How to Choose the Right IP Phones

IP phones are the endpoints of a telephone system using VoIP technology. IP phones are often referred to as VoIP or SIP phones.

Although for the everyday user they look and act just like traditional phones, IP phones bring in a variety of extra features and functionalities.  IP phones offer the flexibility to be used on any location with available internet connection.

This article will take a closer look at the types of IP phones – their features and the situations when they are the right choice to be used.

Phone
Name
RECOMMENDED FOR
Polycom VVX601 POLYCOM VVX 601Reliable Desk Phone
Yealink W60PYealink W60PDECT Desk Phone
Yealink VP59Yealink VP59Best Video Desk Phone
Polycom Trio 8800Polycom Trio 8800 Skype for BusinessBest Conference Phone
Jabra Engage 75Jabra Engage 75 StereoVoIP Headset
Grandstream HT814Grandstream HT814Analog Telephone Adapter

The IP phones you choose should depend particularly on your business needs.

A discussion with the VoIP provider on some compatibility issues is strongly recommended. The IP phones need to support the same protocols and codecs that the provider’s telephone system uses. The SIP protocol is a commonly used protocol by the VoIP providers and most of the IP phones support it.

Types of IP phones:

IP phones come in a variety of types and appearances. They are also based on different operating systems.

Desk IP phones look and behave just like traditional analog office phones, although they use VoIP technology.

A softphone can be installed on multiple devices. In this way, one phone number can be set on more than one device. A softphone can also be integrated with third-party software, which broadens the range of extra features the softphone can offer. 

The conference phone has two or more microphones to serve more attendees in the conference room. It can connect participants situated in three or more different locations. 

Video calls are a feature of the advanced models of VoIP phones. Softphones usually possess video feature as well, using the device’s camera. 

Desk phones: 

The desk IP phones, also called hard phones, are used like traditional office phones on a user’s desk. They are designed to be reliable and easy to use. They usually have a standard set of functionality buttons, similar to those of the analog desk phones. So the staff can adjust to using the VoIP technology in practically a very short time.

Desk phones are your best choice in case:

  • your employees work permanently in the office
  • the employees are not tech-savvy and prefer the well-known buttons interface
  • your employees make multiple calls a day, for instance working in a call center.
We recommend:
 Polycom VVX 601
Polycom VVX601

PROS:

  • reliable for intensive phone communication
  • perfect sound quality
  • touch screen that makes the phone easy to work with
  • multiple connectivity options
  • can be connected to external camera

CONS:

  • can be expensive for some small businesses

Main Specifications

  •  4.3-inches (480 x 272 px) touch color screen
  • Polycom® HD Voice™, Polycom® Acoustic Clarity™ technology
  • built-in Bluetooth, dual USB ports (2.0 compliant)
  • two-port gigabit Ethernet switch, PoE-compatible
  • up to 16 SIP accounts
Cheaper alternative:
Yealink SIP-T46S
Yealink SIP-T46S

PROS:

  • easy-to use interface with a rich-color TFT display
  • excellent HD audio quality
  • the USB port can be used for Bluetooth dongle, Wi-Fi dongle or USB recording
  • 10 multi-functional line keys

CONS:

  • no touch screen
  • does not support video conferencing

Main Specifications

  • 4.3″ backlit color display (480 x 272px) 
  • Yealink Optima HD voice, with support for wideband codecs
  • EHS headset, USB port, dual ethernet ports (allow connection with the PC or laptop)
  • PoE support
  • up to 16 SIP accounts

*If you are looking for a similar model with bigger screen size, you can check out the  Yealink SIP-T48S* with a 7-inch display.

These phones are reliable to make and receive calls at all times, while the user’s busy using the computer for other tasks. Besides they have high-quality sound. More advanced models have a touch screen and a video display for video calls. 

Desk phones have some traditional conference features like call transfer, call hold, busy lamp field, mute, three-way conferencing, extension dialing, voicemail.

