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Landline vs. a Cell Phone: Weighing the Pros and Cons of Both in Your Home

As many as one in six American households have given up their landline and are using only their cell phone, according to Steven Blumberg, a senior scientist at the Center for Disease Control’s Statistics department.  If you are among the millions of Americans who are weighing the pros and cons of landlines vs. cell phones, here are a few things to consider.

The most common reason to choose a cell phone is that in most areas, the cost of a cell phone plan is lower than the cost of a landline, especially when you count the cost of a long distance calling plan. However, the “per month” cost that many carriers quote can be misleading. As you compare the cost of a cell vs. a landline, consider these factors:

  • Do you need any services that aren’t covered in this plan? For example, will you be taking your cell phone out of the call area (i.e. roaming)? Does the cost of your landline plan include voice mail and caller ID?
  • Does your cell phone plan require a multi-year contract commitment? If so, what is the cost of ending your contract?
  • How much time do you spend talking on the phone, and when do you make your calls? Some providers offer free incoming calls, or free nights and weekends, but those aren’t helpful if you make lots of outbound calls during business hours.
  • How many people will use the phone? If you have a large family, you can ensure that everyone has a cell phone by using a family plan… but the cost of a family plan can greatly exceed the cost of a single residential line.

People who prefer cell phones often have very different lifestyles than people who prefer landlines. As you decide whether to switch to a cell, ask yourself:

  • Do you want to be in the phone book? If so, you’ll need a landline.
  • Do you want to be easy to reach? Many people prefer to use cell phones because it allows them to be available to family and clients even when they’re traveling. On the other hand, some people like to limit their availability to reduce stress.
  • Will you remember to charge your cell phone battery? If an emergency arises and your battery is dead, you’ll have trouble dialing 911.

One of the most important differences between landlines and cell phones is how they function during emergencies.

  • A cell phone will be useful during emergencies that arise when you’re away from home, such as a car accident. Even if you choose to have a landline, you may prefer to purchase a prepaid cell phone, just in case.
  • One of the drawbacks to cell phones is that your address is not visible to the emergency operator. At best, the cell phone will list your latitude and longitude, which are not always as easy to find as an address. Depending on the service you use, your telephone number might not be visible to the operator, either.
  • What will happen if your power goes out? Your cell phone will continue to operate as long as it has a battery, but what if the power outage lasts for an extended period of time? One solution may be to check your area’s laws regarding telephone service. Some areas require telephone providers to allow residents to dial 911 from their landline even if the resident is not paying for service.
  • Last but not least, consider who will be using the phone. Some parents believe that it’s easier to teach small children to dial 911 on a landline phone than on a cell phone. If you’re caring for an elderly person, consider whether they will find it easier to dial a cell phone or a landline phone in case of an emergency. You may want to get a special cell phone created specifically for senior citizens.

Other Concerns:
Before you decide between a cell phone and a landline, think about how you are currently using your phone service:

  • Does your home security system use your landline phone to notify you in case of a break-in? Can it be redirected to a cell phone?
  • Do you need a landline phone to accept and send faxes for your home business? Keep in mind that internet faxing services are available, but only at additional cost to you.
  • Is a landline required for your internet service? This is often the case for DSL users.

Landlines and cell phones each have their pros and cons. In the end, only you can decide which type of phone fits your needs and your lifestyle.


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