There's no need to stay tied up on the telephone. Now you can talk freely, with no strings attached.
A cordless phone can let you roam far from its base unit, up to half a mile in some cases. A major telephone shopping shift occurred last year, according to the August issue of Country Living, when cordless phones began outselling corded models for the first time.
The reasons? They're affordable, provide sound quality very close to that of corded phones and have all the features of their wired siblings.
Essentially, cordless phones are like radios. Voice signals are transmitted between a handset and the phone's base, which is connected to your phone jack. Like radios, cordless phones have different frequencies and qualities. Just as FM radio reception sounds better than AM, the 900-megahertz frequency is clearer than the 43 to 49 MHz used by inexpensive 10-or 25-channel analog phones.
There are three flavors of 900-MHz phones--analog, digital and digital spread spectrum. If you have a large property and a big house, or live in a densely populated area, the spread-spectrum models--the most expensive--are best.
Digital spread-spectrum phones can be carried in the yard within range and have no static or interference in the house. Because digital signals are scrambled, eavesdroppers can't listen in.
Cordless phones have all of the features we've come to rely on, including caller ID, two-line capability and built-in digital answering machines.
Caller ID lets you see the name and number of the person calling. A new wrinkle is caller ID on call waiting, which displays the name and number of the incoming caller while you're talking. Two lines are practically indispensable for home-office workers or anyone with teen-age children, who seem to be on the phone 100 hours a day.
A built-in all-digital answering machine is another useful feature, allowing for one less piece of plastic to clutter an end table or kitchen counter. All-digital answering machines let you play back and skip messages at the touch of a key.
All cordless phones, regardless of price, have automatic channel-scanning capability. If you hear static, simply press a button to tell the phone to search for the clearest channel. Twenty-channel scanning is the most common offering; better phones offer 30 or 40.
Occasionally, even the most organized individual will find himself hunting down the handset. Acknowledging this, many companies offer a handset locator or page. Press a button on the phone base and the handset beeps so you can track it down.
Another option, great for people who practically live in their back yard, is a two-way intercom. You can talk to someone who's inside the house while you're outside. A built-in headset allows you to clip the phone to your belt and attach to the handset a telephone operator-like headset, allowing you to have both hands free.
There are loads of phones out there--choose a brand name you are comfortable with.
The top sellers of cordless phones are AT&T/Lucent Technologies, GE, Panasonic, Radio Shack, Sanyo Fisher, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba and Uniden.
Because each model is a bit different, it's important to inspect the handset before you buy to see how comfortable it feels. The handset should be neither too heavy nor so small that the built-in microphone is far from your mouth.
Even with advanced technology, you still have to speak into the phone, and the closer your mouth is to the mike, the better the sound quality. The keys should be labeled clearly and positioned logically.
Variety doesn't extend to your color options, however. Usually you have your pick of off-white or black.