For better usability, a desk phone can be used in combination with a softphone.

What are the basic features of a desk IP phone?

  • speakers
  • microphones
  • a microphone jack
  • keypads to enter numbers
  • an LCD display to view messages, voicemail, emails
  • ethernet port
  • a power source that may be a battery or an AC adapter
  • network hardware and general purpose processor

What are the features of the advanced models? 

  • can handle more lines simultaneously
  • extra USB port
  • extra ethernet port
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Wi-fi connectivity
  • PoE feature (Power over Ethernet)
  • a high-resolution display (with a touch screen)
  • a camera. 

Cordless phones: 

Cordless desk phones use the DECT system to allow moving around in the office while making a call.

DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Technology) consists of two components – a base station and the phones connected to it. The base station is connected both, to the network, and one or more phones. 

When choosing a cordless phone, consider features like range, battery life, charging time, additional feature sets. 

We recommend:
 Yealink W60P
Yealink W60P

PROS:

  • good-sized color screen
  • excellent range of the handset indoors and outdoors
  • base station can extend with up to 8 handsets
  • impressive battery life
  • quick charging – 10 min for 2 hours talk time

CONS:

  • buying additional handsets can get expensive

Main Specifications

  • 2.4-inches 240x320px color screen
  • handset range – 50m indoors and 300m outdoors
  • base station can extend with up to 8 handsets
  • the base station supports up to 8 VoIP accounts and up to 8 concurrent calls; up to 2 concurrent calls per handset
  • connectivity: PoE, 3.5mm headset audio jack
  • up to 30-hour talk time, up to 400-hour standby time; quick charging – 10 min for 2 hours talk time
  • noise reduction system
Grandstream-DP720-DP750

PROS:

  • excellent range of the handset to the base station outdoors and  indoors
  • the base station can extend up to 5 handsets
  • excellent battery life – good talk time and standby time

CONS:

  • small-sized screen
  • the plastic feels cheaper

Main Specifications

  • 1.8 inch 128x160px color screen
  • handset range – 50m indoors and 300m outdoors
  • base station can extend with up to 5 handsets
  • the base station supports up to 10 SIP accounts from different providers and 5 concurrent calls
  • connectivity: PoE, micro-USB connection of the base station; 3.5 mm headset jack
  • 320-hour standby time, 14-hour talk time

Conference phones

Conference phones are particularly designed for meetings in a conference room and are usually supplied with two or three microphones. Conference phones improve collaboration for both, small conference rooms, and executive offices.

Conference phones will improve telephone communication of companies:

  • with offices in different locations
  • with employees working remotely
  • in cases when meetings with business partners are part of the daily routine.
Polycom Trio 8800

PROS:

  • legendary voice quality
  • large color touch screen
  • best for medium-sized rooms; 2 portable microphones can be added to enlarge the range of the microphones
  • various connectivity options, including bluetooth (BYOD approach)
  • supports 5-way conference call
  • a camera can be integrated

CONS:

  • the additional accessories are expensive

Main Specifications

  • 5-inch color LCD (720 x 1280 px) touch screen
  • advanced audio technology with the Polycom HD Voice and the Polycom NoiseBlock
  •  3 fixed cardioid microphones
  • 20 feet (6 meters) microphones pickup range
  • connectivity: integrated wi-fi and bluetooth (suitable for the BYOD approach), 1 USB 2.0 Type A-compliant and 1 USB 2.0 Micro-B device
  • advanced phone features: USB call recording, 5-way conference call
  • hybrid registration feature – can be registered on different platforms – Cisco, Microsoft, etc
Cheaper alternative:
Yealink CP920
Yealink CP920

PROS:

  • good-sized color display with easy -to-use touch keypad
  • Yealink voice quality thanks to the noise-proof technology
  • microphones pickup range is best for small and medium-sized rooms up to 20 participants
  • good connectivity options
  • supports 5-way conference meeting

CONS:

  • no touch screen
  • single ethernet port

Main Specifications

  • 3.1 inches (248x120px) LCD display with backlight, sensitive touch keypad
  • 20 feet (6 meters) microphones pickup range
  • connectivity: built-in wifi and bluetooth, 1 USB port 2.0, PoE
  • 5-way conference meeting, USB call recording

*If you are looking for a similar cordless conference phone, check out the DECT model Yealink CP930.

