Digital Phone vs. Landline

By Oneil Williams

While rotary phones are rare, many Americans prefer to keep landline phones for their homes.
i Hemera Technologies/ Images

While landline phones date to the 1800s and digital or VoIP phones started making their mark among consumers during the past decade, both types of telephony have strengths and weaknesses. Many consumers who have landline phones prefer to keep them in case of an emergency. VoIP phone users prefer the wide variety of features that are accessible with the broadband technology.


Whenever comparisons are made between landline phones and digital phones, reliability surfaces as a primary issue. End users want to hear a dial tone whenever they pick up a phone. If they don't, and their account is in good standing, this does not bode well for the provider. Landline phones have a longstanding history of reliability. Unless someone unearths or damages a telephone wire buried underground, chances are you'll never encounter a non-provider initiated interruption in service. Digital phones do not have the same reputation when it comes to reliability. The moment your Internet goes down, so does your digital phone service. Most digital phone providers boast network reliability statistics above 95 percent and so instances of outages should be few and far between.


Landline phone providers have yet to match the low international calling rates that digital phone subscribers enjoy. In some instances, calling foreign countries may cost twice as much with a landline phone in comparison to a digital phone. Digital phone calling plans are typically less expensive than landline phone plans and include additional add-ons as well as unlimited long distance calling. Many landline phone companies charge extra for many of their add-ons and most charge more for long distance.


Many landline phones boast the same features that can be found on digital phones. Add-ons like call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding and call rejection may be available on both types of phone service, depending on your provider. Digital phone providers constantly add features that landline phone companies are unable to replicate, however. The ability to broadcast voicemail messages to a group from an online address book or ring up to four different phones when you have an incoming call and follow this up with email, text and pager alerts requires a level of sophistication that is impossible for landline phone companies to duplicate.


If you love features and won't be too inconvenienced if your Internet and phone go down at the same time, a digital phone might be a good option. If reliability is of utmost importance, a landline phone might be the appropriate choice. In terms of price, a digital phone will probably win out over a landline phone in every instance. Per the FCC, both must provide access to 911 services, so this is no longer a landline phone advantage. Lastly, if you call internationally with any frequency, going with a digital phone over a landline phone will result in significant cost savings.