What is the Difference Between a Desk Phone and a Softphone?

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, communication tools are paramount. Among the most debated choices in business communication are desk phones and softphones.

But what exactly are they, and how do they differ? In this article, we look at the differences between softphones and desk phones and help you discover your preferred business phone solution. 

Softphone: The Modern Communication Tool

A softphone is a software application that enables users to make phone calls over the internet through a computer or smart device. Unlike desk phones, which are physical phones on your desk, softphones present a phone interface on a computer or device that allows you to dial numbers and manage calls.

This means that all you need is a computer or smart device with an internet or data connection and the softphone app installed, and you’re good to go.

The rise of softphones has revolutionised the way businesses communicate. They offer unparalleled flexibility, allowing employees to make and receive calls from anywhere in the world to the same number or extension.

This is especially beneficial for businesses with remote or hybrid teams, as it ensures seamless business communication, voice and video, regardless of location.

Desk Phone: The Classic Choice

As the name suggests, the desk phone is a physical phone that sits on your desk. Many are VoIP-enabled (unless you have a traditional copper-wire landline*) and transmit voice signals in digital packets through the internet via Ethernet cables. 

Some businesses still prefer a desk phone because they offer a familiar interface. They’re straightforward, with clear buttons and functions, making them easy to use. However, they lack the mobility and flexibility that softphones provide.

(*It’s worth noting that by the end of 2025, the traditional infrastructure supporting our communication systems, including the copper cables underground and telephone lines above, will no longer be in use. This may affect your desk phones! Find out more about the Copper Switch Off.)

Softphone vs Desk Phone: The Key Differences

When comparing softphone vs. desk phone, several distinctions stand out:

  • Mobility and Flexibility: Softphones win hands down in this category. A softphone ensures you’re always connected in the office, working remotely, or travelling for business. On the other hand, desk phones tie you down to a specific location.
  • Setup and Maintenance: Desk phones require physical installation and maintenance. Softphones, being software-based, eliminate these needs. Although you may still want a service provider to install a softphone system, all you need is a mobile device or computer (and an internet or data connection, of course!). 
  • Cost: Implementing a softphone system can lead to significant cost savings. Desk phone systems often come with substantial upfront costs for hardware and infrastructure. Softphones, leveraging existing internet connections, cut down these expenses. 
  • Integration: Softphones can easily integrate with other business applications, enhancing workflow efficiency. This unified communication experience is something traditional desk phones can’t match.
  • Phone Extensions: Softphones allow you to make and take calls for the same extension on different devices, allowing users to answer calls at their desk computer or on their mobile, for example. A desk phone is restricted to that specific device and location. 
  • Call Quality: Because a desk phone is connected directly by Ethernet, call quality may be better, whereas Wi-Fi or data strength may affect softphones.
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Making the Right Choice for Your Business Communication

The decision between softphones and desk phones boils down to your business’s specific needs. If mobility, flexibility, and cost savings are priorities, softphones might be the way to go. You’ll also benefit from features such as voice and video conferencing. 

However, desk phones could be a better fit if you operate in a physical office setting and have concerns over call quality, although softphone quality has vastly improved these days. 

It’s also worth noting that many businesses choose to deploy both business phone solutions, ensuring they reap the benefits of both worlds.

Another factor could be your plans for growing the business. Softphones offer quick growth solutions, with your service provider quickly being able to set up new team members, whereas desk phones will require hardware purchases. 

Finding the Best Business Phone System 

In the softphone vs. desk phone debate, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Both have their merits and can significantly impact business communication.

Businesses can make informed decisions that best suit their needs by understanding a desk phone’s functionality and a softphone’s versatility.

Whether you’re considering switching to softphone solutions or looking to understand the benefits, Kingstar Services is here to guide you.

As experts in business communication, we offer insights and solutions tailored to your business needs.

Contact us today to discuss your business communication needs. 

Article authored by Laura Bean


Philip Gilkes

My aim and mission are to provide a personal level of service that keeps your tech running correctly and helps your business thrive.

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