Choosing the right conference phone typically depends on the employees’ needs and the conference room size. 

Speakerphones, compared to conference phones, are a more cost-effective and quite suitable solution for small meeting rooms up to 5-6 participants. For further information visit the speakerphones section on our article about microphones.

Extra features together with higher audio quality make conference phones an integrated and more convenient solution compared to speakerphones.

To deliver a seamless conversation conference phones rely on two main features: 360-degrees sound pick-up and high audio quality.

What else to consider? Here is a list of the most important additional features when making a choice:

  • Bluetooth connectivity – lets easily pairing another Bluetooth device to the conference phone
  • call recording – can be beneficial to recall information mentioned during the conference, solving an argument with a customer, or training new employees
  • active speaker – identifies the person who is talking and makes it visible on the phone’s interface
  • noise-proof technology – makes calls clearer, without noise distractions
  • number of microphones and microphones’ pickup range

The microphones’ pick-up range determines the usability of the conference phone according to the size of the conference room. Conference phones with several movable microphones are also called conference spiders. They can host a larger number of participants and are more flexible to be adjusted to different room sizes. For more information about microphones, check out our article about choosing conference microphones.

Video phones

Video phones are advanced desk phones that have video displays and support video codecs.

Video calls contribute for a better interoperability and intelligibility during a phone call. The employees working remotely or frequently changing location can better keep in touch with the rest of the colleagues and the company office atmosphere.

Some video phones support video calls but do not possess a camera. So the camera comes as an additional purchase.

We recommend:
 Yealink VP59
Yealink VP59

PROS:

  • hard buttons for quick access, easy to use by non-techy users
  • combines functualities of a phone and an Android tablet
  • large touch screen
  • HDMI output allows connection to monitors
  • Supports 3-party video conferencing, 6-way audio/video mixed conference

CONS:

  • the phone is not wall-mountable
  • no HDMI input

Main Specifications

  • Android 7.1 operating system
  • 8-inch (1280 x 800px) with 10 points multi-touch screen
  • 16 VoiP accounts
  • connectivity options: built-in Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB port 2.0, USB port 3.0 (used for the camera), PoE, dual-port Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI output
  • removable, plug-and-play, adjustable 2MP camera with a privacy shutter, 30fps
  • HD sound over the handset and the speakerphone
  • supports 3-party video conferencing, 6-way audio/video mixed conference
Cheaper alternative:
Grandstream GXV3380
Grandstream GXV3380

PROS:

  • combines functualities of a phone and an Android tablet
  • large touch screen
  • HDMI input and output allow connection to monitors and exchange of data
  • Supports  3-way video conferencing, 7-way audio conference

CONS:

  • no buttons, can be harder to use by the non-techy users

Main Specifications

  • Android 7.1 operating system
  • 8-inch (1280 x 800px) with 10 points multi-touch screen
  • 16 VoiP accounts
  • connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-fi, USB port 2.0, PoE, dual-port Gigabit Ethernet, Micro SD, headset jack
  • HDMI output to connect to TV monitors in small conference rooms
  • HDMI input for sharing content
  • 2MP camera with a privacy shutter, 30fps
  • HD sound, dual -mic speakerphone
  • Supports 3-way video conferencing, 7-way audio conference

If you are looking for a more low-cost video phone, you can take a look at the previous models of Yealink and Grandstream: 

Bear in mind both of them have a smaller 7-inch screen and no HDMI port. 

The Yealink SIP-T58A runs on Android 5.1 and some applications may not be installed or operate properly.

