We’ve heard commentary about the death of the deskphone for several years now. Yet, if you look on most corporate desktops, you’ll still find one. There’s a reason 54 percent of business users use those deskphones on a regular basis – it’s conveniently located, far exceeds voice quality of cellular calls, and offers all the features and functionality of the phone system.
On the other hand, there’s a reason ONLY 54 percent use their deskphones on a regular basis. It's the same reason why a third say they use their smartphones regularly for business calls while at their desks, and why a third also would willingly give up their deskphones.
It’s largely a function of phone vendors not having adapted to a software- and mobile-centric model. Whereas most vendors have touted some sort of mobility features within their UC portfolios, user experience hasn’t met expectations because there has been a gap between hardware and software.
“In order to be truly relevant, deskphones must have a very high degree of integration with mobile devices,” says David Plakosh, CTO at Allworx. “When we looked at the market, overall, we found nobody is doing it well.”
With that in mind, it’s hardly surprising the deskphone is losing fans – after all, there are so many other, more attractive items that can be used as paperweights. But, we’re just not in a mobile-only corporate world yet, thanks to the limitations of our mobile operators and, so, there is still an opportunity for phone systems providers to revive the deskphone, which is what Allworx set out to do with its new Verge line of phones.
While some phone vendors have tried to win the battle through physical design, there’s only so much you can do here. So, while the Verge line looks like a deskphone, they are much more stylish than some, and a closer look at some of the differentiating features makes it easy to forget we’ve been talking about the end of the line for such devices.
The first thing you notice is the full-color display, but that’s hardly the story. Rather, the mobile integration starts here, with the directory, which can sync contacts in real time across the corporate environment, but also with mobile devices and Outlook, thanks to Allworx’ Reach mobile app and Interact PC app. In fact, users are able to choose which accounts they want to sync contacts from and can change those preferences at any time. Additionally, for the privacy-conscious, contacts outside the corporate directory are only accessible by the user (even the IT staff doesn’t have access). This allows users to add anyone in their multiple directories to their programmable speed-dial buttons.
“Every mobile device is contact driven,” explained Plakosh. “So, we made our deskphones contact driven.”
He made it clear, though, that Allworx is not in the contact management business. If users have duplicate contacts in their various accounts, they will all be imported and users may manually remove them if desired.
Most of the hard-coded buttons are for common phone system features, including mute, headset, speakerphone (the Verge line boasts a full-duplex speakerphone, which Plakosh says is best-in-class for deskphones), and an easy-to-find volume button. But, where the similarities with other systems end is the mobile transfer button. With the touch of a button, users can transfer calls initiated on their Verge phones directly to their mobile devices running the Reach application – and vice versa.
In fact, one of the key features of this system is that it provides tighter mobile integration than any other system I’ve seen to date. While others have added mobile transfer to their systems, most aren’t as smooth as this experience is. But, more importantly, the integration goes even further.
When a call comes into the mobile number, thanks to integrated Bluetooth connectivity on the Verge 9312, the call will appear on the Verge phone, where it can be handled just as any other call. While giving us a demo of the Verge phones, Plakosh actually received an unexpected call on his mobile device, which he could answer on the Verge phone. He then transferred back to his cell phone with a single touch.
The real heart of the system, though, is the Reach software, which not only enables the communication between mobile devices and the Verge phones, but also allows calling directly from the app (smartphone or tablet), as well as compete remote control of the phones via the app.
“There are more and more devices you can control with your mobile device, so we decided we want you to be able to control your deskphone,” Plakosh says. “Why? The phone looks phenomenal but people have a passion for their mobile devices.”
It’s actually an ingenious concept, combining the best of both worlds into the business communications system. Users can use their preferred mobile devices to control all their calls, including mute, hold, transfer, but gain the benefit of great voice quality from the corporate PBX.
“Allworx is tackling the next frontier of UC… Tight integration of mobile with office desk phones. It looked at the market and saw where the opportunities for improvement were and launched a line of phones to increase worker productivity by allowing them to use the device of choice in order to be most productive,” commented TMC CEO Rich Tehrani.
“It’s the new executive phone,” adds Plakosh.
But, it doesn’t come with a typical executive phone price tag. At a modest $369 MSRP for the 9312 and $299 for the 9308 (the key differences being fewer programmable keys and BT capability), the Verge line should fall well within an SMB budget. Some may desire a touchscreen, which these don’t offer, but that’s such a minor tradeoff for keeping production costs down. The magic is really in the mobility – and the Reach application on smartphones and tablets effectively turns the interface into a touchscreen.
With its Verge phones, combined with the software upgrades (System Software v8.2, Reach v 3.0 for iOS and Android, and Interact Professional v 3.0), Allworx has brought to market a clear winning proposition that allows users to use the device(s) of their choice, while gaining all the benefits of an integrated unified communications platform. Yes, businesses need the complete system from Allworx, but the amortized cost over eight years comes to less than $4 per user per month for the complete system.
Indeed, we are in a mobile-first world, but Allworx has made the deskphone part of the mobile communications environment. Death of the deskphone? Not if Allworx has anything to say about it.
Group Editorial Director
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