/ 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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Derek Davies says:
10 August 2010

Hi Ben, I haven’t thought this one right through, but…I have TWO Landlines, one with Broadband and both with multiple conventional & cordless extensions…and a Mobile with good reception! …and my Wife has a Mobile (with good reception)!…and I have a PAYG Broadband Dongle for my Laptop!! but we primarily use the Landline(s) for Phone Calls and if I want good (high) speed Broadband on a decent sized screen it is delivered down a LANDLINE to my PC/Laptop…not a Mobile! so even if you (hypertheticaly) scrapped all ‘conventional’ phones you’d surely end up paying much more Broadband services whether Landline or Cellular?
However, I do accept that my (adult) children and Partners rely/exist on Mobiles alone…so perhaps it’s a generational thing?

Paul Geeson says:
10 August 2010

I live in a village where the mobile signals for all service providers are almost non-existent. I would be pleased to only use my mobile but it is useless when I am at home – which is most of the time as I am retired.

Just because you, like 99% of UK inhabitants, are able to receive a mobile signal at home you seem to think everybody else can. In fact I can’t even get broadband through my landline and have to use a full satellite system which costs an arm and a leg even for 512Kps. For people like myself, and lets face it there are a lot of us, the landline is literally a lifeline. I suppose you also get 3G so can get the internet through your mobile!
Being a graduate you will have learnt about research so I am surprised you didn’t make an attempt to find out the percentage of the population in the same position as me.

Chris says:
10 August 2010

If only I had an effective mobile! Remember, significant ares of the country do not have mobile signal coverage. Much like the pathetic broadband speeds in many rural areas.

Those of us who live in villages and more rural areas often find that mobile phones don’t work in our homes because of the terrain, so don’t knock us for that! This graduate doesn’t deserve to have a degree with such a closed mind and ignorant point of view!

Dave Briggs says:
10 August 2010

I have three portable phones, plus one fixed, around the house – all have Calling Line Identification. My broadband connection gives me free evening and weekend calls (including 0870 and 0845). At peak times I use a breakout service which charges most calls at 2p per minute, and bills by the second.

The result is that my average spend on calls is around £1 per MONTH. What possible reason do I have to use a mobile unless I’m out of the house?

Phil Bartlett says:
10 August 2010

I feel that any business that does not have a landline is suspect. Also people selling anything are dodgy, only showing a mobile number. If they, when answering don’t have a name and address that you can check. With three children who have mobile phones the cost of calls to them is too high. They very kindly bought me a mobile phone as I travel 25+miles at 5am and were worried that if I had an accident(Lincolnshire with Deer hazard) it would be easy for me contact someone.

Mike says:
10 August 2010

I have a study at home where I do much of my work using a desktop PC with a broadband connection via a landline. Whilst I have a mobile that I use when out and about it is a waste of space at home as the signal in my study is at best intermittent and most of the time unusable. I do not live in a rural area I live in an urban area in a sizeable town. The other advantages I perceive of a land line have already been given but one other thing, the landline doesn’t have a battery that ever goes flat. Why does Ben have to run down stairs to answer the phone? We have four digital phones linked to the landline situated strategically around our house including one in the bedroom. And the guy who wants the telephone directory scapped – does he have all the phone numbers he could ever want stored on his phone? I think not.

Some may complain that the landline is like a ball and chain – you’re stuck to using it at home. But in reality…it’s the mobile that’s your ball and chain. You’re always tied to it, dragging it around, having to answer calls at your most peaceful moments.

Brendan Murray says:
11 August 2010

I have a deal with my phone supplier to get all local and national calls at no extra charge than one payment per month.
Yet, my phone bill is considerably dearer than this each month. Why?
Simply because most people I need to contact use mobiles, and my phone company imposes a hefty charge for phoning a mobile number.
In addition, I hate mobile phones going off, with their irritating ring tones, anywhere and everywhere I go. I regard this as noise pollution.
Until I become a doctor on-call, I will stick to my land-line, thank you!

Have o2 PAYG mobile and BT landline. Call rate drops on mobile after first 3 mins but only applies to Landlines and o2 numbers. Got caught phoning friend for half hour + on another network and wiped most of my credit at 40p per min. So use landline for calls to mobiles where I don’t know if o2 or other network. Mobile used mainly for texts and emergencies (car breakdown in middle of nowhere.

