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What Is a Softphone – Your Guide To Everything About Softphones

What Is A Softphone App
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Unified communications may be the default standard for communications experiences today, but few technologies have made UCaaS more accessible than softphones. What are softphones precisely?

The idea of having a phone within your phone may seem strange. It’s safe to say softphones play an integral part in any UCasS platform, providing the backbone for voice, video conference call, meetings, messaging, and innovation.

What is a Softphone?

A softphone is a piece of software that creates a virtual phone in the form of an app, enabling any device with an internet connection to make and receive calls.

This means that not only a smartphone can be a one, but also your tablet, desk computer and your regular MacBook can suddenly become a softphone.

What Is A Softphone Explained
However, business softphones go far beyond simply making calls — they are feature-packed and designed to foster frictionless communication.

What Does a Softphone Do?

A softphone is an app that enables making and receiving calls over the internet without traditional phone hardware, using a device’s internet connection for both voice calls, video calls, and MMS through a VoIP service.

Incoming Calls, Instant Messaging, Video Calls, and More

Softphones have the functionality of a physical phone without a dedicated infrastructure to provide services. An Internet connection allows the app to access the VoIP provider’s network to make and receive incoming calls, plus more modernized features you would expect, like video calls, instant messaging, and MMS.

Note: Apps like WhatsApp or Telegram are consumer-level softphones that create an alternative to traditional cell phone services.

How Do Softphones Work?

Softphones function by connecting to a VoIP service via the internet, allowing calls, video call chats, and messaging on digital devices without traditional phone hardware.

Definition Of Softphones

Above all else, softphones are designed to be user-friendly. Developers of these apps know that they’re going to be used throughout different organizations, operating systems, and by users with all levels of technical expertise.

As such, special care is paid to crafting software that anyone can pick up and use on a computer or mobile device.

How do Softphones Look?

A softphone is a piece of software, so it looks quite similar to any other app that can make phone calls now. Additionally, early softphones were designed to mimic hardware phones, so there is plenty of overlap between how they look and feel — even if one is software and the other isn’t.

Softphones for businesses work similarly, but they’re intended to be put to work for the organization; they’re designed for efficient and streamlined business communications from any modern smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Why Incorporate a Softphone in a Smartphone? The Logic Behind a Phone within a Phone

Logic Behind Softphones

The necessity for a phone app inside a smartphone, essentially a “phone within a phone,” is underscored by its ability to meet several key needs in today’s communication landscape.

  1. Firstly, it addresses the need for distinct personal and professional communication phone lines. A softphone enables users to maintain separate numbers on the same device, enhancing privacy and organization.
  2. Secondly, it offers cost-effectiveness, especially on international calls. Unlike traditional mobile plans with high rates, softphones use the internet, significantly reducing or eliminating these charges.
  3. Thirdly, mobility and flexibility; users can make and receive calls from any location with internet access. These are invaluable key features for remote workers or those constantly on the move.

In summary

Softphones exist as a modern solution to telecommunication needs, offering flexibility, unlimited calling, cost savings, key features, and integration capabilities that are well-suited to today’s digital and mobile world and not present on traditional office phones.

Are Softphones Free?

Softphones can be either free or require payment, depending on the features and services needed. Free softphones typically offer basic functionalities suitable for personal or limited professional use.

They are a cost-effective solution for individuals or businesses looking to use VoIP technology without significant investment. However, advanced features such as enhanced security, greater scalability, integration capabilities, call recording, and specialized support usually come with paid versions.

A softphone system needs a “softphone service”

One thing worth noticing is that free softphone dialers might be out there, but that does not mean using this softphone system is free per se. Most free apps still need a connection to VoIP service providers for the minutes and the phone number. Most of this includes a cost.

Premium softphone applications cater to businesses seeking robust, comprehensive communication solutions. The choice between free and paid softphones depends on specific requirements, such as usage scale, desired features, and the level of support required.

Free vs. Paid Softphones

Pros

  • Free softphones allow individuals to access calling features and infrastructure without having to pay.
  • Access calling and phone numbers without the need of a physical sim.
  • Free international calling.

Cons

  • Free wifi calling apps almost always have worse call quality and reliability.
  • Even though you aren’t paying them, you should be aware of data breaches and poor encryption.
  • It’s usual to see paid promotions and ads interrupting workflow and usability.
  • Some free products come with poor usability, both in the UX and UI of the softphone applications.

There is no concrete list of differences between free and paid softphones, but lesser services are almost always the most noticeable difference.

What are the Costs of Softphones?

