline phone?
What is a hotline phone?
A hotline phone is one that automatically dials a phone number (or sequence of phone numbers) when the user activates it, like by taking the handset off-hook. It’s called a “hotline” because the line is always available, i.e., that it never goes “cold.” You can set what number(s) the hotline phone calls.
In a recent blog on common area VoIP phones, we touched on auto-dialer phones. “Auto-dialer” is another name for hotline phone: literally, the phone automatically dials an extension when someone picks up the handset. Another name you might see is ringdown phone.
Because the user doesn’t dial, a hotline phone often doesn’t have a keypad, like Viking K-1900D-IP. However, that isn’t necessarily the case. You can program a VoIP phone with a keypad or touchscreen to automatically dial a number, thus making it into a hotline phone.
Can a VoIP phone be a hotline phone?
Yes, there are VoIP hotline phones. These can either be dedicated hotline phones, like the Viking Electronics VoIP Auto-Dialer Phones mentioned above, or they can be regular VoIP phones that you program to be hotline phones.
How you program them depends on the phone itself (and perhaps your VoIP phone system). Here are two examples:
- If you’re using one of the Yealink T3 Series VoIP Phones, like Yealink T31G, go to Menu > Features > Hot Line (or Menu > Features > Others > Hot Line on T33P/T33G). Then either select a contact from the directory or enter a number to dial. Then enter a delay time (from 0 to 10 seconds) and save. If you set the delay time to 0 (zero) seconds, then you have a true hotline phone.
- If you’re using one of the new Poly Edge E Series phones, like Poly Edge E100, you’ll need to follow the instructions found on the Poly support page: Poly Edge E Series Admin Guide: Configure Automatic Dialing. external link
When do you need a hotline phone?
Hotline phones are useful in situations where you require the highest levels of simplicity and reliability. The user has only one possible way to interact with the phone and the phone only has one possible number (or sequence of numbers) to dial.
There are many scenarios for hotline phones. Here are a few examples:
- In a distant lobby or corridor so a guest can always reach the front desk
- At an ATM to dial a bank clerk directly
- At an informational kiosk for when it isn’t being staffed in person
- In a factory manager’s office to call the factory floor (and you might include a loud ringer or strobe light to make sure the call is noticed)
Finally, emergency phones are a type of hotline phone, ensuring someone in a public space like a college campus can quickly reach security with absolute simplicity.