May 07, 2008
| by Jennifer DeFeo
It’s no secret that more people are ditching their landlines in favor of cell phones. According to Mediamark Research, the percentage of adults living in cell-only households has risen from 1.2% to the current 14.0% in the past seven years. In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of ditching your landline; whether cell boosters, which claim to boost cell phone signals, are worth the investment; and the validity of VoIP becoming the new landline.
Ditching the Landline: The Good and The Bad
According to Mediamark Research, consumers age 18-24 are the ones really pushing the trend to ditch the landline. This isn’t surprising for three reasons: First, landlines are antiquated for this demographic; a product they don’t need. Second, cell phones are personal devices, which they carry at all times, and the key to communicating not only by voice, but by text- and picture messaging. Also, many of these users have had a cell phone since their early teens, and enjoy only having one number where people can reach them. For this group, who’s grown up on cell phone technology, there’s no reason to have a landline.
No matter what age, for some people ditching the landline is strictly a monetary decision. A traditional landline plan from Verizon, for example, which includes basic local and long-distance, starts at $36.99 (Freedom Value plan). A basic wireless cell plan at Verizon starts at $39.99. That’s more than $80 a month after taxes and surcharges, in calling plans—even more, if you have features on your landline, like Call Waiting, or you text message frequently on your cell phone. Why pay for two services that give you the same thing? Killing the landline can save you almost $500 a year.
Ditching the landline, of course, isn’t for everyone. The research study shows that at the opposite end of the spectrum, adults age 65 and up make up the most landline-loyal customers. Again, not surprising. Many of these consumers have had their home phone number since they moved into their first home, and everyone from distant cousins to old friends and doctors know it. And even though, today, you can transfer or ‘port’ your number to your cell phone, most people don’t see the point. They’d rather do their communicating form home. (That said, this demographic is taking advantage of cell phones, too. Verizon Wireless says that their 65+ crowd is embracing technology and adding services to their cell phones like VZ Navigator (GPS app) and international calling as they take trips abroad.)
Whether you’re twenty-something or forty-something the fact remains that holding a lengthy conversation via cell phone can be annoying. The handset can heat up from overuse (We won’t go into the debatable health concerns revolving around this.). Mobile phones are designed to be small, so they can be uncomfortable to talk on, and near impossible to cradle between your ear and shoulder, as you do something else. Most importantly, call quality is never as good or reliable as with a true landline, and you have to remember to charge your cell phone.
If you live in a family household with children, you need one central home number everyone can call, and that you can give to schools, doctors, etc. In addition, there’s the feeling that if your cell phone isn’t working, and you need to get in touch with 911, you’re out of luck without a landline. Or if your cell phone is working, it can’t always reliably pinpoint your exact location. That fear, itself, has spurred many to keep a basic landline plan (running about $15-$20 a month) just in case of emergency.
Cell Boosters: Extending your Signal
Now, maybe you’re reading this and thinking: What about the people who are ready to ditch the landline, but can’t? Whether it’s caused by your carrier, your phone, or the house/apartment you live in, poor call quality has your number. One solution is to purchase a Cell Phone Signal Extender (also known as a Booster or Wireless Extender), which claim to change your 1-bar call quality into 5-bar call clarity.
Poor coverage and dropped calls has been a problem for cell users since the beginning. There have been a variety of products to correct this problem. One of the more recent and seemingly successful products on the market is Wi-Ex’s zBoost Extenders. The YX300 model retails for about $160, and many people, including CNET’s editors, who gave it an ‘excellent’ rating, swear by it. According to CNET, set up is easy, and they averaged a 2-bar increase in signal strength. Of course, some user comments were less enthusiastic claiming the product did nothing for them.