Cost Of Softphones

Average Softphone Pricing

User TypeAverage Monthly PriceIncluded Features
Individuals$10 – $20Basic VoIP features, Single device support.
Freelancers$20 – $40Enhanced VoIP features, Multi-device support, and Basic CRM integrations.
Small Businesses$40 – $80Advanced VoIP features, Multi-user support, and Comprehensive CRM integrations.
Corporations$80 – $150+Enterprise-level features, Custom integrations, Dedicated support, VoIP Analytics, Multi-user Support, CRM Integrations, and more.

Cost Comparison: Softphone vs Deskphone

Cost TypeDeskphoneSoftphone (VoIP)
Monthly Cost per UserAverage $15-$83, depending on the system and size of business (source, source)$10 to $30 (source)
Initial Setup (per user)$300 to $1000 (source)Low to none; setup for on-premise devices around $50 per extension.
Start-Up Costs for Teams of 20Varies, but a PBX system can average $800 to $1000 per user.Approx $14,500.
Installation Costs$500 to $2500 per device (source)Approx $50 per extension.
Monthly Internet Service$50 to $350, depending on required speed and quality.$50 to $350, depending on required speed and quality.
Hardware Costs$50 to $700 per phone.Softphones may require a headset ($15 to $350) or optional VoIP desk phones starting at around $50 (source)
Operational CostsFixed (independent of usage)Scalable (depends on the number of users)
Cost Reduction PotentialLowHigh (up to 50% for established companies, 90% for startups)

What Are the Most Important Softphone Features?

Best softphone apps do much more than place calls. Features you would expect from standard traditional phones, such as mute, hold, and transfer, are readily available with any softphone provider. However, quality apps have more to offer:

  • CRM integration
  • Voicemail
  • Call quality
  • Caller ID
  • Calling line information
  • Video conferencing
  • Call logs
  • Call monitoring
  • Transfers (voicemail messages, warm, and blind)
  • Call waiting
  • One-click calling
  • Full volume control
  • Call routing
  • Text messaging
  • Rich messaging
  • 3-way phone calling
  • File sharing

Features such as switching between voice and video calls as needed without interrupting the conversation, something desk phones can’t.

Understanding Softphone Key Features

Some of those features you might find on hardwired phone systems, but a softphone is designed to give users more control.

What is a White Label Softphone?

A white-label softphone is a communications app developed by one company and offered to other companies to rebrand and resell as their own. This is done by allowing UCaaS resellers to customize, add features, and allow businesses to create custom platforms tailored to their specific needs.

Can you Customize a Softphone?

Yes. Some softphones do allow you to pick and choose the features and design you want. Cloud Softphone is one example of a customizable, white-label, softphone technology platform that allows you to pick your feature set, allowing up to 300 different types of customizations.

how to use softphone

Other options on the market come with a pre-defined feature set that doesn’t allow you to change anything or few things.

Are you interested in seeing how further you can customize and tailor an app to your needs? Book a free demo today so you can see your ideas in action.

Softphone vs Deskphone: Which is Best for your Business?

Softphones are ideal for businesses prioritizing flexibility, remote work, and integration with other digital tools, offering access to advanced communication features that can be utilized from anywhere with an internet connection.

Which businesses can benefit most from VoIP softphone services?

They are particularly suited for organizations looking to enhance productivity and streamline communication processes.

Deskphones may be preferable for businesses that require traditional, stable, and dedicated voice communication systems without the need for internet connectivity, valuing the reliability and simplicity of a physical handset.

Dive deeper into this topic:

Hardphone vs Softphone: Key Differences, Benefits, Use Cases, & More

Instant setup and deployment

Modern cloud communication platforms require just a few minutes of minimal setup for most businesses. Most small-to-midsize businesses can use an out-of-the-box VoIP solution, requiring little effort to integrate with your business. Big enterprises typically require a relatively low level of customization during onboarding.

Here is a quick route you could use to initiate:

How To Use A Softphone

What are the Business Benefits of Softphones

The benefits of unified communications technology in the workplace are very wide:

1. Save Ongoing Costs by Using a Softphone App

The most obvious and important benefit of switching to softphones are cost savings. Companies can reduce their phone costs by up to 50% after switching to VoIP softphones. Startups benefit by reducing phone costs by 90% by avoiding in-house infrastructure.

Softphones are typically billed per user, so you’ll only be paying for what y

ou need. In-house solutions will cost the same to maintain regardless of how many people use it. You are guaranteed to end up paying for hardware and IT staff.

Softphones are billed monthly or annually and create a recurring and reliable monthly expense. You will expect a higher bill when you add users, and a lower bill if you have layoffs.

2. Maintain Work-Life Balance on the Same Device

Softphones create a way for employees to make and receive calls on their mobile devices, without using their personal phone numbers. Since the softphone is another app on the employee’s phone, all calls made and received through the softphone app are identical to if they were made from the employee’s work computer.

All separated yet in the same device

This benefit allows for employees to handle important calls, receive messages from teammates, and video conference with their clients all without revealing their personal numbers. When the softphone app is closed, so does their time at work.

