VoIP Smartphone Apps — Benefits & Drawbacks
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) smartphone apps keep you connected when away from your desk. Fewer people want to, or can be, tethered to their desk phone. They need the ability to take a call wherever they are. VoIP smartphone apps provide that functionality.
Whether you are using a generic smartphone app, such as Zoiper or Counterpoint Bria; a traditional telecom manufacturer app, such as NEC’s ST500 or MLC; or an app provided by your hosted VoIP provider—they almost all provide the same benefits and the same drawbacks.
Connect or go offline
When the app is active, you are always connected to the office. At the end of the work day, you have the option of going offline.
When away from your desk, your phone calls are billed or included in the company long distance dialing plan, and do not eat up the minutes in your cell voice plan.
Business caller ID
When making a phone call from the smartphone app, the outgoing caller ID can be the main office number or your direct incoming phone number. Hiya’s 2019 State of the Phone Call report found only 24% of unidentified calls are answered. Business caller ID allows you to identify yourself to the people you call and also keeps your personal cell phone number private.
If you lose power or Internet service at the office, you can carry on work anywhere you have a Wi-Fi or cell data signal.
Work from home is made easy
In the old days (ten years ago), you may have needed a wired desk phone and perhaps some upgrades to the cabling and network hardware in your home. Now, it’s just a matter of loading the app on your smartphone.
The smartphone app can consume your battery, especially if left to run in the background. The app continuously reaches out to the VoIP server, listening for notifications and updating user presence. This is a drain on the smartphone’s resources.
The most economical use of the smartphone app is through Wi-Fi. However, not all Wi-Fi networks are equal. When at your office, be sure to connect to the staff network and not the guest network. As with a standard VoIP deployment, Quality of Service settings may be required in the wireless network to prioritize voice over data.
When on a guest network (airport, Starbucks, etc.), you are on your own. Some calls may be perfect, while other calls may be choppy, echoey, or worse, can drop.
Using your data plan on the cell carrier’s network, the call quality is even more unpredictable than on a guest network.
Not a switchboard
Think of a smartphone app as a basic cordless phone. Remember those cordless phones you used to have at your house, before you dropped your landline service? You could make a phone call, answer a call, and hang up. There may have been some features like speed dial or speakerphone, but it was still a basic phone. In most cases, the smartphone app is a basic phone.
You do gain other features, such as access to your contact list, and some apps allow you to view the status of the extensions in your office.
Since it is a basic phone, it is not meant to be an answering position for incoming calls. Answering positions must transfer and park calls, manage simultaneous calls, send to voice mail, change the presence settings of other extensions, etc. If the proper and efficient handling of incoming calls is important to your business, calls should not be answered by someone using a smartphone app.
Smartphone OS updates can break the app
Sometimes manufacturers (especially Apple) push updates that stop the app from working. This cannot be helped or prevented. Should this happen, you may need to update or reinstall the VoIP app.
It is important to stay current with any OS and app updates, but don’t be surprised by new challenges afterwards.
Not all attached devices will work
In some apps, we have found that the Bluetooth headset integration works differently than expected. For example, the Android OS does not allow a user to answer an incoming call from their headset, and must instead answer from their phone. This is a limitation of the OS, and not the app.
As with everything else in VoIP services, there are both benefits and drawbacks to adopting some technologies. Before you jump, assess the advantages and disadvantages and don’t forget to ask questions. If you are considering VoIP smartphone apps, the staff at BCS are glad to talk with you.
My name is Bill Mitchell and I am co-owner and service manager of Business Communications Systems, Inc. BCS started in 1991, selling, installing, and servicing telephone systems for businesses in the Central Massachusetts region. We offer both premise-based traditional and IP telephone systems and hosted VoIP solutions.