Decide on the Number of Extensions
Single-handset phones are best for smaller homes where you’re never far from the phone. Otherwise you might be happier with a multiple-handset phone, which supports (and usually includes) multiple handsets from one base. Each extra handset sits in its own charging cradle, without the need of a phone jack, making it easier to station a phone where you want it. With some models, you can buy a replacement handset and charging cradle.
Settle on the Features You Want
Most phones come with caller ID, a headset jack, a speakerphone, and ringer in both the base and handset. Check the phone’s packaging or download the instruction manual from the manufacturer’s website to confirm you’re getting the features you want. The more features a phone has, generally the higher its price.
Weigh Performance Factors
Most cordless phones have very good overall voice quality. Some are excellent, approaching the voice quality of the top-rated corded phones. Most fully charged batteries provided 8 hours or more of continuous conversation before they needed recharging. Note: When the battery can no longer hold a charge, a replacement battery, usually proprietary. Some phones use less-expensive AA or AAA rechargeable batteries, which can be recycled.
Pick It Up & Try It Out
Visit a retailer and hold the handset to see whether it fits the contours of your face. The earpiece should have rounded edges and a recessed center that fits nicely over the middle of your ear. Check the buttons and controls to make sure they’re reasonably sized and legible.
Consider Usability Issues
More new phones have designs to enhance usability. That includes easier-to-read buttons and displays, visual “ringers” that signal an incoming call, talking caller ID, and volume boost, to name a few of the options.
Most cordless phones won’t work without electricity unless they have some kind of power backup system. Some have a compartment in the charging base for a spare handset battery pack or for alkaline batteries for base-power backup. Others use the stored power from the handset’s battery to operate.
Don’t Discard Your Corded Phones
Keep at least one corded phone with traditional landline service in your home, if only for emergencies. For most such models we’ve tested, the corded phone doesn’t require AC power to make and receive calls, although electronic features such as the illuminated display and built-in phone directory might not work. Keep in mind that any phone connected to VoIP services or fiber-optic networks won’t work if you lose electric power and don’t have a backup battery for the phone modem.
Know the Return Policy
Before buying, check the return policy in case you encounter unexpected problems at home that you can’t resolve, such as wireless interference.