Technology research firm IDC predicts that by 2016, the number of wireless-only households in the United States could climb to 50.8 million, or 42.8 percent of all U.S. residents with telephone service. (Full disclosure: I live in a wireless-only household myself and have for several years. When I’m home, I use Google Voice for most calls to conserve my cellphone minutes.) There are likely a few reasons for this shift: Cellphones are now nearly ubiquitous, competition has created several lower-cost mobile phone options and the quality of Voice over Internet Protocol options also has improved.
Instead of paying for a landline and mobile phone service, you could save money by switching to just one. But before you cut the cord on landline phone service, here are a few pros and cons to consider:
Simplicity/Portability: It’s simpler to give out one phone number instead of two. As Bill Horne, moderator of The Telecom Digest, points out, “Your phone number now belongs to you, not your house.” If you move or travel frequently, using just a cellphone makes it easier for people to reach you, and it eliminates the need for you to distribute a new phone number with each move. With a cellphone as your primary phone, you’ll always have your address book with you, Horne adds. One caveat with cellphones, though: If you’re traveling internationally, be careful of roaming charges.
Less marketing: “Cellphones are less likely to get marketing calls,” Horne says. “In theory, they are all on the do-not-call list.” I’ve gotten telemarketing calls on my cellphone, but not nearly the volume my parents used to get on their landline phone. Of course, if you give out your number so companies can call you or text you about sales, this one won’t apply.
Newer technology: Old arguments — that you need a landline to run a fax machine or plug into your home security system — no longer apply. “Almost all other devices that have traditionally required a landline no longer do,” says Morris Tabush, principal with Tabush Group, an IT services company in New York. “Faxing — who still does that? — can be done with an e-fax account and scanner or an iPhone. Almost all modern security systems use Internet or the cell network as their main form of communications. Older systems still do require a landline, which can be a problem.” Still, cellphones can do a lot of things landline phones can’t, like sending text messages and streaming music.
Decreased Quality: “I don’t care what you say, a landline phone is clearer than a cellphone,” Tabush says. However, you do have options if you live in an area with spotty reception, such as buying a booster. “For homes with poor cell service, there are boosters available from most carriers that create a mini cell tower over your Internet connection,” Tabush adds. “Cellphone boosters work anywhere you have a good Internet connection — cable, FiOS, DSL, etc. — as they use that to make a mini cell site. So for example, if you have a home office in the basement where there’s poor reception, or a home that’s just in a dead spot.”
Inconvenience: With a few hard-wired phones throughout your home, you don’t have to carry your phone from room to room to make sure you hear it ring, Tabush points out. “Also, landline phones don’t need to be charged every day and can’t be left in a taxi or at the office.” (Or get rained on or doused in coffee, for that matter.)
Less Accurate Emergency Calling: In a large-scale emergency, cellphone networks can get jammed, but then so can landline networks. I was near the site of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, and the area had no cellphone service for several hours afterward. I texted my brother to let him know I was OK, and he relayed the message to our mom, who doesn’t text. If you need to call 911, you can do so on a landline or a cellphone (even a deactivated cellphone can dial 911). “All modern cellphones broadcast a GPS signal when 911 is called, so the dispatcher has your address, but not the floor/apartment number,” Tabush says. “For private emergency services, they don’t have this ability, so that is where a landline holds a slight advantage.”
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