Difference between a Softphone, Hardphone and Smartphone
May 16, 2016
By Heather Gwaltney

If you’re thinking about purchasing a new phone system, or expanding or upgrading your existing system, which route do you choose?  Do you select the more traditional type of hardphones?  Do you try the newer softphones or do you just stick with your existing smartphone?  In this article, I compare and contrast all three and provide a recommendation about when to use each.

The Hardphone

To start, let’s first talk about what may seem most familiar to us – the hardphone.  Many people will associate this term with a physical phone that sits in your office (or home).  Although, it does refer to a physical phone or hardware, the difference with the hardphone is that it is associated with VoIP service (Voiceover Internet Protocol).  So, rather than connect through a phone jack, you can connect with an Ethernet cord and your service is delivered over the Internet.  If you want the best quality and a maintenance-free experience, you also have the option with the hardphone of receiving a managed service, which means it would be delivered over a private network and managed in the cloud.

With the hardphones, you can transition from the standard line phone to a VoIP service, and with advanced features, can communicate and manage calls through a desktop computer, iPad/tablet device and smartphone without the need to physically connect to a wired jack.  Another advantage of VoIP hardphones is the unique HD voice quality.  Click here to see examples of hardphones.

When to use a hardphone.  Invest in a hardphone if you’re running a business, need reliable communication with your customers and run most of your communications from your office.  If you need to communicate with your customers outside of the office, we also recommend the hosted system, since it provides the advanced features required for mobility.

The Softphone

Softphones or software telephones are becoming more popular because of their low cost and mobility.  Like the hardphone, a softphone uses VoIP technology, but unlike the hardphone, there is no need for a physical phone.  What you do need, however, is a computing device, such as a Windows or Apple-based computer, iPad/tablet or smartphone with an Internet connection. Even though the service doesn’t require a physical phone, your computing device requires speakers, a microphone and a soundcard.  Depending on your needs, you may also want a VoIP handset and headphones and/or a USB phone. Although softphones are easy to install, your call quality is only as good as your mobile Internet or Wi-Fi connections.  Examples of a softphone are Skype and FaceTime. GTB’s softphone is called Accession Mobile.  Click here to find more information.

Best time to use a softphone.  Softphones are most commonly used exclusively for those who need to save costs on hardware, who do not have a physical desk, and/or who primarily work outside of an office.  Softphones can also be used in conjunction with hardphones and smartphones to create mobile communications.

The Smartphone

A smartphone is a hand-held mobile device that is essentially a cell or mobile phone with an operating system, so users can place and receive calls, but like a computer (via the operating system), it can also install apps, access the Internet, use email and store data.  The smartphone allows you to use softphone programs or apps for a more streamlined and flexible calling experience with co-workers and customers.  The two most well known smartphone brands are iPhone and Android.

Best way to utilize the smartphone.  When working in an office environment, we recommend using your personal smartphone and connecting it to a desk hardphone with the mobile communications softphone. By doing this, employees can have all calls forwarded to and managed through their personal smartphone as if they were in the office.  Integrating your smartphone with the mobile softphone also eliminates the need for a secondary smartphone for the office. 

In summary, we recommend integrating all three forms of communications, so you can achieve the highest level of quality and reliability with the flexibility and mobility of communicating with your customers any time of day whether you’re at your desk or out of the office.  

How GTB can help

GTB provides business hardphones and service, and a mobile communications app that can be used on smartphones.  As a new or existing customer, you can receive a free assessment of your current phone system to see if we can upgrade you for the same or lesser price.  In addition to phones and mobile communications, we can help businesses obtain higher speed Internet, remote data back-up, network security and IT services.  Learn more by visiting our Solutions page.  Because we are local, we can also provide the special care you need to make your life a little easier. 

Get your free assessment

Click here or call us at 1 (877) CALL-GTB for your free assessment to see if we can meet your unique needs.

Also read: Best High Speed Internet – How to shop for what you actually need, The Ultimate Guide to Selecting a Business Phone System, How to Prepare for Power Outages in the Winter Months, Who’s Talking to Your Customers?, and A Mobile App that Can Save you Thousands