VoIP Phones vs Softphones: what are the Pros and Cons?

Posted on: 2017-01-17 | Categories:VoIP Services

Transitioning your organization over to VoIP involves many decisions, choices and processes. Larger companies take longer to make them while small businesses can probably breeze through them quickly. The decision to upgrade from your old enterprise phone system is only the first of many you will make down the road.

Should I go for hosted VoIP or install SIP trunks? Which vendor should I choose and how do I recognize a good service? How much should I pay for the features I am getting? These are just a few questions you will end up answering. Another one on that list is: Should I go for softphones or get dedicated VoIP phones?

Both have benefits and drawbacks and come with different costs. The answer to this is – as always – it depends. So let us take a look at the differences between the two options and what you should consider before selecting either one.

Softphones

VoIP is based on IP protocols which means it is much more flexible than your old PSTN phone. One benefit it offers is the ability to call someone using just software. That’s right! You don’t actually need a physical instrument to make and receive VoIP calls.

You may have already experienced this with consumer VoIP services like Skype. Remember how you can just download the app and start talking to someone? Well, business VoIP services provide that option too.

Many vendors offer dedicated clients that your employees can install on their laptops, tablets and even mobile phones. There are also third party applications that you can use with any VoIp service. These applications are called softphones to distinguish them from the hardware you normally use for calling.

VoIP Phones

VoIP phones are similar to regular desk phones. They have a microphone and earpiece for calls. Most VoIP phones also have a small screen to display information along with myriad buttons that are bound to specific functions. Depending on the model, users can customize what certain buttons do as well.  Users don’t need training to use them, you just pick up the phone and dial.

VoIP phones come in a wide variety at different price points. You can pick up a basic model for as little as $50 and prices can go up to a couple of hundred dollars for the higher end models. The more expensive ones generally provide more ports, color and touch sensitive screens, good quality hardware and will support HD voice for better clarity.

Softphones – Pros and Cons

One of the biggest pros of softphones is portability. You can install the software on any device you happen to have with you at the moment. You can use the software for calling customers, colleagues and team members wherever you are. Left your phone at home? Call from your desktop or laptop. Forgot to bring your work issued phone on a business trip? No problem! You can still stay in touch with your office.

Another advantage is that it costs nothing. This can be very valuable to a small business or a team of freelancers for instance. There is no license to purchase or hardware to connect. It’s the quickest and often easiest way to make VoIP calls.

But it’s not perfect for all situations. Softphones have to work with whatever hardware is available, so the audio quality will vary quite a bit. If you or your office frequently schedule conference calls with multiple parties on the line, you will be better served with a dedicated VoIP phone. Softphones from some vendors are also really basic. You may not be able to access advanced features like video calling or broadcasting a conference call.

VoIP Phones – Pros and Cons

VoIP phones have good quality and dedicated hardware so your calls will be crystal clear. Call quality depends a lot on the network, available bandwidth and QoS settings but using a VoIP phone can also improve the clarity quite a bit. With cordless VoIP phones you don’t have to sacrifice portability either. You cannot take it with you on a flight but it still allows a certain degree of freedom to move about while on the phone.

Departments that rely on the phones to function like customer or tech support will want to get VoIP phones. They can access all the features they need to make their workflows more efficient.  Tasks like putting a caller on hold or transferring calls are much easier with a dedicated unit than an app.

The choice between the two doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can opt for a mix that includes softphones and a few VoIP phones. Some users may prefer VoIP phones but install the softphone before leaving on a trip while others may use one or the other exclusively. So go ahead and start using VoIP with or without an actual phone!