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It's not a total loss; the phone still works

It’s amazingly difficult to find a corded (i.e., not cordless) 2 line phone for the home that doesn’t suck.

A few weeks ago, I got a second phone line at home (via Vonage), mainly for work-related stuff. Since then, I’ve been looking for a reasonable 2 line phone for my desk. I had only a few requirements:

  • Not cordless
  • Caller ID built in for both lines
  • Support caller ID for call waiting for both lines
  • A bunch of speed dial buttons (15 or so)

That wouldn’t seem too difficult to meet, right?

Wrong.

I tried several phones from the local brick-n-mortars (Best Buy, Staples, Office Depot) and I returned every single one of them. I could not believe a) how poor the selection was (there’s only a small number of corded 2-line phones) nor how badly they all worked. They were all major brand phones, too, not some small company making novelty phones. The phones were either remarkably sucky (seem examples below), or they were exorbitantly expensive and had way more features than I would ever need (I don’t need a phone waterproof to a depth of 50 meters [particualrly with the 6 foot phone cord it came with] for my desk).

Here’s some of the things that were broken:

  • One phone would continually “chirp” that the second line was ringing (when the second line was not, in fact, ringing).
  • If I was on line 2 and line 1 rang, one phone would hang up on line 2 and answer line 2 (without me pressing anything).
  • Caller ID worked about 50% of the time one one phone (it would get stuck in a screen displaying “Waiting for caller information…”). I know that this was the phone’s fault because I have a small standalone caller ID device that was already showing the information at the same time as the phone would get stuck (disconnecting the standalone caller ID device made no difference).

I ended up doing some of research online (yay Froogle) and found a bunch of phone sellers, but only a few that had non-PBX multi-line phones. Of these, I found what I think is the brand of phones that they use at Indiana University (which have always been reasonable). So I ordered an Aastra 2-line phone.

I received it the other day, and it seems to be working great. It’s sad that I’m excited that my phone is working — phones are supposed to be “just work” technology. But I do like some of the features it has that I haven’t had before — a voice mail light (similar to cell phones), and even the speed dial buttons allow you to program a name in that displays on the screen for both outbound and inbound calls (i.e., it doesn’t just show names that are programmed in the directory and/or caller-ID strings).

Some sidenotes about the whole process:

  • Vonage seems to be working out well. Most of the time you can’t tell that it’s “special” — the phone just works and the phone quality is just fine. Periodically, I get a call with lots of echo or it just sounds weird, but that’s definitely fairly unusual (and that periodically happens with POTS, too, although definitely less). The best way that I can think to describe Vonage is slightly “less” than POTS, but waaay better than a cell phone. I’m not ready to switch my POTS home phone to a much cheaper long distance service (and use Vonage for everything, because it’s unlimited), but I’m getting close.
  • My Vonage phone number is actually local to Bloomington, IN (where I work). So I have a single phone on my desk that answers (and makes) calls in two different area codes. Since Cowbell South (my POTS line) doesn’t allow you to dial a 10-digit phone number for local calls, this means that any Louisville phone numbers I have in my speed dial will only work on one line or other other (depending on whether I put “1-502” on them or not). Doh!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 10, 2005 8:55 AM.

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