Are Desk Phones A Dead Technology?

The landline telephone was invented over a hundred years ago, and it has since evolved into nation-wide data networks, mobile phones and hands-free headsets, all of which can be incredible productivity tools. You can close a business deal while you cook dinner, manage your bank account on a bus, interview an applicant during your drive to work or touch base with your colleagues with both hands on a fishing pole or a golf club.

But, there’s still that old relic of a device, your landline desk phone, tethered to your desk by a primitive tangle of plastic coils, poised to light up and sound off at any moment.

Desk phones may have been cutting-edge decades ago, but today they’re fundamentally flawed. While their smartphone counterparts are taking opportunistic advantage of travel time and idle hands, the desk phone is hogging your prime productivity hours.

Nowadays, your desk phone can seem like an unnecessary paperweight, or worse, an automatic interruption machine situated right in the middle of your productive safe-haven. Often, an epiphany or an almost-finished task can get neglected, delayed or completely abandoned for a much less important phone call.

Emails allow you to address the important messages before the rest. Smartphones allow you to take advantage of time that would otherwise be wasted. But, a ringing deskphone will interrupt even the most critical work, regardless of how important (or unimportant) the phone call is.

Is your desk phone necessary and helpful? Is it a necessary evil? Are desk phones a dead technology?

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Peter is Vice President of Digital Marketing at an investment holdings company in Washington DC and Co-Founder at True North.


  1. totushi on the 11th August

    i hate my deskphone, all day rings and rings!!! why can people learn to use the email? so much easier!

    • I agree. I also favor emails over phones. Emails are a lot better. You can answer them at your own time, without reducing your productivity.

      If you are working on a really important task, and you need concentration for half an hour, and a phone call comes in which you talk for 5 minutes, it will decrease your productivity and come in your way. Imagine if an email came, you could just check it after your 30 minutes of work.


  2. Quik Hit on the 11th August

    As s sales professional, I live and die by the phone. My Nortel system is the best I’ve ever used and I’m sure other manufacturers have similar systems. I can do everything I need to at my desk or away from it. With my cordless headset, I can be anywhere in the office and still take and make calls.

    You just can’t stay on a cell phone for hours at a time.

  3. Nicholas Volpe on the 11th August

    Desk phones are definitely not a dead technology. I still have not used a cell phone that sounds as good as my desk phone. It’s especially essential for conference calls. What I would like to see is more technology in desk phones though. How about linking it to my Outlook contacts? How about giving it a nice big touchscreen or a bluetooth I can pick up instead of the handset. Not to say there are many companies who would pay for that… But just sayin’. =)

  4. Paul Irvine on the 11th August

    BT ( desk phones tend to be the kind that are seldom used daily but at home double-up nicely as a corner ornament piece that my Granny or a long distance relative will occasionally prove still has practical relevance.

    Office-wise, SpliceCom ( running a Purple Networx ( GUI are the way to go phones – VoIP rules.

  5. DemersDesigns on the 11th August

    The company I work for, albeit only six people, doesn’t have a single landline. We all have iPhones and the company picks up the bill. It seems to work really well for us and is much cheaper than a business-class phone system.

  6. Hoof on the 11th August

    I always hated the invasiveness of the phone. That is why I was one of the las persons to get a mobile phone. I like them better, because you can silence them. Or shut down. And people understand you ar doing something you do not want interupted.
    When they call a landline number, they at least expect somebody else to take it. Who will direct it to you. Or make up a reason why you are not grabbing the archaic thing.

    Kill them. All.

  7. Jayson Brown on the 11th August

    I refuse to own a cell phone; I run my own design company just fine without it.

  8. Sandro Salsi on the 11th August

    It’s like newspapers/paper books. Their use will diminish but their technology will probably never die completely.

  9. Harry Falkenmire on the 11th August

    Communications Server 14 (a soon to be released refresh to the wildly popular OCS 2007 R2) will be the first time many of my clients “ditch the desk phone”. Unified Communications, if integrated into all other office applications (as only Microsoft is positioned to do effectively), offers significant productivity advantages.
    Between that and embracing SIP over traditional PSTN connectivity (ISDN etc), the ROI of moving from PBX to IP UC is visible even to those with very thick glasses.

  10. Debora on the 12th August

    Last year at work I was asked to choose between a landline phone and a mobile. I chose a landline phone. You can’t take them with you, giving you peace and quite when at lunch or not at work.
    I also agree with Nicholas that the sound quality is better. Also things like speaker phone often work better on landline phones.

  11. Melanie Brooks on the 12th August

    My desk phone is necessary…it helps me call other people in other offices and for our receptionist to send calls to my office. I also wouldn’t have an important phone interview on a cell phone…my office phone gets much better sound quality.

  12. Simon MacDonald on the 12th August

    I don’t think my desk phone rings for days on end. It is definitely not my primary mode of work communication. I used to work for a company doing Unified Communications and it is the future of telephony. I’m waiting for the day that I can install an app on my cell phone so that when I’m in work it uses the VOIP network to make/take calls and when I’m away from work it uses the cell phone carriers network.

  13. Erica McGillivray on the 12th August

    My desk phone rings around once every two weeks. Most people around the office know to either e-mail me or IM me, and working in e-commerce, most of the vendors I work with, also prefer e-mail communications. About 75% of the calls I do get are cold calls from sales people.

    That said, I don’t think they’re completely outmoded. Especially if you work at a place that doesn’t give and pay for cellphones for everyone.

  14. Pablo Valerio on the 12th August

    During the past three years I’ve been using Skype as my “desk” phone (I have an online SkypeIn number). I really like using a Logitech USB “confort” headset (the sound is naturally clear). I can do conference calls, Video conference and screen sharing.

    I use a cell phone when away, but I really hate having an antenna close to my brain more than a few minutes everyday.

    If I didn’t have Skype I would be using a desk phone with a headset..

  15. Adam Kayce on the 12th August

    I don’t have a landline phone; I use Skype. (About $60/year, has a regular phone # and unlimited calling, and with a Plantronics headset, quality is solid.)

    I only turn it on when I have a scheduled call; otherwise, people initiate contact with me via email (I’m a webdesigner, running my own company). I use a Google Voice number, too, so voicemail shows up in my inbox, which means I’m not missing messages for days on end.

    And no, I don’t own a cell, either.

  16. Jason Schmidt on the 13th August

    I do all my calls over Skype. I’m usually having to screen share.

  17. Luke McAdam on the 16th August

    I work for a relatively small design company and desk phones help us endlessley. Relationship and communication are one of the most important points of difference between us and other companies. An email is fine sometimes, but I find clients feel much more valued if they receive a call, and it often takes less time. It also allows us to communicate more efficiently with tone and inflection. This could technically be achieved with our mobile phones but we make the land line the main point of contact which allows us to feel less “tied down” to clients, if I was receiving all my calls on my mobile I would grow weary and more of a slave to my work. I leave the desk phone at work and pressure at work and don’t have to worry about it outside of emergencies, in which case they can call my mobile.

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