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

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The telecommunications needs of businesses worldwide have changed and evolved over the past decade. Now, it’s possible to leave hardphones, a piece of hardware found on every employee’s desk for decades, behind entirely.

Softphones have created a new alternative to hardphones by shifting the utility entirely to an application on mobile or desktop devices. This change has provided a range of benefits as the modern workforce is now remote or hybrid, alongside the growing need for methods of unified communication beyond voice calls.

Companies around the world are beginning to invest in softphones due to their benefits and cost effectiveness. The global softphone market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.5%, reaching US$2.48 billion by 2030 from $1.02 billion in 2022.

Why are organizations across most industries exploring softphones? We’ll be breaking down the core differences, benefits, and drawbacks of these two types of phones to help you understand the right choice for your business.

What is the Difference Between Hardphone and Softphone?

Hardphones, tethered to the Internet through Wi-Fi or an ethernet cord, deliver basic calling features and physical presence, ensuring reliable voice communication. Softphones, in contrast, leverage flexibility, enabling calls, video chats, and messaging across various devices, offering a blend of mobility and advanced functionalities. Both cater to different needs, balancing traditional reliability with modern convenience.

How do these two common types of office phones vary? Both a hardphone and a softphone are powered by VoIP technology, so the underlying infrastructure and its benefits are similar between the two.

Instead, the difference is found in their form, function, and other attributes that directly affect the end user. Let’s start by quickly going over a few of these key differences before diving deeper. Some ways these two types of phones vary are:

  • Form and usability: A softphone is not a device but an application that can be used on desktop and mobile devices. A hardphone is a physical device with conventional components such as a display screen, a dial pad, and a handset.
  • Overall functionality: Both types of phones enable voice calls, but a softphone is capable of offering messaging and video calls based on the platform or integrations. Hardphones are narrowly focused on voice calls with typical business capabilities, like transferring and voice mail.
  • Cost and scalability: The underlying telephony infrastructure will generally have the same or similar pricing plans regardless of which type of phone is used. However, the added cost of the physical hardware and networking for headphones increases the per-user cost and hampers scalability.

Hardphone vs Softphone: Advantages and Disadvantages

Both types of phones have advantages and disadvantages that need to be considered before making a decision. Understanding these pros and cons helps inform if your organization should adopt a complete hardphone or softphone environment or take a hybrid approach.

So, we’ll elaborate on the differences between them with a focus on business benefits or drawbacks to be aware of.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Softphones

We’ve seen softphones evolve over the past decade and can now provide the full range of capabilities and reliability businesses require.

There are several potent advantages to softphones that have helped power their adoption in recent years, including:

  • Long-term maintenance costs: Softphones are typically offered by a third party and remove the need for hardware costs entirely. Instead, the pricing structure is the only long-term cost to stay aware of. Maintenance costs are eliminated entirely unless the platform is developed in-house.
  • Integrations with other business tools: Modern organizations use a variety of tools that cater to sales teams, developers, or customer support. Being able to integrate telecom capabilities with these tools can go far in enhancing productivity and effectiveness.
  • Remote work and mobility: It’s crucial to keep in mind that headphones struggle to accommodate remote workers and do not provide mobility. We’ll dive deeper into this use case below, and it’s a key advantage of softphones.
  • Features that go beyond the basics: Hardphones offer SIP voice calls and the typical capabilities businesses expect, like transferring, voicemail, and hold. Softphones can offer these features alongside other modes of communication and other features, such as voicemail transcription.

However, softphones aren’t a perfect one-size-fits-all solution. So, what are the drawbacks of softphones?

