This article is part of a larger series on VoIP.
A softphone is a software-based phone application that transmits calls over the internet through a computer or mobile device. It comes with standard desk phone functionalities like mute, transfer, hold, and a dial pad. Since it operates on a computer, softphones have expanded call management features, such as video conferencing, voicemail management, online chat, and SMS capabilities. Find out what is a softphone and how your business can benefit from it.
Get the best softphone experience: If you’re looking for a softphone provider that supports all business phone and video needs without requiring desktop hardware, consider Nextiva. This highly rated softphone provider offers feature-rich plans and a user-friendly interface that addresses a growing team’s collaboration needs with little to no learning curve.
How Softphones Work in Modern Business
A softphone works by making, receiving, and managing voice calls over the internet. To understand the ins and outs of how a softphone works, here’s a complete breakdown:
A softphone works just like a traditional desk phone, except it uses software to make calls. It facilitates the transmission of voice and multimedia content over the internet without using a voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) phone. Voice calls take place over a computer or any mobile device with a working microphone and speaker.
Once you install a softphone app on a device, it operates like any other telephone along with a wealth of additional functionalities. Softphones enable users to send out call invitations, view their calendar, send group messages, and access messages through any softphone-enabled device.
A session initiation protocol (SIP) server facilitates real-time VoIP sessions, converting your voice into digital signals over the internet. This eliminates the need for PBX (private branch exchange) hardware since it relies on a cloud-based PBX. Important VoIP business phone features are built into the software, creating a user-friendly interface.
Chief Benefits of a Softphone
Softphones are among the best business phone systems for different communication and collaboration needs. In this age of remote working, a reliable business phone solution has become a necessity in managing teams working in different locations simultaneously.
A few of the more specific benefits softphones offer compared to traditional phone technology are:
1. Bigger Cost Savings
Softphones offer a cost-effective solution when it comes to installing and maintaining a business phone system. Since desk phones are configured using a dedicated network line, installation and maintenance are expensive—leading to huge upfront costs for businesses.
With softphones, the software is directly available from the vendor’s website, ready to be installed on your selected device, be it a computer, laptop, or smartphone. Subscription plans come at different price points and packages to suit every budget and business need. Popular softphone apps, such as those offered by Nextiva and competitors like RingCentral and 8×8, start at $15 to $19.99 per user, per month.
Making international calls through softphones is cheaper than traditional landlines since you’re making calls via the internet. Many softphone providers offer free unlimited calls to the U.S. and Canada, including a toll-free number in several countries.
2. Manage Calls Wherever You Are
Softphones operate entirely in the cloud, allowing you to manage calls anywhere provided there’s an internet connection. This makes softphones a flexible solution for remote and hybrid work environments since users have access to a suite of unified communication tools to get work done wherever they go.
3. Unified Communications Solution
Softphones support various forms of communication into a single platform. It combines the basic features of an office phone system with advanced communication channels, such as team messaging, video conferencing, and advanced call handling.
Softphones allow users to send group messages, join online meetings, and interact with clients almost instantly. There’s no need to switch between apps or open multiple browsers to access information and exchange files.
4. Better Team Collaboration
Softphones enhance team experience by giving employees access to various collaboration tools, such as cloud-based apps, visual voicemail, and customizable keys. Most softphone providers integrate their services with other third-party platforms to provide a better team experience and expand functionality.
Potential Disadvantages of a Softphone
While softphones are a clear standout over traditional desk phones, there are a few potential downsides when integrating them into your business communication system. Here are the drawbacks of softphones to consider before using this technology:
1. Internet Dependency
Softphones need a stable internet connection to work. Moreover, unpredictable situations like weather disturbances, power outages, and bandwidth limitations affect call quality and service accessibility. This makes softphones an inconvenience for offices lacking a strong internet connection.
2. Learning Curves for Beginners
Embracing new technology in your business requires a bit of training that involves a few learning curves. Although softphone providers strive to build a user-friendly interface, new updates require users to undergo training to fully understand how softphones work.
3. Device Compatibility
Besides poor internet connection, device compatibility is also a big issue when using softphones. Softphone access is dependent on the device, so you have to make sure it is up to date, including its operating system. Users should also invest in good-quality headphones to maximize call quality. Choppy and delayed calls are common issues when using wireless connectivity.
Alternatives to Softphones
While softphones offer comprehensive communication solutions, you might be looking for alternatives that better suit your business. Other options provide a dedicated office phone solution, an integrated messaging platform, or call center phone systems for support teams.
Here are a few recommended alternatives:
IP Phones & Desk Phones
There are two common types of phone systems for business: landline desk phones and internet protocol (IP) phones. Landline desk phones use an on-premise PBX to manage multiple calls; they are reliable and deliver excellent call quality. Meanwhile, IP phones use VoIP technology to deliver voice calls over the internet. Unlike desk phones, IP phones offer a host of features, such as call analytics, auto-attendant, and call hand-off.
Many businesses are still opting for traditional desk phones and IP phones despite the multiple functionalities of softphones. They require dedicated hardware, providing exceptional voice quality and ensuring calls remain crystal-clear.
In the age of social networking, most people view social media platforms as the easiest way to communicate with other users without their phone numbers. Some widely used smartphone apps include WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger.
These applications also help users form nested connections with their social media accounts. For example, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp allow users to send messages across these platforms and connect with other users within this family of apps.
Smartphone apps as a messaging service are recommended for personal use. On the other hand, business calling and large-scale conferencing are conducted more efficiently with a softphone app.
Browser-based Dialing Systems
Browser-based dialing systems are the best choice for small businesses that want to improve the performance of their telemarketing operations and maximize reach with prospects. This makes it easier to accommodate high volumes of calls and track the entire customer journey.
Browser-based dialing systems enable users to make and receive calls directly from their browsers without a softphone application. This is helpful for call center environments that want to save time and automate the calling process by dialing numbers automatically. If you’re looking for the best auto-dialer apps, you’ll be better off with platforms like PhoneBurner, CallHub, or CloudTalk.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the difference between VoIP phones & softphones?
VoIP phones work similarly to traditional desk phones. They come with a dial pad, microphone, earpiece, and a small screen. What makes it different from a softphone is that you don’t need hardware to manage calls. The entire phone system exists as software within your device, ready to use wherever you go.
What are examples of softphones?
Softphones are software-based solutions designed to use VoIP technology to manage calls over the internet. They are typically built to look and function like the dialer screen on most smartphones, but can operate on desktop computers as well as on mobile devices.
How do I use a softphone?
Softphones run across multiple devices, such as desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Usage depends on the provider, but it’s no different than opening any software program. They come with a dial pad where you enter the recipient’s contact information. When making calls, simply speak through your device or a headset connected to your computer.
Softphones make an incredible addition to your business phone system. They offer a range of features to streamline end-to-end communications and facilitate team collaboration. Softphones are a perfect fit for small businesses looking for bigger cost savings, greater ability to manage large volumes of calls, or an all-in-one communications solution.
If you want to learn more about the role VoIP systems play in your business, check out our guide about small business VoIP services. It’ll help you find the best VoIP providers for business communication.