/ Technology

Who needs a landline in the age of mobile phones?

Wired phone and mobile phone

In a multitasking age when a mobile phone is as versatile as a personal computer, why would anyone bother with a landline? Does anyone really use them any more?

I received a call from a university friend recently, not on the mobile number that’s saved to my handset’s phonebook, but from an unrecognised landline number.

I point out that he’s a uni friend to illustrate that he’s the same age as me (31) and more importantly, that he’s the only uni friend who’s ever called me from a landline.

It came as a surprise. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but there are only a few landline numbers saved in my mobile’s directory, and they’re seldom used.

Who uses a landline phone?

I have broadband at home so could plug in a landline phone – but I don’t. And I almost begrudge the small charge latently included in my package for my assumed phone line use. I share a flat with two friends – each of whom has a mobile phone – and the thought of getting a landline has never crossed our minds.

Perhaps it would be different if I were married with children. I asked some sub 35-year-old friends and only a few had a phone tethered to their walls back home. One said that he had a landline, but only took calls from his mum and mother-in-law.

Another colleague admitted to having a landline, but on closer inspection, discovered it was faulty. A repair wasn’t high on his list of priorities.

The freedom of a mobile phone

The reason I don’t have one, and don’t ever expect to, is because landlines are so restrictive compared to mobiles. I don’t have to rush downstairs to take a call, because my mobile follows me upstairs. And I can carry out a number of tasks on my mobile that I couldn’t on a home phone – web-browsing, texting, e-mailing and arithmetic, to name but a few.

Before attention is drawn to my avatar photo, I should point out that I believe a hardlined phone still has its place in the workplace – I don’t want to be pestered about my articles when I’m down the pub.

And of course there are the other benefits of a landline: it can be cheaper to make and receive calls, you have an excuse (‘I was out’) for not answering, the sound quality is often better, and it’s less likely to be lost. But for me, the pros just don’t stack up high enough.

Say goodbye to the landline

Many users swear by them however, but like cheques, I see them fading out of existence within the next decade.

There was a TV ad recently where a girl complained that her absent father always called her from his mobile. The company’s message appeared to be that a mobile call is a more flippant and less meaningful form of communication.

The ad struck me as nonsense – a contrived attempt to make people believe that landlines still have a place, when for me, they clearly don’t.

Do we need landlines in the age of mobile phones?

Yes - I use my home phone all the time (69%, 690 Votes)

I don't know - they're useful for relatives, but annoy with sales calls (20%, 195 Votes)

No - home phones are pointless (12%, 115 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,000

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I’m with you on this one Ben, but there is a significant reason why I still have a landline – the cost of official phonelines.
I once fell foul of the temptation to phone my bank on my mobile and ended up with a £15 bill at the end of the month (it was a heavy transaction month) and Banks aren’t the only things. Any official phoneline usually comes with a phone number that is not only excluded from your mobile’s inclusive minutes but is often charged at a higher rate than standard calls.
I have no idea why in this day and age we should be expected to pay more for the privilege of making a call on a mobile than a landline (Freephone numbers are not even free) but until the ground is equalled I’ll keep the landline for those tiresome jobs of phoning banks and utilities.

You’re absolutely right Mr Gus, and I popped on here to make the same point. As the Which? phone services expert, the disparity in some call charges between mobiles and landlines is something I’m all too familiar with. 0845 and 0870 numbers, for example, typically cost 30-40p per minute from mobiles, but usually cost only a few pence per minute from landlines. Some landline providers even now include 0845 and 0870 in call packages – mobile providers never do. The high cost of calling supposedly ‘Freephone’ 0800 numbers from a mobile is a particular bugbear of mine, and I live in hope that mobile providers will see sense and make 0800 numbers free to call, as they are from landlines.

All that said, I think for many people a home phone line is still a must-have – spare a thought for those who live in an area without a mobile signal for example, or those who simply can’t afford a mobile contract with inclusive minutes. PAYG mobile rates are high compared to landline costs.

In this mobile age though, it does seem odd that if you want a home broadband connection, you have no choice but to pay for a phone line rental deal that includes certain calls in the basic costs. I wonder if line rental providers are missing a trick by failing to cater for people who, like Ben, only want a landline so they can get broadband.

I see what you’re saying Ben. I have a landline as it comes free with the virgin broadband we have but I can’t actually remember the last time I used it… Even if I’m in the house I’d just use my mobile to make any calls as they’re included in my deal. And if it’s calls abroad I’d use Skype… Yeah let’s get rid of the landline!

