Soft Phones vs Hard Phones – What’s the difference?


Your business needs to be accessible to partners and clients alike. VoIP systems facilitate easy communication for your team. However, there are a variety options to pick from, so which should you choose? Let’s take a look at two of the main options available to you: softphones & hardphones.

What are softphones?

A software version of your phone – just like Microsoft Teams or Skype, whereby you can make and take calls, as well as handling overseas calls, using credit or similar pay as you go systems. The portmanteau of software and telephone combines to give you… the softphone!  You can expect to be able to access your phone system on a desktop, laptop or mobile device, as well as tailor made products. This also means you know what to expect in terms of performance. Usually, when a softphone solution gets updated, everyone else using that service will get the update too. This keeps everyone on the same page and makes it easier to roll out for employees, as they all see the same thing when using the application.

It can however, mean some difficulty in solving issues. As you’re not using a dedicated device to handle calls, it adds complexity to your setup. Suddenly you’re having to take into account a multitude of different devices. Some users may be using old, unsupported devices. This can make diagnosing issues tricky, as suddenly,  a “one-size fits all” approach comes tumbling down.

Softphones do however provide a great deal of flexibility, and often take into account the mix of devices they are likely to be used on.  As softphones can be accessed anywhere, you are not tied down to a specific device or geographic location. You simply install the software you need and off you go. As long as you have an internet connection, you can take and make calls, wherever, whenever. This makes softphones a very attractive solution for those that work on the go or have multiple teams across the globe. Softphones provide a unified system, that as a result gives you great versatility and easy accessibility for all.

What are hardphones?

Physical handsets that are usually desktop phones, but can also be mobile handsets as well. They are more akin to a traditional residential phone system, where everything has a hardwired connection and is plugged into both the mains and a phone line. This gives them the benefit of often having a robust and reliable call quality. As you’re effectively using a physical connection, you’re less likely to be prone to dropouts.  With the phone staying in a single location, this helps to keep calls crisp and smooth. Again, in contrast to softphones, hardphones have been specifically created for one purpose – call handling.

You can expect to find dedicated features that may not always be present on a softphone solution. Hardware options are often custom made to serve one purpose – to handle calls. This can mean a very polished experience all round. Hardphones are not without their drawbacks though. If you’re working outside of the office, the desk phone suddenly becomes useless. You’ll need another device (or a softphone) to take calls if you’re not within reach of your hardphone. Additionally, hardphones occasionally use an older phone line, which can be unreliable in comparison to the internet-based softphones.


In conclusion, both options provide great calling solutions for businesses. It really depends on what setup you want. With the advent of working from home seeing a dramatic rise in 2020, many businesses are opting for softphones. They are an effective way to keep access to your phone lines achievable for remote workers, even with your team spread far and wide. However, hardphones have been designed for the very purpose of taking calls, so if a migration back to the office is on the cards, then they could be a great option. You don’t need to rely on users having their own devices at home, and you can still route calls in a way that you would expect. To find out more about how VoIP can be your ideal solution for Remote Working, please see our blog here.