Are Landline Phones Still a Thing?

Matt Marandola
Written by Matt Marandola
Updated March 3, 2022
woman on the couch talking on her landline phone
Photo: Trinette Reed/Stocksy/ Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Landlines don’t rely on cellular networks, making them reliable during power outages.

  • Still, with tech advances, 911 problems are resolved, and alternatives are cheaper.

  • The cost of landline services has increased around 25% since 2011.

  • The cost of cellphone services has decreased roughly 20% in the same time frame.

  • Only 34.3% of American households still have landlines.

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When your math teachers said, “don’t expect to always have a calculator on you,” they probably didn’t mean any harm despite how wrong they were. In fact, our smartphones now gift us with a calculator, compass, video game, video player, instant messenger, and any other app out there you can find, all jam-packed into a single device. With so much available at your fingertips, it begs the question: do I still need a landline?

Realistically, no, you do not need a landline in most homes; however, there are a few advantages and exceptions to a home phone line.

The Pros of a Landline

mother and daughter sitting while on the house phone
Photo: WavebreakmediaMicro/ Adobe Stock

While smartphones are the way of the future, there are still benefits of past tech. One of those is that landline phones will still work even if a power outage impacts your area and the connected cell towers. Landlines that utilize underground wires to transmit your voice data rather than a wireless network (which requires power) are handy in emergencies.

Landlines are tied to a single location. Rather than relying on GPS or guesswork, a landline sends the exact address of the phone number to emergency services to dispatch services much faster.

The Cons of a Landline

While the landline still has a leg up in a few areas, more people turn away from the service. A survey released by the National Center for Health Statistics and the CDC shows that only around 34.3% of adult households have a landline.

Percentage of households with landlines shown in a pie chart, with a total of 34.4%

Rising Costs

While cell phone plans and cell phones themselves have either remained steady or declined in pricing over the last decade, landlines have seen an increase in pricing. The average cost of a single landline in an urban city has risen from around $105/month in 2011 to an average of around $140/month in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By comparison, cellphone services have fallen from around $60/month in 2011 to around $50/month in 2021.

Only One Way to Communicate

A landline phone typically has only one way to communicate: voice calling over a landline network. Smartphones allow you to communicate through text messages, instant messengers, Wi-Fi voice calling, cellular network voice calling, emails, and video chatting.

More Annoying Unsolicited Calls

Typically, those with landlines have had them for years, which means there’s been more time for your number to land on a robocall list. Unfortunately, your landline is susceptible to more spam calls, and answering them typically only increases the number of future calls you can expect to come your way. Unlike cellphones, landlines may not let you know when a potential spam call rings and may have no services to block those unwanted calls.

Why a Smartphone Performs Better

woman in the kitchen checking cell phone
Photo: trinettereed/Stocksy/ Adobe Stock

Beyond the many ways to communicate with someone with a smartphone, these crazy-advanced pieces of tech can do more to help protect you. For instance, 911 support for cellphones has improved. Emergency services now can quickly pinpoint internet calls, and some wireless calls even can be traced to your exact location.

Also, companies such as Apple are implementing a way to send over all of your relevant medical data to emergency services when you call using your smartphone. You can also pair the phone with wearable devices that detect when you fall, no matter where you are.

You Might Need a Landline If…

But this doesn’t mean everyone needs to cut the cord to their landline today. If you’re still rocking a simple cellphone that you only use for basic calls, it may be best to hold on to the landline, as these cellphones don’t have the same capabilities as smartphones. If you only have a simple cellphone and no landline, it’s best to contact local landline phone services to see if there’s a plan out there for you—some may even have an emergency plan available at a reduced rate.

The provider's technology and configuration will influence if your landline will work in an emergency. Double-check with your local provider to ensure that landline phones will still work in your home, especially if this is the reason for keeping one.

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