The Grandstream runner-up GVX3370 has a lower resolution 1MP camera.

Video desk phones eliminate the need of having separate equipment for video conferencing. 

The telephone software system is used to set up and host the video conference call.

Softphones allow the opportunity for a video call using the camera of the device. The audio and video signals are distinguished, so the camera can be turned on and off. 

Some of the newest models of video conference solutions include conference phones with 360-degrees view camera. They provide the opportunity of a view of all meeting attendees in the room on several screens.

Softphones:

Softphones are software applications with the features of a phone. They are an excellent choice for working remotely or in cases of constantly switching locations. They can be installed on more than one device, so employees can make and receive call regardless of their location.

A softphone can be used in combination with a desk phone. This is very helpful in situations with high number of phone calls. The softphone software also has the advantage to be integrated with third-party applications, so the employee has more channels of communication with the customer.

Accessories of IP phones

  • headset
  • ATA (Analog telephone adapter)

VoIP Headsets

The headset is the right solution for call centers and offices where employees need to keep their hands free or walk around while making a phone call. 

Headset is also a preferred accessory as it provides improved sound quality in comparison to using a microphone with a speaker. 

Some of the important features of headsets are: to be wireless (connected to the phone using bluetooth or DECT), stereo/mono sound, noise reduction feature, range, battery life, comfort, voice command, multiport pairing.

We recommend:
Jabra Engage 75
Jabra Engage 75

PROS:

  • long range up to 490 ft
  • excellent sound quality 
  • exclusive connectivity options: can connect to 5 different devices – deskphone, softphone, PC, smartphone, analog phone
  • lightweight and easy-to-use design –  the call-feature buttons adn the busy lamps are on the right places
  • stereo modification is recommended (can be selected when buying)

CONS:

  • can be expensive for some small businesses

Main Specifications

  • wireless range – up to 490 ft (150m)
  • wireless technology – DECT
  • the base has a touch screen
  • up to 13 hours talk time
  • charging time – 30 minutes for 40% charge, 90 min – for 100%
  • multiple connectivity options: Bluetooth up to 2 devices, 2 USB devices, 1 analog phone
  • lightweight design
Cheaper alternative:
Plantronics Savi 740
Plantronics Savi 740

PROS:

  • excellent audio quality
  • lets you switch between 3 connectivity options – desk phone, PC and smartphone
  • very good wireless range up to 350 ft;
  • can choose among three customizable wearing styles – ear hook, headband and neckband
  • well designed – very light and has all the necessary buttons – volume -/+, mute, call answer/end

CONS:

  • battery life can be an issue, if the user forgets to leave the headset back into the base station

Main Specifications

  • wireless technology DECT
  • noise-cancelling headset
  • range up to 350ft
  • battery life: up to 7 hours talk time; charge 80% in 1.5 hours
  • connectivity options: Bluetooth, USB port, telephone port, headset jack

Telephone Adapters (ATA)

The ATA solves the problem of reusing the old analog phones, when switching to VoIP. 

Some ATAs have available ports to support more than one phone, or a port to connect to a computer. When choosing an ATA, pay attention to supported VoIP protocols(so it is compatible with the protocols of the VoIP provider) and number of the analog telephone ports. Some ATAs have an FXO port. It is used to connect to the PSTN, as a backup solution.

Helpful features are also: call switching, standard service features (like caller ID, call waiting, call transfer, call forwarding), three-way conferencing, power failure tolerance.

