Each year, more and more Americans hang up on their home phones for good and switch to mobile devices instead.
Back in 2005, approximately 7% of U.S. households had ditched their landline and relied solely on cell phones. By 2008, that number had skyrocketed to more than 20%, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, of those households that do have a landline and a mobile device, one quarter admit they make nearly all of their calls from their cell phone.
More recent surveys suggest that this trend will only accelerate in the coming years. The Pew Research Group released a study in August that found that the vast majority of Americans 50 and older still feel that a landline is a necessity. However, the majority of those between the ages of 18-29 do not, and are more likely to cite their cell phone as a necessity rather than a luxury, which means that as they get older, the decline of landline phones may accelerate even more.
“Ten years from now, we are going to see very few traditional lines left,” said Mariam Rondeli, an analyst at SNL Kagan, a research firm that focuses on the media and communications industry.
But if the days of traditional home phones are coming to an end, you wouldn’t know it from the wave of innovative new products that have been released this year to enhance the landline experience.
Ooma, a California-based startup, recently put out the Telo adapter, a $250 device that connects your home phone to the Internet connection in your house to provide you with unlimited free domestic phone calls. Then, there’s the Ojo Vision Digital Video Phone, which attaches a high-resolution 7-inch LCD screen to your home phone so that you can video chat. And several companies including Panasonic and Cobra Electronics have put out Bluetooth-enabled home phones so you can make and receive calls on a headset around the house.
“The demise of the traditional landline is overstated,” said Allan Van Buhler, senior vice president of sales, marketing and business development at WorldGate, the company that produces the Ojo video phone. “What’s driven people from traditional landlines to cell phones is the desire for true mobility and a feeling that it’s no longer a great value for the money. But with our new device, we are providing a significantly new application.”
This notion of providing a new or improved use for an old gadget is the leading strategy for many of these companies, and necessarily so. To revive declining consumer interest in home phones, these products need to offer more advanced features to compete with what’s available on cell phones.