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Buying Guides - Telephones

Corded Telephones

With all the emphasis on cordless and cellular technology, you'd think that corded phones wouldn't have a lot to offer today's sophisticated consumers, but this is hardly the case. Corded phones still have a great deal to offer and can be an excellent value for those in need of a telephone.

There are many advantages to owning a corded telephone. First, corded phones have better sound quality than most cordless phones. They weigh and cost less. Corded phones have no battery to run out during the middle of a conversation and no one can monitor your calls while using a corded telephone. Also, if you experience a power failure or lightning strike, you will be unable to use an AC-operated cordless phone. You can, however, switch to your corded telephone and continue your conversation.

A few things to consider when shopping for a corded phone:

  • Shape and size. Is the phone comfortable in your hand? Will it be comfortable pressed up to your ear during a long conversation?
  • Adjustable ringer. Some phones ring too loudly or not loudly enough. An adjustable ringer can assist in setting the ringer at an acceptable volume.
  • Sound quality. Make sure the phone sounds good on both ends of the conversation.
  • Cradle. The phone should rest firmly in the cradle when not in use.

Some models offer other advanced features such as flash key, speakerphone or two-line operation.

Most corded telephones remain very affordable. Of course, as a model's quality and features increase, so will its price.

Cordless Telephones

Shopping for a cordless telephone can be a complicated process these days. The number of models and features available changes almost as quickly as the technology itself.

Most entry-level cordless phones operate in the 900 MHz transmission range. The combination of 900 MHz and digital spread spectrum technology offers transmission over multiple frequencies and allows for greater power and dramatically increased range. Some models offer 2.4 GHz technology and transmit up to eight times the range of most 900 MHz phones and up to two times the range of some 900 MHz digital spread spectrum phones.

Confused by all the numbers? Don't worry, you're not alone. Here are a few things to consider when shopping for a cordless phone:


This is determined by the bandwidth on which the phone operates. Phones at 900 MHz offer good range. Analog 900 MHz phones can be used up to 1000 feet away from the base and digital 900 MHz models can operate up to 2,000 feet from the base. Models at 2.4 GHz offer the longest transmission ranges. Think about how and where you will use the phone most, this will help you determine the range you need.


Sound clarity is affected by noise reduction circuitry (called companders), the range at which the phone is being used and the number of channels on which the phone can operate. In general, the more channels available, the less likely you are to have interference.


There are many advanced features available on cordless phones that enhance a user's convenience. Many offer features such as an intercom that allows a user to communicate between the handset and the base, or a page feature that allows the user to locate the handset from the base unit.

Other features to consider include longer battery life, automatic channel scanning, speed dialing, dual keypads on handset and base, Call Waiting/Caller ID display, dual antenna system, lighted keypad and handset volume control.

Cordless phones vary as much in price as they do in features. They can cost anywhere from approximately $40 to $300, depending on what technology they have to offer. Of course, the more bells and whistles, the more expensive the phone, but most models average in the $75 to $150 price range.

Answering Machines

A dedicated answering machine is an economical and efficient choice for many home office situations. Many answering machines on the market today are compact and use microcassettes or are completely digital, recording all messages on a memory chip and eliminating moving parts.

Most answering machines offer an average range of 10 to 40 minutes of recording time. Many advanced models offer multiple voicemail boxes that can be operated with independent passwords. Other common features include time/date stamp, random message playback, remote access, quick delete and bilingual capabilities.

Like most other home office products, prices for answering machines vary. The more features and benefits you desire, the more expensive the machine. In general, answering machines range from approximately $20 to $75 in price, with the average, full-featured unit costing around $50.

Two-way Radios

Two-way radios have become a very popular communication tool. Aimed at the home market, these high-tech radios allow you to stay connected to other members of your family when they are up to two miles away (depending on conditions and terrain). Most two-way radios offer 14 no-licensed required Family Radio Service (FRS) channels and built-in codes that block out unwanted interference. Most run on AA alkaline or rechargeable NiMH batteries, work on UHF frequencies and will operate for up to 30 hours. They are light and compact, making them ideal to take just about anywhere.

While radios from different manufacturers vary, most two-way radios offer a number of features, including some, if not all, of the following:

  • Lightweight and compact size
  • Up to two-mile range
  • Numerous channels
  • Channel monitoring/scan
  • Channel lock
  • Call alert
  • Digital volume adjustment
  • Easy-to-read LCD screen
  • Earphone input
  • Push-to-talk microphone
  • Voice activation

Two-way radios vary in price, but generally range from approximately $30 to $125 (for a single radio). Of course, the more advanced features the radio offers, the more expensive it will be.

When considering the purchase of two-way radios, ask yourself the following questions. Your answers can help you choose the two-way radio that best suits your needs.

What will the primary use of the radio(s) be?

This will help you determine what range or length of operation you need in a radio.

Who will be using the radio?

If you plan to use the radio(s) with children, you may want to look at models with easy-to-use features, larger display/buttons and more durable construction.

What type of features do you want?

More advanced features like voice activation, remote speaker microphone or longer voice ranges offer users additional ease-of-use capability.

How much do you want to spend?

Two-way radios vary in price, so there is most likely a model in your price range.

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