We recommend:
 Grandstream HT814
Grandstream HT814

PROS:

  • can support up to 4 analog phones/or faxes/
  • exceptional sound quality
  • a computer can be connected to the network, due to the integrated router

CONS:

  • no FXO port- cannot connect to the PSTN network

MAIN SPECIFICATIONS

  • supports up to 2 SIP accounts
  • 4 FXS telephone ports
  • HD sound with wideband codecs
  • integrated router
  • supports T.38 protocol for Fax-over-IP
  • dual Gigabit network ports
Cheaper alternative:
Cisco SPA122
Cisco SPA122

PROS:

  • can support up to 2 analog phones/or a fax/
  • a computer can be connected to the network, due to the integrated router
  • supports 3-way conference call

CONS:

  • no FXO port- cannot connect to the PSTN network

MAIN SPECIFICATIONS

  • 2 FXS telephone ports
  • integrated router
  • supports T.38 protocol for Fax-over-IP
  • dual Gigabit network ports

Replacing all analog phones with new IP phones is a more commonly used practice compared to using ATAs. The reason is that VoIP phones support much more features than traditional phones, that the users could benefit.

Features of IP Phones:

The best choice of IP phone is not the one with the highest number of features, but the one that fits the users’ needs. For this reason it is necessary to understand how every feature can help the users in their work and improve the flow of communication. 

Some features of the IP phones depend on the service provider to support them. Others are a hardware specification. 

Some of the most important features that a phone can support:

  • automatic provisioning
  • dual ethernet ports
  • PoE (Power over Ethernet)
  • number of lines
  • Bluetooth
  • HD sound

In the context of IP telephony automatic provisioning means initial automatic configuring of the IP phone. This means the phone is automatically set up without using the IP phone interface or opening the box of the IP phone. 

Provisioning itself is the entire process of configuring the VoIP software in order to provide service. 

 

Dual ethernet ports means the IP phone can connect to the network and to another device using a second ethernet port. The second port is usually used to connect the phone to a computer. In this way the computer and the phone use only one port on the network router to connect to the internet or the local network.

There are several advantages in using such extra port. The user minimizes the number of used ports at the main network router. One port corresponds to one user. There is also a considerable reduction of the amount of cable runs.

PoE (Power over Ethernet) allows using the ethernet cable for both, getting network connection, and getting power supply. Typically a device would use two cables for these purposes. 

PoE helps reduce wiring the office with redundant cables and expenses of installing electrical power cabling. It makes setting up a new phone quick and easy. Even more, once the phone is configured it can work in any office. Regardless of the location, it is necessary just to plug it in and it is ready for the next call.

In order to use the PoE functionality, it is necessary that the network switch has PoE injection built-in and the VoIP phones are PoE-compatible.

In the context of landline phones the term “phone line” means the physical wire that connects each phone. Regarding the IP phones “a phone line” is usually referred to as the number of calls a phone number can take at the same time. A single phone number set on a VoIP phone can usually take between six to eight concurrent calls.

Multiple calls can be handled in different ways – including putting calls on hold, transferring calls, parking calls and more. Higher number of simultaneous calls also allows the flexibility of using fewer phone numbers that would further need to be paid for.

The bluetooth allows connecting the phone with any other bluetooth device. 

The headset is usually connected to the IP phone by bluetooth signal. In this way the employee is free to walk around the office while speaking on the phone.

HD sound is a feature of all IP phones, compared to traditional landline phones.

Ip phones use codecs,  which are algorithms(programs) converting audio analog signal to digitally encoded data.  The word codec is an abbreviation of “coder-decoder”. This means that the codec encodes the sound to digital data on the recipient’s phone and on the receiver’s device decodes it back from digital to analog, so the voice can be heard. 

The bandwidth of the codec determines the quality of the transmitted sound. High-quality sound of IP phones is due to the fact that the internet connection allows using wideband codecs. While landline phones use a narrowband codec, with a limit of 3.4 kHz, the VoIP phones can use many different wideband codecs with a frequency range up to 7 kHz.

IP phones usually support several different audio codecs. When devices begin to “communicate”, they will use the codec they have in common.

HD wideband audio has been used for more than 15 years, since the start of using Skype. Now most low-budget IP phones are HD compatible. But this does not mean that all IP phones have the same sound quality. Recognized companies, like Polycom, have patented their own acoustic sound technology to boost the sound quality. So it is expected that the high-end phones would offer better sound quality compared to the simply HD-compatible ones.