Deskphone vs cell phone header

If you're using a VoIP provider for your small business, there are several hardware options to consider when it comes to phones.

Do you want to keep the phones on your desk, or do you want to just use your cell phone? Each hardware option has its pros and cons, so it's really up to you to decide how you prefer to work.

I've had a ton of great conversations with small business customers and prospects who need a new way to handle phone calls at work, and I've gathered some of the most common questions that pop up

In this post, I'll walk you through the three main business phone system options you've got, the pros and cons of each, and how to choose the best one for you:

Cell phones (aka. softphones)

First off, what is a softphone?

A softphone is basically a piece of software that lets you make and receive calls over the internet. It can be a desktop or mobile app, and there isn't actually a physical phone that you need for these calls. Here's how it looks in Dialpad, for example:

making a call from dialpad softphone

Softphones are perfect for remote and distributed workforces since they allow you to take calls from literally anywhere. As long as you have a cell phone and internet access, the softphone will do its job and let you take all your work calls at home, at the office, or at the grocery store.

For instance, Dialpad is a softphone, meaning that it's a software application that you can download on your computer, tablet, or phone—and it works across Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.

If you don't want to send out a physical desk phone to every new employee you hire and are okay with your team using their own devices, this is a super cost-effective and easy-to-implement solution.

This way, whether you're a retail business or a law firm, your employees can work from wherever they want and still stay in touch with teammates, clients, and prospects using the softphone.


  • Work from anywhere - Because a softphone lives on your computer or phone, that means the phone system is as mobile as you need it to be. You can pick up work calls directly on your cell phone and/or laptop wherever you decide to work that day. It’s pretty much perfect for the remote workforce.

  • Save money - One of the biggest reasons that companies go with a softphone is because it can save you costs—namely, hardware, setup, and maintenance. For instance, StudioNow saved 20% by moving to a softphone-based system.

  • Easier to maintain - Your softphone provider typically takes care of everything. Or at least, Dialpad does! Since the product is on the cloud, our team is able to do maintenance and upkeep from our side, which makes our customers' lives easier. Now, you can focus on actual high-value tasks instead of troubleshooting your phone system.

👉 Dialpad tip: No matter what phone system or provider you go with, always check to see if they offer a level of support you're comfortable with. For example, some providers provide 24/7 support, but only for US users. Dialpad offers 24/7 support worldwide if you're on the Pro or Enterprise plan.


  • A bit of a learning curve - Softphones are still a fairly new system and concept. And for folks who've never used softphones before, it might take them a bit of time to learn how to use it. Of course, how steep the learning curve is also depends on how user-friendly the VoIP app that you choose is!

    (Fun fact: Not only is Dialpad super easy to use, we also provide dedicated direct contacts—even for single user accounts!—during your two-week trial and the first 90 days of your account's paid status. Just in case you need a bit of help to get going.)

  • Might not work for certain industries - Depending on your industry, it might not be possible to have employees use their personal mobile devices at work. Dialpad’s softphone can be used on both desktops and cellphones, though, if you need that option.

  • Your team needs to have their own devices - Since softphones need to be downloaded onto a computer or phone, your team needs to actually have their own devices that are in good working condition. The good news is that you can easily download the app onto a new device if you ever do upgrade.

Desk phones

Now, let's look at VoIP desk phones. These are basically physical phones you can touch and feel. They have a receiver and a dial pad with physical buttons to press—but instead of connecting to copper landline wires, these phones are linked to your virtual phone system and all communication still runs over the internet.

If you're still fairly new to the VoIP world, desk phones are a great way to ease into the transition with a familiar-looking phone that still has more functionality than your average desk phone. Some employees may prefer to use desk phones as that's what they're comfortable with.

Since VoIP desk phones are built to handle voice communication and they give you that nice separation from your computer screen, some people still like having this phone option.

Dialpad's softphone app does support hotdesking of phones, if your company prefers a hybrid remote/office model of working (where employees can log in and out of desk phones at shared workstations).


  • Easy to deploy and secure: Cloud-based desk phones are still more cost-effective and easier to deploy than a full on-premises solution—and since your employees can’t take the devices home, they're generally pretty secure.

  • Better audio quality: Desk phones are built for voice communication, you don’t need to worry about headsets and microphones for high quality conversations.

  • Dedicated devices: Having a phone on the table that is dedicated to take work calls can help you separate work related activities from personal ones.


  • Limits mobility: If your employees work outside of traditional 9-to-5 hours or need to be reached outside the office, this is where you'll want to have a softphone! You can't really use desk phones remotely, which means you and your team will have to physically be in the office to do work.

  • More expensive than softphones: VoIP desk phones that are built to work with your virtual phone system can be pricier than an analog phone, and are an additional cost when compared to having your employees use a softphone app on devices that they already own.

  • Voice calls only: If you want to be able to text clients or prospects, then you can't do that with desk phones since they're limited to voice communication.

Room phones

A room phone is kind of like a desk phone (often these look like "starfish" phones) that's set up in a common area, like a conference room. It usually has a dedicated phone line and is meant to be accessed by multiple people in a busy shared location. Typically, room phones are a good option if you need a phone to make and receive calls, but don’t need all of the other features of a phone like call recording and transferring.

Room phones are perfect for retail shops and offices that have multiple common areas, but no specific person needs to pick up the phone at any given time.


  • Flexibility: Allows multiple individuals to answer calls on one phone number that get logged to your virtual phone system, with the flexibility to have different shifts and staff during business hours.

  • Supports how you work: If you need a phone at the reception desk or the front of a store, it probably looks better to customers if the person is using a room phone instead of a cell phone. (In most cases, it just looks more professional.)

  • Still the go-to for meeting rooms: A dedicated phone line in a meeting room is a convenient way to make sure that anyone on your team can easily access large meetings without needing to use their personal devices. Room phones are generally also built with a conference or huddle room in mind, with features like 360-degree mic pickup for audio and speaker hookup.


    • Pretty limited: Room phones are typically even more limited than desk phones, which means no access to voicemails, SMS messages, or call recording.

    • Pricing: Room phones usually have their own licence requirement, and each one costs the same as a user licence—whereas you can generally add a desk phone to a user licence as a device without an extra charge (besides the cost of the phone itself)!

    • Lack of insights into calls with customers or prospects: Because room phones aren't designed with customer calls or the customer experience in mind, they don't give you the same insights into customer sentiment, call transcription and recording—which are important for customer experience.

    Which phone is best for your business?

    Whichever hardware option you choose, your phone system should be easy to set up—even if you don't have an IT team.

    For some industries, you might need a combination of these phone hardware and software options too. Make sure you choose a phone system that is flexible and allows you to set up your business calling in a way that works for you!

    If you're wondering which setup would work best for you, book a quick call with us (1-415-469-1690) and we can walk you through it!

    Or... Don't talk to us and try it out yourself!

    Try Dialpad for Free