back to article Softphones strangled by smartphone battery life

Softphones aren’t making inroads onto smartphones or the desktop because the former lacks battery life and the latter take too long to start up, according to Jamie Romanin, ShoreTel’s Regional Director for Australasia. Softphones are applications that do everything a telephone handset can, but run on a PC or smartphone. Often …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Michael Kean

    Interim Tech?

    Here in Aus, we can get unlimited call mobiles from about $40AU per month. (Includes landline and mobile destinations.) That sort of price point somewhat renders SoftPhones, and VoIP in general as annoying echo-prone unreliable things; since really VoIP exists as an interim technology. Granted, for International Calling, VoIP is hard to beat; but odds are you'll have Skype or similar anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interim Tech?

      Well done, spoken like a person that doesn't have a clue what they are on about....

      For starters the vast majority of your calls you make these days are VoIP at some point, you just don't know it.

      "VoIP in general as annoying echo-prone unreliable things..."

      Really? We handle 1.5 million external calls a month, about 3 million internal, echo, not really an issue, certainly less annoying than the drop outs you'll get via a mobile.

      Unless some spanner is using speaker phone on a mobile of course.

      "Granted, for International Calling, VoIP is hard to beat"

      Or internal use, or interbranch use....

      However the real issue with softphones that the main players just don't get, I don't want to use a headset, it's that simple.

      As for slowing you pc down, Shoretel, I know your phones are butt f'ing ugly, but really, slow a pc down really? I've never noticed. Then again I also run a SIP proxy and PBX on my laptop as well....

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: Interim Tech?

      Why VOIP?

      Because my incoming number is VOIP. Not only that, but at the same time I can have the little PBX log into it, my PC and my mobile. If a call comes in, all ring until one of them answers, or it goes to voicemail. If I make a call, the outgoing telephone number shows as my VOIP number. Also especially handy is that I don't have to be where the number is registered (in fact I can be in any country in the world).

      As for softphones; the VOIP client that came with my Nokia seems to work OK-ish, but that isn't much of an indicator about softphones; the whole mobile is a bit "meh".

  2. Gordon 10


    This sounds like excuses for poor sales.

    For me the major use case for softphones is to facilitate remote working in the enterprise.

    Since remote working generally involves either having a laptop or PC switch on as well I would question why this is a bar to adoption.

    The major plus of softphones is to avoid mobile/landline charges for work calls by using call back type functionality.

    I see softphones on smartphones as a interim/passing technology soon to be gobbled up by unified comms containers that provide full BYOD functionality. (ie integrated contacts, email, phone etc) all within a secured section of the phone and therefore again not a major area of problems.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: WTF?

      Within the UK, voice calls are basically free - you subscribe for the appropriate number of minutes, and then you only have to pay for calls to numbers beginning 08, or for international calls. 08 numbers you can generally deal with by searching for the geographical number it is attached to. For international calls, unless both parties have the same VOIP service, usually Skype; the VOIP providers charge pretty much the same as other companies that operate over the voice network - basically the national call rate in the destination country plus a little bit extra for their profit margin.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge


        If voice calls are priced in your service subscription then they aren't free, you're paying for them.

        I think you're underrating the benefit (in principle) that if you have a computer on every desk anyway, then giving them telephony without separate telephone wiring is a big, big bonus. I'm just assuming that office telephone systems are still very, very expensive.

        Having said that, something that works with a phone handset - and maybe without logging into a PC - will be easier to work with, for a lot of people.

        There are USB handsets still in some stores, but I don't know if they're obsolete.

        1. Benjamin 4

          Re: Free?

          It's not separate wiring though. All modern phone installations I've seen run over Cat5 cable and are pushed by a normal server in the back end. Sure, this means that softphones could easily be used, but it isn't a whole other system that has to be installed at massive cost. For the cost of the phones people can have the comfort of a normal handset, and change is something most people avoid wherever possible.

  3. Dexter

    Yes, Soft Phones can and do slow down your PC.

    The Cisco Soft Phone is absolute rubbish.

    Takes ages to start up, eats memory on your computer and slows it down, and crashes.

    1. kwhitefoot
      Thumb Up

      And even before it crashes it doesn't work properly. Never mind the jaw droppingly bad UI.

    2. ChyrillStucker

      Well, I don’t agree that soft phones can slow down PC. I have been running this application on my system since the last seven months with a lot of incoming and outgoing calls each day but my PC is working good as new. Maybe it is the problem with your provider. You can check out services with my PBX provider the real pbx.

  4. zedee

    Shoretel's real problem

    is that you can't understand a word that the Shoretel user is saying (100Mbit connection), with me on a good quality old-tech copper pair.

    I don't know what conversion/compression they use, but the speech is permanently unintelligible - no stutters or blank pauses, you just can't understand a word.

    Skype though - anything above a 32Kbit connection and it's crystal.

    1. Oliver Burkill

      Re: Shoretel's real problem

      Not my experience at all.

      I work in a contact center with about 150 users on a Shortel system. No complaints about call quality at all.

      Yes, when the Shoretel rep is next in I will point to this comment and demand a free pint.


    Its the network stupid

    Try a softphone in this enviroment:

    Wireless access points disappear randomly; reappear 5 mins later minus proxy server

    Disappear again - proxy still not evident: reappear again for 10mins WITH proxy. Disappear for 2 hours

    wired network now starts this game; it too now disappears for 1hr.