And logically let’s tear up the phonebook too! Can there be anything more antiquated and less 21st Century than once a year printing millions of copies of a list of names and numbers, and then getting a copy delivered to each home in the country? Think of those wasted trees…

I object to paying for a number search using a mobile – when I can easily look it up for free in the phone book. I believe the phone books use recycled paper so no trees are wasted.

I use my land line all the time.

Use the mobile for emergencies when out and about – found them to be intermittant at best. And I certainly don’t want to be phoned by people while out..

Sandra H says:
9 August 2010

We would be lost without a landline since we live in a rural area. Mobile reception is poor – intermittent at best! Have mobiles but purely for use away from home.

It’s an interesting question, but I think landlines still have their place – although perhaps less and less for voice services. Cable TV – particularly the pay channels for sport and films – and broadband is surely where the money is now for companies like BT and Virgin. We also shouldn’t forget – as Richard points out – that not everybody wants to be contactable everywhere they go. As for the suggestion about getting rid of phone books, I see the argument, but I also think we’re too quick to assume that everyone has access to the same information online. Perhaps they should be made available on request instead.

All I can think of with this is ‘in a perfect world…’ But sadly, we’re not – and especially in the UK. Mobile phone reception is terrible back home – unless I place my mobile on particular window shelf on the far side of the house. So we rely on the landline.

Sure, in London, my landline is only used for relatives and annoying cold callers – but I get free calls to all UK landlines included with my broadband package – and free calls to a few countries abroad too. Which is another problem – calling a mobile phone from abroad is expensive, and calling abroad from a mobile phone is even more expensive.

So when mobile call charges can rival landline charges, and signal across the country is uniform – then maybe, just maybe the landline will die.

PS. Landline phones are now wireless, so they can be taken upstairs at night. You can also text, email and browse the web from some of them…though not up to the standard of a smart phone.

Wanda W says:
10 August 2010

At least when talking to BT about a problem, the call centre is in the UK and they don’t keep you on the phone while they talk twaddle. I HATE phoning about problems with my mobile because the call centre is outside the UK and they have serious difficulty going off script!!!!!!!

Jonathan Curry says:
10 August 2010

I would like to be able to abandon the landline. But sadly I live in a mobile blackspot.

It is not overly rural but none of the mobile phone companies seem to have a decent signal for my house and the ones near it. We are all in a dip and all the maps either show a low signal or are wrong. As its likely we will get fibre to the home before the dip gets filled in I will keep the landline.

I like a large phone to handle and find small phones fiddly. With a cordless phone one can combine the advantages of a mobile and a landline phone in the house. If I’m expecting a call when I’m having a bath I take my phone to the bathroom. Moreover, my phone/broadband package deal gives me any time free calls including 0870 and 0845 numbers which I use a lot.
Bill Hall

Stuart A says:
10 August 2010

Sorry Ben but your argument does not always hold good. I live in a rural area, and have had a variety of mobile networks, but I am still unable to get a decent signal at home – and many other places! I have a mobile for emergency use only, when out and about, otherwise hardly ever use it. And I am fed up having to avoid people in town using their mobiles and oblivious of other people. Don’t get me started about people who still drive and use mobiles. I recently switched to Greenbee landline and broadband, which is not only exceptionally good for service and value, but also gets rid of BT altogether. So I no longer have to spend two days working out my telephone bill. Long live landlines.

We are OAP’s and only use our mobiles to contact each other. i,e, I’ll meet you in the car park etc at a particular time. We have PAYG on the mobiles. At home we have broadband/phone package which includes International use and all our phone needs 24/7 except for 0845/0870/090 etc which is an extra.. Our Sky TV is another separate charge monthly. This does not include Films/sport. Currently there is no package to cover all our needs. I am sure that there is a lot of people who use their home landlines for tele calls. If we were to use our moblies for everyday use it would cost us £60 /month instead of the £23 for phone/broadband at present.

You said it for yourself Ben: “I share a flat with two friends”.

If you lived with a family in a family house, you’d probably want a landline. When people call me, they use my mobile. When they call my wife or kids, they dial their mobiles, When they call “us” (i.e. don’t care who answers) they dial our landline.

