Cellular

Best Cordless Phones of 2016: Plenty of Features and Great Sound Quality

Although the smartphone has conquered the telephone world, millions of people still buy cordless phones for their homes each year.

In general, the best cordless phones have at least two advantages over smartphones. First, voice quality tends to be better. Second, because home phones are connected to your address, 911 operators know where to send help in an emergency. Smartphones transmit some location data, though with less precision and reliability than a cordless phone.

The following are some of the best cordless phones Consumer Reports has tested recently. They come with a range of appealing features. For instance, one model offers large, easy-to-read buttons and alerts as well as louder speakers. Another syncs with a smartphone to help you get cell service in the basement.

Check our cordless phone buying guide and ratings of more than 100 models (with and without a built-in answerer) from all the leading brands.

AT&T CLP99386

Smartphone Helper
This AT&T model ($120) can pair with your cell phone via Bluetooth, allowing you to make and take cellular calls using the cordless handset from the basement and other parts of your home where a cell-tower signal might have trouble reaching. What’s more, this phone can also handle your smartphone’s texts and other notifications, and it can issue commands to iPhone’s Siri, Android’s Google Now, and Samsung’s S Voice talking assistants. A USB port on the cordless base can keep your smartphone charged, while the three included handsets can communicate with each other like walkie-talkies.

Are blackouts a frequent problem in your area? The battery in the handsets of this model can power the base unit when there’s a power outage, as long as you still have phone service.

In terms of performance, the audio quality on outgoing messages is excellent, but the answerer setup is complicated and it's possible to accidentally erase unplayed messages.

VTech VC7151-109

Smart Cordless for a Smart Home
It’s easy to forget if you’ve left a door or medicine open in a remote part of the house. And you might also want to monitor medicine cabinets or other storage areas to keep loved ones safe. VTech VC7151-109 ($120) can offer that peace-of-mind monitoring right from the handset.

The phone comes with a garage-door sensor, and other sensors are available to keep tabs on doors, windows, medicine cabinets, and more.

And if the the lights go out, you'll still have a phone because this model can work during a blackout; it uses stored power from the handset's battery to operate.

Poor cell-phone reception in the basement or some other room? The VC7151-109 can pair with your cell via Bluetooth so that you can make and take cell calls with any of the cordless handsets. It has generous 47-minute message capacity. And a USB port in the base lets you charge smartphones and other devices. Other features include a lighted keypad, talking caller ID, and a voice-mail indicator. 

Clarity XLC3.4

Easy Phone
When gadgets become stylishly small or loaded with extras they can sometimes be a challenge to use—and that can be quite annoying if the gadget in question is your home’s main phone. The Clarity XLC3.4 ($120) avoids that problem. Its buttons are large and easy to see, and parts of the handset glow red to alert you to incoming calls, in case you don't hear the ringer. Customer support, which can be reached with the push of one button, will remotely program up to 10 names and numbers into your phone, and set up such features as date/time, volume, and the device's language. The handset has a scroll wheel on the side for adjusting the volume.

AT&T EL51203

Low-Priced But Loaded
The AT&T EL51203 is a basic model that delivers premium performance for the relatively low price of $40. Our testers found this model to have excellent voice quality and to be easy to use. It includes such useful features as a lighted keypad, any-key answer, a voice-mail indicator, and chain dialing, which is helpful if you frequently use calling cards. The $25 AT&T EL51103 is identical to the AT&T EL51203 but lacks a second handset.

VTech CS6949

Big Features for a Small Price
Don’t let the low $50 price tag fool you. This affordable phone is brimming with high-end advantages, such as the ability to pair with your cell via Bluetooth so that you can make and take cell calls with any of the cordless handsets. (Note: It doesn't handle as many smartphone tasks as the pricier AT&T CLP99386 cordless phone.)

The VTech can also work during household AC power loss, thanks to corded handset that’s attached to the base. Performance isn’t too shabby either, with both voice and message-playback quality being rated excellent. The phone’s answerer, which is relatively easy to operate, has a generous 31-minute message capacity.

The five handsets that come with this model have exceptional connection range and can communicate with each other like walkie-talkies, making this model a good choice for sprawling households.

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