This is one clear way to promote a healthy balance between professional time and personal time. Improving the work-life balance of your entire organization will have far-reaching benefits, such as higher productivity and lower turnover.

3. Softphones Don’t Need a Dedicated Connection

Hardware phones work on dedicated connections to ensure voice quality, such as a phone line. Softphones do not require any additional infrastructure and are designed to operate efficiently over an internet connection.

VoIP softphone calls also consume less bandwidth than traditional telephone lines. Modern VoIP solutions stop sending data if nobody is talking, and then immediately resume when someone speaks.

4. Eliminate All Hardware

No more desk phones and multiple lines, no more in-house infrastructure for telephony — all you need is a quality softphone solution. You won’t need to worry about installing and maintaining your PBX server anymore, either. Softphones make all calls over a standard internet connection.

Only worry about updating your software-based phone

softphone software

Softphones are also future-proof, in a sense, because you can stop buying new desk phones with every few new models. All that’s required is occasional software updates. Since you’ll be using softphone services provided by another company, you won’t need to worry about ongoing development.

5. Integrated Video Conferencing and Calling

A top-tier softphone solution will have video calling integrated. Video calls are quickly gaining popularity. Ensure that your business is ready with the right softphone that already has integrated video calling.

6. Add Lines As Needed

Need a new line? Go create one. Anyone with the right access level can create a new line. New employees should never be stuck waiting for their phones.

Fix this issue by allowing managers to directly create sufficient phone lines without involving IT. New hires will start producing value immediately, rather than waiting days for IT to configure and install a desk top phone system.

7. Increase Work Efficiency with User-Friendly Improvements

There are multiple features in most softphone product offerings that greatly increase work efficiency, such as:

  • Simple call transfers: Softphones reimagine call transfers, with some services offering a drag-and-drop interface for transferring calls. No need to dial extensions and hit the pound key three times — just drag the call over to your co-worker’s face and their phone will ring.
  • Visual voicemail: Visual voicemail presents a text readout of the voicemail, allowing for employees to easily understand the purpose of the call. If there’s any confusion, the actual voicemail can easily be accessed and listened to.
  • Data-rich incoming call notifications: Softphones can gather much more information about the caller to display to the receiver of the call, especially when it’s an internal call. You can finally put a stop to employees answering calls blindly with local push notifications.

These set of improvements are essential for call centers and businesses that heavily rely on making calls on a day-to-day basis. Understanding how call center softphones can improve the efficiency of these organizations, is crucial in an industry that is rapidly changing and adopting new tech.

8. Softphones for Business Flexibility

Businesses wishing to reduce operating expenses, become increasingly agile, and embrace a hybrid workplace can use softphones. Building and maintaining an in-house telephonic system is going to keep your expenses high. Conversely, softphones are billed based on real usage and the infrastructure is built elsewhere.

Softphone Apps Supercharging Hybrid Workplaces

Additionally, softphones are required for remote and hybrid workplaces. Employees from all industries are deciding to stay home to work instead of the office. A softphone is necessary for remote work as it allows employees work efficently. It’s well worth equipping your employees with softphones considering 77% of remote employees report greater productivity.
Softphone Features Flexibility Business

What Are the Cons of Using a Softphone?

Nothing is perfect and softphones are no exception.

1. You Need a Reliable Internet Connection

Softphones route data through the internet instead of copper wires. It should be understood that your ability to make calls will depend on the strength of the internet connection available. This could be problematic for businesses in rural areas or just have poor access.

As stable as you’d want to be…

Power outages, extreme weather, or just low bandwidth will all impact the quality of the call and even the ability to make calls. Some businesses maintain a barebones in-house solution to manage calls and ensure communication is not exclusive to the Internet. Although, mobile phones will typically work in situations where the internet might not.

2. Employees May Need Training

Softphones are easy to use, however, most employees will need training. Set up a training program that helps employees understand how to use them, how to navigate the directory, and any other new features.

Definition Of A Softphone App

Top Softphone Providers You Might Already Know

Softphones are everywhere. You may have even used one before in your personal life. Some notable consumer-level softphones are:

  • Microsoft Teams (Previously Skype)
  • WhatsApp
  • Signal

Any other app that allows users to make calls over the Internet regardless of the presence of cell service can be considered a softphone.

What are the Top Business Softphone Providers

What about providers for businesses? There are quite a few big players to explore:

  • Nextiva
  • Bria
  • Groundwire
  • Acrobits Softphone
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Grasshopper
  • Bitrix24

The above companies have been providing unified communications services with a proven record of dependable services. Each of them is worth exploring.

What are the Top Free Softphone Providers

Free softphones may not include all of the premium business functionality that comes with a B2B softphone, but they are definitely worth checking out if you need a softphone for personal use.

