IP Phone Buying Guide

Internet protocol phones are phones that make and receive calls over a service such as broadband instead of the public switch telephone network. They are often preferred by users looking to save money by avoiding long-distance charges. There are several types of IP phones, which you will learn about in this article. In addition, you can read about things to pay attention to when looking to purchase an IP phone and the top brands of these phones.

Types of IP Phones

Software-based

This type of voiceover IP phone requires the downloading of a program to your computer. Once the program is downloaded, you can use it along with your computerís microphone and speakers to make and receive calls. You can also use an external microphone or a headset with a microphone. If you use your computer for the majority of your phone calls, this is a great option. The software is easy to download and install and works well with other programs.

USB

USB voiceover IP phones plug into the USB port on your computer. Once plugged in, you can use these phones with voiceover IP software. They look and work like your typical phone. The difference is the phone signal goes through your broadband service and not the regular telephone network.

Hardware-based

These IP phones look and act like your typical telephone, with all the usual features and functions. However, the signal goes through your broadband network instead of the regular telephone network. This type of IP phone is also called a desktop IP phone.

Video

Similar to a hardware IP phone, the video IP phone has one major difference. This difference is the ability to view video on the IP phoneís interface as well as hearing a personís voice. These phones use either H.263, H.263+, or H.264 software for the video interface.

Pay Attention to

Bandwidth

You are probably considering an IP phone because you want to save money, but you may want to remember that you will likely have to increase the your bandwidth to support the number of calls you make and receive. To ensure you have adequate bandwidth, ask your potential IP service provider how big their voice packages are. Then, multiple that number by how many calls you expect to be making and receiving simultaneously. This will help determine how much bandwidth you will need for your IP phone service. This is especially important for businesses and call centers that will be making many calls simultaneously from multiple computers.

Calling Habits

If you make more local calls than long-distance calls, you might want to reconsider getting an IP phone. You may not save much or even lose money by switching to an IP phone. However, the more long-distance calls you make the more the savings will stack up.

Line appearances

Line appearances are the number of lines available through the phone interface. For example, there may be three line appearances, which allow two calls to be on hold while one is engaged with the user. This is not a unique feature of IP phones, but may be of great importance to an IP phone user, especially if the phone belongs to a business or receptionistís desk.

Additional Features

Analog phones come with many different features that you may desire to have on your IP phone. These features include call waiting, call hold, conference calling, and call forwarding. In addition, some IP phones have programmable extension keys that can make your job easier. If you are working as a receptionist or at a call center, these features become even more important.

Top Brands and Product Lines

Grandstream

Headquartered in Boston and founded in 2002, Grandstream has quickly become a popular brand for IP phones, among many other products. The GS-GXP2160 Enterprise IP phone is an excellent example of the high-quality products Grandstream offers. A six-line phone with a 4.3 inch color LCD, twenty-four programmable extension keys, and five-way voice conferencing, this IP phone is best suited to someone who deals with high call volume and requires advanced call features.

Cisco

Founded in December of 1984 by Leonard Bosack and his wife, Sandy Lerner, Ciscoís products are often cited in movies and TV shows. Their IP phones include models for businesses of every size. The Cisco SPA 303 three-line IP phone is ideal for small businesses. This phone has a monochrome LCD and a two-port switch. It can be used with either session initiation protocol or smart phone control protocol. Finally, it is covered by Ciscoís one-year hardware warranty.

Ubiquiti

Originally started in 2005, Ubiquity did not join the voiceover IP market until 2014. New to this type of product, Ubiquiti makes three varieties of IP phones: basic, pro, and executive. All three varieties have a touchscreen for video chatting and access to the Google Play store. The Executive IP phone, like the others, is powered by Android. The executive model has a seven-inch touchscreen, premium stereo speakers, and four gigabytes of storage. While very unique in their access to Google apps, these IP phones have been reported to have a number of bugs, making them not quite ready for the market.