Softphone vs. Desk Phone: Which is Best for Your Organization?

Cloud-based Telephony

Deciding to make the switch from a conventional phone system to a cloud (a.k.a. VoIP) phone system is a smart move when you consider all of the advantages, which include:

  • Significant initial and year-over-year cost savings.
  • A wide range of enterprise-grade Unified Calling (UC) features such as voicemail-to-email, auto-attendant, live call transfer, and more.
  • Seamless scalability.
  • No maintenance, update and upgrade costs.
  • No technical support costs.
  • Reliability and uptime (if the power goes out locally, the system will automatically shift to another area of the state/country where power is operational).
  • The freedom to provide employees with a softphone or a desk phone (or both).

Below, we take a closer look at a softphone vs. a desk phone. First, we will quickly explain each option and then look at five evaluation factors: versatility, cost, functionality, quality, and ease of use.

What is a Softphone?

A softphone is an app that is installed on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop PCs, and enables users to make and receive calls, and access other system features (these are highlighted further in this article).

In the case of smartphones, tablets, and laptops, access to the cloud phone system is over a Wi-Fi or cellular network. In the case of desktop PCs, access is usually through a hardwired ethernet connection. We say “usually,” because some desktop PCs also connect to the internet through a Wi-Fi network (they either have a built-in wireless card or an external adapter).

What is a Desk Phone?

A desk phone is a physical phone (rather than an app) that is specially built for cloud phone systems. Voice signals are transmitted through the internet using ethernet or fiber optic cables. There are many kinds of desk phones, with various features and functionality.

Softphone vs. Desk phone Evaluation Factor: Versatility

A softphone is extremely versatile because it enables users to make/receive calls and access system features from virtually anywhere. All that users need is internet access through a Wi-Fi or cellular network. What’s more, outgoing calls made through a softphone app show the business’s Caller ID information — not the user’s personal Caller ID information. This is not just important for privacy, but it presents a more polished, professional image.

A desk phone is also highly versatile, but in a different way than a smartphone: it can be easily moved. For example, a business that relocates or expands into a new area can simply unplug their desk phones, plug them in at the new location, and instantly start using them. There is no need to lay cables or run wiring.

Evaluation Factor: Cost

A softphone is remarkably cost-effective in two important ways. Firstly, the softphone app offered by Caroline Digital Phone is free. Secondly, using a softphone app enables organizations to leverage their investment in mobile devices, and/or have employees use their personal devices.

Deskphones are available in a variety of price positions, from more basic to advanced models. Organizations can mix and match their desk phone profile to suit their specific needs and budget. A top-quality desk phone — such as the YeaLink line — will last for several years.

Evaluation Factor: Functionality

A softphone offers many practical features, including the ability to:

  • Make and receive business calls from anywhere.
  • Connect with team members through instant messaging and SMS.
  • See team members’ presence icons to know if they’re available or busy.
  • View and manage call history.
  • Create and change call answering rules.
  • Access a list of shared contacts (e.g. customers, vendors, suppliers, etc.).
  • “Read” voicemails through automatic text-to-voicemail transcriptions.
  • Transfer live calls from a Wi-Fi data connection to a cellular data connection.
  • Use voice commands to initiate calls, search contacts, etc.

Deskphones also several advanced features, which can include (depending on the specific model selected):

  • Backlit LCD screens for clear, easy viewing.
  • 4-way conferencing
  • XML programmable context-sensitive soft keys
  • Dual-switched Gigabit ports
  • Integrated PoE
  • Dual-colored BLF/speed-dial keys
  • Storing hundreds of contacts and call records
  • State-of-the-art security encryption technology (SRTP and TLS)

What’s more, desk phones support a wide range of automated provisioning options, which makes mass deployment fast and easy.

Evaluation Factor: Quality

Both a softphone and desk phone support HD audio that — contrary to what some people have been led to believe — is actually superior to landline systems (click here to find out why!).

Generally speaking, a desk phone will have a slight edge in calling quality vs. a softphone. This is simply because the former has (in most cases) a hardwired ethernet connection to the internet, while the latter uses a Wi-Fi or cellular network. However, recent advances have dramatically improved the speed and bandwidth of Wi-Fi and cellular networks, and in many cases, there is no discernable difference in quality when using a desk phone vs. a smartphone.

Evaluation Factor: Ease-of-Use

Both a softphone and desk phone are intuitive and easy-to-use, and users are typically up and running within minutes — including those who may have been reluctant to add something new to their work toolbox.

And the Softphone vs. Deskphone Winner Is…

Which option is better for your organization: softphone or desk phone? The answer is simple: BOTH!

You can equip all of your team members with a softphone, so they can have access to the cloud phone system from anywhere. Remember, the Carolina Digital Phone softphone app is completely free and installs quickly and easily on iOS and Android devices.

And as desired, you can also put a desk phone in your HQ and other locations. If you wish, you can also provide your remote workers with a desk phone for their home office.

Learn how our all-in-one cloud telephone system gives your organization the best of both worlds: softphones and desk phones. Contact us today at (336) 544-4000 or click the chat icon at the bottom of your screen.

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