  • Internet-dependent: Since softphones are an application service installed on a device, the device itself needs an Internet connection, just like many other apps. Home Internet connections and widespread 5G help mitigate this issue, but it’s still worth considering.
  • Call quality may suffer: Softphones are dependent on the device and available peripherals for call quality, including both the microphone and speakers. Additionally, as the host device provides the Internet connection, there is also the possibility of unstable performance affecting call quality.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Hardphones

Hardphones are a tried and true way to equip employees with the voice capabilities they need. While they may struggle in some areas, they also offer some advantages worth considering, including:

  • Familiarity and ease of use: Typically, hardphones have been considered to provide a more familiar and better user experience. However, this factor is already changing as people use softphones throughout their daily lives, making using a business softphone a more familiar experience for some users.
  • Call quality: Purpose-built hardphones can ensure consistent quality since voice capture and playback are included in the hardware, alongside having dedicated connections.
  • Security: Hardphones are widely considered more secure due to being a self-contained device. While softphones can still be highly secure, a compromised phone or computer may lead to security breaches, necessitating strict device policies.
  • Connectivity: A hardphone directly connects to the on-premise network to provide telephony services. Conversely, a softphone requires an Internet connection, as discussed above.

A few of the disadvantages of headphones include:

  • Cannot accommodate mobile and remote workers: Organizations are increasingly looking for ways to keep off-site workers equipped with the same categories as in-office counterparts. Hardphones struggle to meet the needs of modern workers.
  • Initial investment and ongoing costs: The hardware will continually need to be purchased as the company grows and older hardphones malfunction. These costs can significantly add up over time.

Deciding the Best Choice for Your Business

Hardphone vs softphone — which one should you choose? Let’s quickly explore a few key points to keep in mind as you decide:

  • Upfront and ongoing costs vary since physical hardphones will require replacement or maintenance. Additionally, the added cost of the necessary hardware can affect cost-effective scaling.
  • Ease of use can vary based on your workforce. A more technical savvy workforce may already use softphones in their personal life, while others will find hardphones easier to use.
  • Both phones can provide the necessary reliability of both uptime and quality, but these elements are heavily affected by the underlying infrastructure rather than the type of phone. Softphones can suffer from being dependent on another device, which is worth considering.
  • Hardphones remove the need to keep technological requirements in mind, as they are self-contained solutions. With softphones, you need to be aware of compatibility issues and other requirements that may come into play.

differences of hardphone and softphone

Top Use Cases for Softphones and Hardphones

Many organizations can leave hardphones entirely behind, while others prefer to keep them but may augment the workforce with softphones. Some organizations may be able only to use hardphones as well.

Office Environments: Remote vs On-Premise Workforce

One of the most significant trends shaping the modern workforce is the growing need to provide remote and hybrid workers with the right tools. Softphones can provide workers who are not physically in the office with the same capabilities as on-premise workers.

A workforce equipped with softphones can also work while traveling, allowing them to use their business number and extension wherever they are.

Adopting softphones is becoming increasingly necessary for many industries. Any organization with a component of remote work will need to offer some level of service to allow employees to work remotely.

  • Healthcare Facilities

Traditionally, healthcare organizations have depended on headphones largely to maintain security. Softphones have been considered to lack the data protection and privacy healthcare organizations require.

However, while still worth considering when making a decision, platforms like Acrobits have started changing this perspective. Leading-edge softphones offer the level of security necessary to maintain full compliance with healthcare regulations while also offering the benefits of being able to use a mobile device.

The healthcare industry still prioritizes hardphones and will likely continue, but now it’s possible to equip the workforce with mobile and desktop software that adds flexibility for some roles.

  • Technology Companies

Companies offering tech products and services are not only more prone to adopting new solutions, but they also often need a broader range of capabilities than hardphones have to offer.

Softphones are able to offer video conferencing, rich text messaging, and a broad range of other capabilities that allow employees to better collaborate and communicate. This utility also enhances sales and customer service teams that work with external parties.

Additionally, tech companies often have remote or hybrid workers, adding a secondary use case that makes these platforms more appealing.

softphone vs hardphone

Team Up With Acrobits for a Leading Edge Softphone

Fortunately, you don’t need to choose one way or the other; many companies have adopted a hardphone softphone strategy to reap the benefits of both options. While you may decide to adopt softphones fully, you can also augment existing capabilities with softphones to better cater to hybrid workers and the evolving needs of some roles.

Acrobits is a leading provider of softphones, and we’ve continually prioritized innovations that make our platform reliable, cost-effective, and offer various capabilities beyond traditional hardphones.

Is your workforce ready to adopt softphones? Book a demo today to see Cloud Softphone in action.

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