With so many small business VoIP phones available on the market, some manufacturers can often end up overshadowed and underutilized simply as a result of who’s marketing budget is bigger. I’m sure many of us in the space will think of Cisco, or maybe Polycom, when first looking for desk phones or even conference phones compatible with your business VoIP service provider. Many providers will even include these brands – or even in the case Digium, their own phones – when outfitting your office for service. But when a business is looking to cut costs, or simply adopt different phones to meet their needs, it can certainly help to shop around for even some of the lesser known names.
It’s safe to say that VTech isn’t the first name that pops into mind when searching for compatible desk phones for a business – whether on the small or enterprise level – and many may not recognize the name right away. Although, chances are you’ve come across their more widely known children educational toys. As a $2 billion company, VTech may not be a household name just yet, but their products are easily found in most homes. I certainly wasn’t fully familiar or aware of who VTech was when I first heard last week that they had acquired the German manufacturer of IP phones Snom. But with a move that crucial in the space, my interest was certainly piqued, so I did a little bit of digging to see just what they have to offer.
So What Sets VTech Apart From The Others?
While, of course, a bit of a lesser known player, VTech has actually been producing IP phones with a business focus for around 11 years now. Mostly known for their quality consumer and home cordless phones, the company is able to take their level of expertise and apply it into the business market. With the main licensing for AT&T phones, many of us have probably owned or used a VTech phone before without realizing it. They have been producing these cordless phones for about 20 years, and selling even 41 million handsets, according to their own website. So VTech certainly has loads of experience under their belt.
1. Strong Focus on Cordless
We all know that wireless is the future – more recent products are shedding the cables and hoping to free up our desks with less and less wires for greater mobility. VTech has had a major focus on affordable cordless phones for the home, and is making that transition to bring the cordless experience into the office. While there absolutely are other cordless handsets available on the market, VTech seems to be full out pushing for this cordless environment. Utilizing the new DECT technology, as opposed to the old Bluetooth or alternative methods of wireless, VTech wireless headsets and devices are able to maintain a very high quality sound with long ranges. Anyone familiar with other wireless headsets in a professional environment will probably already be familiar with DECT and its many benefits over Bluetooth (longer range, higher quality sound, better battery life just to name a few).
2. A Custom Wireless Setup
A truly interesting and unique point of VTech’s wireless brigade is the ErisTerminal SIP DECT Base Station, which allows an office to register up to 6 cordless handsets, or even desk phones, to just one base station. Users can create a completely custom wireless setup in the office – even if your setup utilizes a desk phone for each member of the team, the Base Station will allow you to link a cordless handset to allow for a truly mobile phone experience.
We’re so used to walking around the home with a cordless phone yet being tied down to our desk for phone calls in the office, but this setup will allow users to pace around the office, walk into the break room, or stumble into a conference without switching phones.
3. Unique Conference Phones
VTech’s ErisStation SIP Conference phone is an interesting take on the conference phone that I haven’t really seen before: with six built in microphones — four are detachable and wireless to be easily moved closer to the speaking participants for improved sound. Wireless accessories aren’t anything new, but with built in wireless mics the ErisStation helps cut down cost for any office that feels their conference setup could use a bit of an improvement.
I’m sure we all have stories of conference members having to reach across the table, or leave their seat to walk around the table just to be heard on the other end of the line. Instead, with the ErisStation, one could place the four, or more, wireless mics around the table to ensure everyone’s voice is picked up so no more awkward fumbling.
4. Actual, Helpful Support from Portland, Oregon.
We’ve covered phone support time and time again, and while the paradigm might eventually shift to new methods of contact, we still are in the age of calling in to a business’ contact center as the primary method of support. Unfortunately, some of the smaller manufacturers of SIP and VoIP phones don’t even make it possible to contact support at all, so if something goes wrong you’ll have to call up your service provider, or spend time scouring the internet for that one message board post that had the same issue you are experiencing, just to find out the user fixed the problem but never explained how.
VTech not only makes themselves available through phone, chat and email based support, but even directs all requests directly to their completely U.S. based facility out of Portland, OR. Outsourcing call centers and technical support has received a bit of a bad stigma, and in most cases for good reason. So for a company, especially one with a global presence, to locate their support domestically is absolutely a breath of fresh air. All of the company’s distribution is also based in the United States, so when it comes to shipping times or replacement phones, your team won’t have to sit around waiting a week or more for hardware to move overseas.
5. An Industry Leading Warranty
While the possibility of a phone breaking, malfunctioning or just flat out not working is fairly slim, if something ever does go wrong on the hardware end, VTech has you covered there as well. Beating out just about every other warranty I’ve seen, VTech is willing to back up their products with a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty on all of their SIP products. On top of an industry leading 3-year warranty, VTech also includes an advanced replacement plan for all new SIP products to take full advantage of that U.S. based support and distribution.
In the rare case that a phone or other piece of hardware will actually need to be replaced, VTech will send out a brand new, off the shelf, still in the box product. Meanwhile, many other providers will take in your old hardware and simply send out a refurbished replacement. While refurbished gear should normally be up to the same standard, it’s always a great piece of mind to know that the replacement you received is brand new, as opposed to a repaired model. And of course, because of their U.S. based distribution, VTech will send you a brand new product with overnight shipping so your wait time shouldn’t be much of an issue and your business can keep operating.
The Name Might Not Be Familiar, But Don’t Skip VTech
While there is already a number of more recognizable names in the IP and desk phone market, VTech has shown that it might be worth shopping around and considering other options. Their name might not be synonymous with desk phones quite yet, but chances are many of us are familiar with their home phones, especially under the AT&T brand, or even have a couple of their children’s toys laying around the house.
They made waves last week with the acquisition of Snom, and upon my closer analysis already seem to have a surprisingly promising line up of products to offer the market a different take on what the desk and conference phone should be. We’ll have to wait and see what kind of innovation they have planned next, and how they can leverage that Snom acquisition to really shake things up. But for now, if your business is in the market for a new desk phone setup, give VTech a second look.