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Consumer Reports rates cordless phones & offers tips for reducing phone bill costs

Posted Friday, September 22, 2006

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CR’s Ratings reveal which performed best based on voice quality and features

Yonkers, NY – The world may be going cellular at a rapid rate, but the humble cordless phone still holds a place in many homes. Consumer Reports’ October issue features ratings of 47 cordless phones that are divided into four categories – single and multiple-handset varieties and with and without answering machines.

CR Best Buy models include cordless phones made by Uniden, AT&T and GE. For consumers considering a cordless phone without a built-in answerer, CR recommends the single-handset Uniden EXI 4246, AT&T 2116, and GE 27831GE1, all CR Best Buys for their overall performance, combination of features and price. For multiple-handset phones, CR recommendations include the feature-packed Uniden TRU 9465, and CR Best Buy AT&T E2718B that comes with more handsets; both performed very well overall.

Cordless phones featuring an answerer often cost little more than comparable phone-only models and take up about the same space. The single-handset AT&T E2126, is a CR Best Buy due to its very good performance and sensible set of features for a very good price. CR Quick Picks in the multiple-handset with answerer category include AT&T 5947B, VTech i6765, and AT&T E2727B, which is also a CR Best Buy. These integrated fine performance and a practical blend of features, although the VTech and AT&T E2727B one extension limit makes it less suitable for larger homes.

CR recommends the following tips when shopping for a cordless phone:

  • Decide between analog and digital. Phones using analog transmission tend to be less expensive and have better voice quality; however, they are more susceptible to eavesdropping than digital phones.
  • Settle on desired features. Most models feature caller ID, a headset jack and a base that can be wall-mounted. As a general rule, the more feature-laden the phone, the higher its price. CR’s report includes a section on features that count when choosing a cordless phone, which can make calling more convenient such as, a speakerphone, a base keypad, and power backup.
  • Make sure you can return it. Check the return policy before making a purchase in case unexpected problems occur once the product is brought home that cannot be resolved, such as wireless interference.


Five Ways to Cut Phone Bills

Telephone technology has undergone drastic changes in recent years. Competition among providers and the advent of new services have lowered costs in some cases, and raised them in others, and complicated the decision process in choosing a reasonably-priced and reliable service provider. CR offers the following tips to lower phone service costs without sacrificing safety:

  1. Switch to Internet phoning. Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, transmits phone calls via a high-speed Internet connection. It can save consumers about $400 a year, since monthly plans start at about $20 a month, include unlimited local and long-distance calling and are not as heavily taxed as conventional phone services. Disadvantages include two requirements – a broadband Internet connection from a cable or DSL provider, which can cost $40 or more altogether, and AC power. If the power or internet connection goes out so does the phone service.
  2. Using a cell phone for everything. Some consumers are dropping landline phone service all together and relying solely on their cell phone to cut costs. National anytime minutes plans featuring 500 minutes generally cost $40 to $50 a month. Unfortunately, the voice quality of a cell phone still lags behind that of a landline and service may not be available everywhere, including certain places in a consumer’s own home.
  3. Trade down to a cheaper cell phone plan. A consumer may not be using all the monthly minutes he or she pays for a cell phone plan. Some providers offer plans with 200 to 300 minutes that cost between $30 and $40 which are cheaper than the promotional plans they tend to push to consumers. The downside of a less expensive plan is if a consumer goes over the allotted time, the extra cost can be 10 cents to 45 cents a minute, which can erase any savings.
  4. Take a local/long distance bundle. Buying unlimited long-distance and local service from the same landline provider can cost about $35 to $55 a month. Long-distance service alone can cost that much, so essentially the local service is free. However, consumers who don’t make many long-distance calls can save money by buying phone services `a la carte or using prepaid calling cards.
  5. Buy a phone card for long distance. Prepaid long-distance calling cards are useful for those who do not make many long-distance landline calls and are also handy for avoiding excessive long-distance fees at hotels. They generally cost between 4 and 15 cents a minute and can save a consumer about $150 a year if he or she averages 50 minutes of long-distance calls a week. However, phone cards generally require a lot of extra number punching and some tack on connection fees and other charges. A landline provider might also charge a fee for dropping long-distance service.
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Consumer Reports rates cordless phones & offers tips for reducing phone bill costs
Uniden EXI 4246
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