VoIP is an acronym for ‘Voice over Internet Protocol,’ and its software and hardware phones are what make it possible for users to make phone calls over the Internet.
If you are interested in using a VoIP service like Telzio for your business and/or personal use, but are unfamiliar with some of the terms associated with this technology, take a look at VoIP Terminology from A to Z for a quick and easy tutorial in that regard.
In this blog, we will focus on the definitions and differences between softphones and IP phones.
What is a Softphone?
A softphone is a software program for making phone calls through VoIP service using a computer or smartphone, rather than using hardware. A softphone is designed to behave like a traditional telephone, with a display panel and buttons for the user to control like a standard phone interface.
Software-based VoIP [aka softphone] requires a computer with an Internet connection. However, the computer must have essential audio equipment, including a soundcard, speakers, and a microphone. In the enterprise, softphones are sometimes referred to as Soft Clients.
Telzio offers a built-in softphone within the web dashboard, known as the Telzio Webphone. Additionally, Telzio works with any third party softphone.
There are specialized VoIP softphones, handsets, headphones and other auxiliary devices for a more advanced and reliable experience and Telzio recommends two, one adapted for Windows and the other for Apple Mac users.
Types of Softphones
X-Lite (For Windows computers )and X-Lite (for Mac computers) are Softphones made by CounterPath. Both enable users to make phone calls from your Telzio number directly from your computer or smartphone.
Although softphones are most often associated with mobile or home users, more and more office workers are also choosing to use softphones as a convenient replacement for traditional desk phones.
Hardware/ IP Phone
Differing from softphones, IP phones plug directly into an Ethernet port on a router and interfaces with a VoIP service, another VoIP phone, or a VoIP gateway. Therefore, they don’t require a transmission through a PC, nor software. Another option is a WiFi IP phone. This connects wirelessly to an Internet connection (access point), so it also doesn’t require a connection with a PC.
There are several different options of IP phones that provide users with varied functionality and capabilities. A basic hardware phone is similar to a traditional home or office desk phone. In that respect, it is a ‘comfort zone’ considered by many who are not quite ready to go full-tilt with a softphone. By taking this route, it offers users the opportunity to send and receive reliable calls over a VoIP network. For those who are looking for more bells and whistles, advanced IP phones with a large screen to include web-browsing options can be considered.
Pros and Cons of VoIP Softphones and IP Phones
Gartner analyst Dan O’Connell estimates that 30% of employees now use softphones, and he expects that number to climb by 10% each year.
O’Connell says "younger people typically don’t like the hard-phones. They haven’t really grown up with it, and they would rather call with either their cell phone or their mobile device. Some companies just don’t want to spend the extra money on [a hard-phone]. But it is still very popular in many traditional industries, like manufacturing, healthcare and the public sector."
Benefits of Softphones
Softphones are gaining popularity, as they do not require extra hardware and are less of an investment.
Softphones are affordable.
Unlike hardware, softphones do not have a shelf life. With Telzio, there's no additional cost to use the built-in webphone. The webphone is included for all users with no upfront or licensing fees, which can save tens of thousands of dollars on replacing phones for an organization.
Softphones enable you to use your number globally.
In the age of globalization, your business can be anywhere around the globe. If you are the kind of person who travels a lot, keeping in touch with your business partners at home could be an issue. Softphones free you from the painstaking trade-off between retaining the same number and keeping costs low. No matter where you are, you are connected with people anywhere and with the same number, as long as you have access to the Internet.
Softphones free up space on your desk.
Technology is everywhere! Computers, printers, fax machines… Keeping a lovely plant on your desk seems like a nice idea. But wait, the space is taken by your phone. What’s more, the wires make your space look like the room of Frankenstein. With software phones, your desk is freed. Finally, you can have some non-electronic stuff around you and you don’t need to worry about tripping over wires.
Benefits of IP Phones
Hard-phones, on the other hand, as has been noted are an easier transition from a standard phone line phone to a VoIP service. Rather than connecting to a traditional phone jack, they plug in the Ethernet.
IP phones provide better call quality
The sound quality of the IP phone is usually better than a softphone unless very high quality headsets are also purchased for use with the softphone.
IP phones are more familiar
Most workers are accustomed to using a desk phone, and the transition to a VoIP system may be more seamless for some with an IP phone.
IP phones can be used in any location
Similar to softphones, IP phones can be moved and used from any location. Once the phone is has been programmed with a number, it can be physically moved to another location, and it will continue to work as is with the same number. This means you can use international numbers on IP phones as well.
SIP Software vs SIP Hardware
The connectivity architecture for softphones and IP phones is very similar. Both are SIP extensions that can be registered in the (SIP based) VoIP / IP telephony server and can be used to make and receive outbound calls, both over the Internet (SIP Trunks) as well as the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Networks.)
Softphones can call SIP phones directly or indirectly (through a VoIP service provider like Telzio) and vice-versa.
The major limitation of an IP phone is that it is stationary, situated in one location. Since most of today’s small-to-midsize (SMBs) require their staff members to be on-the-go, softphones will continue to grow in popularity where they can be uploaded to any or all mobile devices.
Ron is part of the marketing team at Telzio, covering everything from tips and tech for growing businesses to customer success stories for the Telzio blog.