Apart from anything else, I don’t want to carry my mobile around the house and garden with me. If I leave it in, say, the kitchen, and it rings, the chances are I won’t hear it or get to it in time. But we have a set of three DECT phones and also three fixed phones, so we’ll always hear them ring and always have one close by to answer.

On top of that, I work from home. Landlines are much cheaper to use for outgoing calls, especially with an “anytime” tariff, and offer much better sound quality – important for business calls and desirable for other calls.

I get inclusive calls to 0800/0845/0870 from my landline too – they tend to cost a fortune from mobiles, even if I have spare inclusive minutes. I use services such as 18185 for dead cheap international calls and and could switch to an O2 landline for inclusive calls to many countries.

And just wait until you have teenage children who spend half their lives phoning friends. You won’t want to pay for them to use mobiles all the time.

Landlines are also cheaper for people to call in to, unless they have expensive mobile contracts with loads of inclusive minutes. Some people I know (e.g. elderly relatives and children) don’t have mobile phones at all or use PAYG, so don’t like calling me on my mobile becuse of the cost.

So, I can understand why a landline might not be important to you, but try and see the bigger picture – something I’d expoect someone from Which? to do instinctively.

I use my landline for conference calls, some of which are several hours duration. This would quickly kill any ‘free’ minutes on a mobile….

Also the landline is a fixed monthly fee so I know my costs are going to be stable unless I regularly go over calls of 1 hour duration

Kevin Thomas says:
10 August 2010

I don’t have much choice – I live in an area where there is very limited mobile coverage (a friend of mine has found a “Magic Window” in the local pub where he can leave his mobile to receive texts).
I’ve actually got two land lines, one for personal use and one for work.

We presently pay £23/month for International use and all calls 24/7 except for 0845/0870 type calls. This includes broadband. We have PAYG mobiles and as we are OAP we would pay £60/month plus broadband charges. Currently there ios no package that would cater for our circumstances.

Richard Thomas says:
10 August 2010

My landline is connected to 5 Which? recommended Siemens Gigaset SL565 cordless phones dotted around the house. Each phone can be used as an internal intercom and all of them sound a distinctive ring in response to a caller using the front door entryphone – a Siemens HC450 – so I no longer miss doorstep deliveries when I’m digging at the bottom of my back garden. This ingenious system also allows any handset to communicate with the person on the doorstep, obviating the need to open the front door. Any of these handsets can be used to remotely turn on the porch light or unlock the front door to allow the caller to enter. This system includes an excellent answering m/c. And because the handsets are connected to a landline, it’s possible to divert the doorstep entryphone to a mobile – I could talk to the milkman from the other side of the world if I wished! How’s that for flexibility?

People are so used to knowing who’s on the phone before answering with mobiles that the anonymity of landlines is quite strange nowadays. Saying that, when our landline rings we know it’ll be one of three people: 1) My mum 2) My mother-in-law or 3) a cold call!

Ruth says:
10 August 2010

Landlines do not have to be anonymous … caller display is available on all systems provided you have a phone capable of showing it, which most do, so you can still see who’s calling.

John Archer says:
10 August 2010

1. I don’t own a mobile.
2.Why would I want to share my business with everyone and anyone by making calls in public anyway?
3.What’s so important about virtually all phone calls that they can’t wait.
4.The sound is garbage. Any time my wife has used her’s it is virtually inaudible. She ends upshouting to make herself heard.
5.Do people really have so much money that they can throw it around on these kind of stupid status symbols. It’s just another big con to get money out of the terminally stupid.
6.Anyone using a mobile at home is crackers. What’s wrong with a cordless?

I use a VOIP phone, but don’t have a cellphone.When you don’t have a job a cell phone is not as convincing of a buy especially at the rates they charge.

Ben Stevens clearly does not live in the country where the radio link is often poor or in my case often non existent and certainly not strong enough to support broadband. Also modern thermal insulation in which there are multiple layers of foil produce a very effective Faraday cage stopping all electromagnetic waves passing through!

So Ben Stevens get a life or more precisely a land line before you too get cut off.

Maurice Card says:
10 August 2010

I would never use a contractor or service provider who only displays a mobile number in their advertisements or van signage.

I need to know they have a residence or shop/office premises.

No landline number – no business!

Stuart A says:
10 August 2010

Very valid point Maurice. I have two friends who have been victims of cowboy tradesmen – both only using mobile phone numbers. Sadly the same care has to be exercised with some 0800 numbers where services are concerned – you have no idea where that company might be based.