Here are a few of our picks when it comes to top softphone picks:

  • Bria: Bria is one of the most popular SIP-based softphone apps on the market. It provides powerful functionality backed by audio codecs and everything you’d expect from a baseline softphone experience.
  • Ekiga: Ekiga won’t blow you away with its interface, but sometimes simple is better. For anyone looking for a barebones softphone experience, you can’t beat the simplicity Ekiga offers.
  • Jitsi: When it comes to the best open-source SIP app that’s also free, Jitsi instantly comes to mind. Jitsi works on virtually all operating systems, provides excellent support, and includes all the best collaboration features.
  • MicroSip: Lightweight and functional, MicroSip is a simple softphone solution. MicroSip supports dozens of languages and provides thorough documentation. However, the setup process can be complicated.

How to Pick the Right Softphone Provider?

We mentioned a few prominent softphone providers above, but how do you evaluate them?

There are five main criteria to evaluate softphone providers:

  1. Basic features: You’ll want basic calling, SMS and MMS support, visual voicemail, call recording, and mobile apps.
  2. White-label support: Does the provider allow you to brand any solutions you create? For CSPs and customer-facing solutions, this is an important since it legitimizes your brand.
  3. Integrations: Does the potential softphone app integrate with anything else, or does it exist in a silo? Any softphone services worth your time will have integrations with common applications, such as CRMs.
  4. Top-tier security: All of your communications need to be secure, especially for organizations that need to maintain any type of compliance. Your IT department should scrutinize any potential softphone to determine if it’s secure enough.
  5. Support: Any type of softphone should have support for their customers. Try calling support from the potential company, how long did it take to reach a human?

Of course, you should also evaluate their fee and see if it is realistic for your business’ budget. If not, there might be a lower plan or cheaper company that will still allow your business to reap most of the benefits.

How Does A Softphone Look

Unified Communications and Softphones Go Hand in Hand

Softphones can be considered the tip of the unified communications platform iceberg. Take the time to thoroughly understand every feature offered by the softphone and make sure that it has all of the softphone app features that your business is looking for.

Are you ready to finally dive into unified communications? Watch our demo today to discover how we can help your organization thrive.

Frequently Asked Questions

Softphone FAQs

  • What is the disadvantage of using a softphone?

  • A primary disadvantage of softphones is their dependency on a stable internet connection.

    Softphone applications cannot function without internet access, limiting communication capability, particularly in areas with poor connectivity.

    This reliance poses a challenge for users when consistent, high-quality internet service is not guaranteed.

  • Is a softphone the same as VoIP?

  • A softphone is a software-based component of VoIP technology, allowing users to make calls over the Internet from a computer or mobile.

    While VoIP is the broader system that also includes hardphones, a softphone specifically refers to the application that enables VoIP calls.

  • Why is it called a softphone?

  • It is called a “softphone” because it is software-based rather than a tangible (‘hard’) device like a traditional phone.

    “Soft,” short for “software,” signifies that the phone functions are provided through an application running on a computer or mobile device, utilizing internet protocol (IP) for communication.

  • Are Softphones Difficult to Configure?

  • No, softphones are no more complicated to install than any other application, both in desktop and mobile.

  • What Are the Basic Requirements for Using Softphones?

  • Fortunately, the requirements and limitations are quite minimal:

    • A computer or mobile phone.
    • A VoIP headset (or any speaker and microphone).
    • A VoIP (voice over internet protocol) service provider.
  • What is a softphone setup?

  • A softphone setup involves installing software on your computer or mobile device that enables voice communication over the internet (VoIP).

    It replaces traditional phones by using your device’s microphone and speakers, or a headset, to make and receive calls. This setup is ideal for remote work and cost-saving telephony solutions.

  • What does it take to get started using a softphone?

  • You can get softphones for Android and iOS, as well as desktops. To get started with softphones then, you’ll need the softphone app, the hardware to effectuate the connection, and the VoIP SIP account.

    Once this is done, users can start making telephone calls over the internet protocol, enjoy instant messaging, and integrate both computer and cell phone into one account.

  • How Can I Get the Best Quality when Using Softphones?

  • Headsets are recommended for softphone usage to guarantee the highest quality telephone calls. You can also use speakers and a microphone as alternatives, but that can result in the microphone picking up the voice coming out of the speakers.

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Managing Director
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Rafael Torreblanca
Managing Director
Rafael Torreblanca is the co-founder of Acrobits and has served as the Managing Director since the acquisition by SINCH. With over 25 years of experience in the telecoms and VoIP industries, Rafael is a pioneer in the global adoption of Mobile VoIP. With his leadership, Acrobits has continued to thrive and innovate, maintaining its position as a leader in the telecommunications sector.
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