Once you have chosen the best VoIP service provider for your business (see our provider reviews here) now you’ll need to decide which phones you’ll use with your VoIP setup.
Our Recommended VoIP Handset Provider: Polycom
Best VoIP Phones by Popularity
Here are the best popular VoIP phones based on Amazon sales ranking and ratings around the web.
Low/Mid-level workhorse – Polycom SoundPoint IP 335
- Supports 2 Phone Lines
- Dedicated RJ-9 headset port
- Backlit grey scale context-sensitive display with 3 buttons
- Power over Internet (PoE) eliminates need for AC power cord
- 10/100 Ethernet Switch allows you to connect your computer to your LAN through the phone
Note: PoE requires a PoE Router on your network or a PoE adapter
High End Executive Phone – Cisco SPA525G2 5-Line IP Phone
Price Range: $180 to $280
- Five line VoIP phone with context-sensitive color graphic display (can monitor up to four video cameras)
- Bluetooth connectivity to headsets
- Eliminates unsightly wires via PoE (Power over Internet) and by daisy chaining to your computer.
- Supported by RingCentral, Nextiva and other VoIP services and some PBX systems.
- We only wish the Internet connection was Gigabyte speed instead of 10/100 Ethernet
For the conference room – Polycom SoundStation IP 6000 Conference Room IP Phone
Price Range: $390 to $770
- Optimized for a conference room sized for up to 12 person
- Rave reviews for sound quality
- Available in PoE and AC Power models
- Resists interference from mobile phones
Lots of Choice Based on Your Needs
VoIP phones generally resemble your traditional landline phones – but they’re often more feature rich, and most importantly, they connect directly to a LAN or Internet so you can use them with VoIP services.
Three Factors above the Others
- Number of Lines
- Your VoIP provider
Start by determining how many lines you need to carry on your phone. Most VoIP phones will be set up to easily accommodate 2 to 4 lines; but other phones may allow up to 16 lines. That doesn’t mean you can’t pick up any call that comes in; normally means it offers buttons for each line or a maximum number running concurrently. Most small businesses will be able to do with 2 lines on every extension. (I had a 4 line phone in a busy office for 3 years, and never used the third or fourth line. The extra lines are mostly there so you can see which lines are busy elsewhere; but some VoIP providers will also show that in on your computer screen.)
Some providers recommend one phone over others because they work well on their systems. And some features on the hardware are not required if they are offered as a service by your provider. Additionally, since phone systems sometimes require support, you’ll want to use a phone that is familiar to whoever supports you. So knowing which phones are recommended by your VoIP provider will help you narrow your search. If you like a particular phone that is not recommended formally by your provider, ask whether it will work, and whether they support it.
Price is always a top criterion; and in the case of VoIP phones, the feature sets typically help determine the price. Phones with comparable features are usually priced similarly.
Other Factors Based On Your Desires
Beyond those big three factors, there may be other factors and features that are important to you, and which may be available in some, but not all, VoIP phones.
Great for those frequently dialed calls; but sometimes provided by the VoIP service.
Some VoIP phones have an LCD touch screen or other large multifunction display panel; others have a one or two line text display – or no display at all. This feature depends strictly on your preference. The biggest advantage of the more robust displays is that some offer simplified ways to interact with your phone, either by prompting you based on context or by providing touch screen controls. If you have a big budget to burn, you can even buy phones in which these displays become digital photo frames or camera monitors. How touch screens function is not always apparent by the specs. So if any of these display functions are important to you, make sure that it’s explicitly listed in the features of the phone; or ask about them.
I think this is one of the most important features of any phone for heavy users: can you use your favorite headset with it? For sales, support, and certain executives, a high quality headset with microphone will make life easier and work productive. So make sure that these phones come equipped with a way to plug in your headset. Better yet, if it offers a Bluetooth connection, it will change the way you and your employees do business on the phone.
Can you connect to two or more people in two or more locations? If your VoIP provider doesn’t provide the service, your phone will need to do it.
There are phones that are meant specifically for conference rooms (including the Polycom SoundStation IP 6000). They don’t look like phones; they look like space pods, with several sets of speakers and microphones around a center hub. These usually provide the best acoustics when you want multiple people in the same room to participate in a call. But many standard VoIP phones come with speaker phones. Both work well, but the former is set up specifically for the task of being in the conference room and sound better in crowded rooms.
Your phone has to get its electrical power from someplace. Most of the time, it will be through a cord that you connect to your AC wall outlet. Others get their power from your local area network (LAN), much like traditional landlines get their power from the phone company wires; so there’s one less wire to detract from your room’s décor. If you purchase a VoIP phone that gets its power from the Ethernet, you’ll also need to make sure your LAN can provide that power – which will require a PoE (Power over Ethernet) switch or adapter on your network. The best of these also connect in a daisy chain to your computer, so you don’t need a second LAN port in your office.
In some cases, you’ll be able to reduce your total expenditure by eliminating the VoIP phone altogether.
One alternative is known as a softphone – where you turn your computer into a telephone by adding a headset with microphone and installing softphone software from your VoIP provider. Not all VoIP systems offer softphones – but if yours does, you should find it simple to download and set up.
Softphones are great alternatives, and one of my favorites – especially with a good Bluetooth headset, because I eliminate the phone from my desk. My experience with Softphones is that they are very reliable and easy to use, although occasionally need extra effort setting them up if they don’t perform when you first install them. (You can normally rely on your VoIP service provider to help you if you encounter problems.)
Another reasonable alternative is to use your cellular smart phone with your VoIP system. If your VoIP service offers you this option through an app, you’ll be able to receive and dial calls from your cell phone – and when you dial, you’ll be able to make them look like you’re dialing from your office. Unfortunately, my experience with VoIP on smart phones is up & down reliability due to cellular bandwidth and availability issues; so your use could be spotty. These are best used only when you’re away from your office.
Finally, don’t forget that you can use your old analog phone if you connect it with an adapter, such as the Grandstream HT702. The adapter connects to your LAN, and has ports for your old phone – and sometimes that’s a fine alternative for a very small office on a budget.
Think Out of the Box
If you need multiple phones for multiple employees or office locations, you don’t need to buy the same phone for everybody. If most of your workers aren’t heavy users, skimp on the features for their desks to reduce your price. Spend more on the phones that are in heavy use.