Lud Dite says:
13 August 2010

Those of us who detest the South East and everywhere else that’s full of shallow people that believe that life is about playing with their latest silly toy, have moved to the peace and purity of the countryside, where we do not have any mobile signal. So my mobile lives in the car, and cannot be accessed when driving, so I always use my landline. This is of excellent quality, perfect reception every time, cheap, convenient – one in every room, and never looses a call. But, oh dear, oh dear, it won’t take photographs! I have descovered the perfect solution do this devasting inadequacy – I own a camera. If anyone would like to know about this amazing gadet which takes phenominally good photos – just ask.
Get a life, sad yuppies.

There are some changes that cannot be left to just fade away and those who are a bit old and have had enough of change (and you’ll all be like that eventually, believe me) just have to get used to it. eg decimilation of coinage and weights and measures. But surely this is one area that really can be left to fade away, if it does, for the benefit of those of us who have had enough of change to also fade away – we won’t be too long. I would also remind you that there are still some who find the expense of running a mobile more than they can easily afford and have you ever heard of a public mobie phone?.

I had a moment at 1.30 this morning when I really could have done with a landline (it’s being installed as I type this on my shiny new internet connection).

We had a power cut. We’ve just moved so I had to go online (temporary PAYG mobile broadband) to find the emergency number, as it wasn’t in our welcome pack from E.ON (maybe something else to look at?). In fact, the whole street was out of power. Anyway… I dialled the 0800 number… And got told to redial without the 0. So I did. Then when I finally got to the stage of them checking what the issue was, they couldn’t locate me cos I was on a mobile. They told me to hang up and redial from a landline. Eventually – well, it seemed a long time in the dark in the middle of the night – there was an option to give them my postcode, and there was an automated message that there was an issue and it was being fixed.

All of which cost me a grand £1.29 for the pleasure. Not a lot, but really, when I have inclusive minutes, or it would have been free on the landline it would have been soooooo much easier!

Would love to ditch my landline but can’t as coverge In my house is worse than on the moon (apparently!). Saw a Vodafone advert banging on about some fantastic box that connects to your broadband line when you’re in a house with poor coverage and thought ‘Bingo!’ and ‘Eureka!’ at almost the same time. It then slowly dawned on me they would charge me for this magical mystery box. How could I have though otherwise – fool!

What about if mobile phone companies were forced to give you one of these fab boxes for free if you lived in an area of diddleysquat coverage?! They’d make more on calls, I’d tell all my friends about how good they were, the company’d make more dosh too. But then that’s asking a mobley fone outfit to put long-term customer care above short-term profits. It’ll never float you fool!

I have the impression that Ben Stevens is typical of the age – lives in or near a large conurbation and MUST HAVE the latest gadget – never mind that there are many, many people who don’t earn over £25,000 a year and have to manage their money carefully. Unfortunately, these people seem to be trying to shape our world, and not necessarily for the better. It really does not matter if you cannot be contacted/communicate with other mindless souls for hours at a stretch – and the sooner we learn this lesson, the better will our general stress-influenced health become.

Alastair Wilson says:
16 August 2010

SKY requires that their equipment is permanently connected to a landline to allow updates to the service .

M Montgomery says:
17 August 2010

Some of us live outside of town where mobiles do not work. I am 20 minutes from a good signal in any direction. I am not alone.

Usul says:
20 August 2010

Ben, some great points raised and I almost agree with you. My mobile is the only device I use for making and receiving calls, I know some people who have two mobiles, one for work and one for personal use. In fact my father has another number for his car, meaning he can be contacted on four numbers including his landline, which I’m sure you’ll agree sounds rather excessive …although very accessible.

If you throw in email addresses and then social networking and all that nonsense there are limitless ways to communicate and interact on many levels. Surely having a landline is just another method of communicating, just a more traditional way which with the advent of mobile phones may be perceived as old fashioned like the cheque.

I think the key point here is not capability of a technology, but compatibility of technologies. Why do we need so many different types of details to contact one person???

Just been reading about a study that shows Welsh households are most likely to be mobile-only: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2010/08/19/land-lines-are-being-ditched-by-poor-in-favour-of-mobiles-91466-27091545/ – apparently 19% of Welsh homes are mobile-only and they’re saying it’s linked to areas of deprivation.