Rhodri Marsden: Is there any point in still having a landline?


I've been looking at my knackered old landline phone, with its tangled cord and its sticker for a long-dead international calls service, and wondering why I still have it. I never use it, because a) all the numbers I use are sitting in my mobile, requiring me merely to scroll to the picture of someone's face and stab them in the nose to get put through, b) I've got free minutes to use up, and c) if people have an insatiable urge to speak to me, they'll ring my mobile because they know I'm tragic enough to be permanently at its beck and call. So when the landline does ring it's a shock akin to a lightbulb exploding, and I pick it up as if it's some kind of fascinating Proterozoic fossil.

It's possible, even likely, that we waste money by not using our landlines; a recent BT survey found that 40 per cent of mobile calls are made within lurching distance of a non-mobile phone, and concluded that we were haemorrhaging cash as a result. But the complexity of comparing landline rates (evening/weekend allowances, friends and family discounts and override services) with mobile rates (free minutes, peak/off peak, home/away networks, yet more override services) is impossible to do without a multi-page spreadsheet and details of our own comprehensive calling history. We can't be bothered. And so, because it has become way more convenient, mobile phone use continues to soar. Well over one third of British call minutes are now on mobile networks.

I wouldn't dare to start brawling with anyone who believes that mobile phones are a menace to society and who would never surrender their landline on principle, but those of us who've already migrated to dinky mobile devices are only really paying for landline rental because our broadband internet connections usually force us to. And until the new breed of mobile broadband networks becomes faster and more reliable, our unloved old-style telephones will continue to gather dust in the corner. Presumably imagining that we'd use them if they weren't so decrepit, Verizon are imminently launching a plush touchscreen telephone in the US, and T-Mobile are rumoured to be following suit – but it's unclear why gadget freaks would be tempted. All the fun of an internet-enabled phone, but permanently tethered to your wall with a black cable? It's hardly progress, is it?

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