    Finally with 1hr of work to go all reappears working

    Try making calls in that!

    (daily log of an NHS Teachi ng hospital)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > Softphones aren’t making inroads onto smartphones or the desktop because the former lacks battery life and the latter take too long to start up

    Also (at least in the UK) third party VOIP is often specifically banned under your carrier's T&Cs.

    In fact according to T-Mobile I can't use VOIP, tethering, VPNs, make reverse charge calls, download anything 'indecent' or use the phone for anything 'immoral'.

    1. JohnG

      VoIP banned - Germany too

      VoIP is banned by all but one of the German cellular network operators. I'm not sure that they actually police this though.

  7. mark 63 Silver badge

    "Softphones are applications that do everything a telephone handset can, but run on a PC or smartphone"

    say whatnow??

    why t f woulfd a smartphone need some sort of phone emulator on it? isnt it a phone already?

    And my pc is already capable of running these new fangled "apps" , it does everything a smartphone does , mostly a lot better too , bar the things it needs hardware for ie gps and camera.

    1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      "why t f woulfd a smartphone need some sort of phone emulator on it? isnt it a phone already?"

      Insert obligatory Xzibit "Yo Dawg" meme reference here.

      1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

        Like this?

        Yo dawg, I heard you like phones, so I put a phone on your phone, so you can phone while you phone.

    2. Charles 9

      Some people have voice-poor but data-rich plans because they tend to use the phones more as mobile data stations rather than phones. In such a case, a softphone would go to the data allowance rather than the voice allowance and be advantageous to such a user.

  8. Ged T

    What is this?

    Is this an article or an advertisement?

  9. Richard Cartledge

    Being rubbish and with expensive licensing is a deal breaker.

  10. Roger Stenning

    If it looks like a duck...

    and quacks like a duck, then it's probably a very bad videocall connection!

    Seriously, who the hell do they think they're kidding? Skype works fine from the desktop, but try using it with a cellular connection, and aside from the restrictive T&C of the operator, you're going to be eating large chunks of your (very limited in most cases) data allotment like crazy, unless you use a WiFi connection, of course. That alone is reason enough NOT to use a VoIP application on your smartphone!

    Skype used to bugger up windows a lot (especially under XP), but they've tidied it up nicely, and now it runs in the background well enough without becoming a memory-hungry PC killer. The same, it appears from this article, cannot be said of softphone (which name conjurers up a rubber kiddie toy rather than a cutting-edge bit of tech), so I would suggest that rather than moaning about it, they bloody go ahead and do something about it, instead.

    Then there's the battery. well, DUH. Of course they don't last long. Modern smartphones are ALL notoriously battery-hungry. I'm lucky if my HTC Sensation lasts the day without a top-up charge - it's why I carry a portable USB charger - especially useful when there aren't car cigarette lighter sockets or three-pin mains sockets available.

    All in all, then, I'd go with what others are saying above: They can't sell their stuff, so they're moaning, and trying to get journalists to sell it instead.

    It's all rather sad, really.

  11. Philippe
    Thumb Down

    View as one of my company Cisco softphone beta tester

    The Application is clunky and does take an age to start, at least you normally only start it once a day.

    When it works, the sound quality is great, no echo, no background noise and i don't have a problem with using a headset. (I change ear regularly to avoid the strain)

    The problem starts when it doesn't work.

    Sometimes i can go 6 hours without being able to make a phone call. It just refuses to dial.

    This application also tends to crash my laptop wifi connection, this means a full restart as it's impossible to get it back otherwise.

    In a nutshell, great tool when it works but the downtime is still too high (I have experienced about 6 hours of downtime in 3 days, with 2 full wifi crashes).

    Regarding the iPhone application, just forget it. This thing plain sucks. My iPhone goes from 24 hours battery life to 8 hours when i am dumb enough to activate the thing. I have so far only managed to make one phone call to another cisco softphone with it. Nothing else.

    Viber pisses all over it.

  12. Nick Ryan Silver badge


    Just put a damn IP phone handset on the desk. You then don't need to bother with separate phone and network cabling and to make it easier many IP phones have network "passthrough" - as in they have an internal mini network switch to reduce the cabling substantially. You still need a separate power socket to power the phone unless you run PoE though.

    The result? A phone on your desk that looks and works like a phone without the pain of a headset and you don't need to dick around with soft phone applications that as a horrible generalisation are pretty awful.

    * PC turned off or crashed (again)? No problem, phone still works.

    * Wireless dodgy (like it always is), doesn't use it.

    * User acceptance? Looks and feels like a phone therefore instant familiarity even with typical office technophobes.

    Usually applications can be loaded onto a PC to allow better integration with applications as well but the key point is that these aren't required for use.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Alternatively...

      I don't know why this was downvoted (mouse troouble?), the idea of VoIP phones using the corporate LAN and corporate VoIP hardware, not using crappy PC audio hardware and crappy PC software is actually tried tested relatively proven even if it's not hiptrendy, and has the advantages Nick mentions.

      Of course it does rely on the corporate LAN being robust and resilient (vs a traditional hard wired steam phone) but then so does the softphone "solution".

      They're not even expensive these days if you know where to look.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At huge expense we replaced our reliable BT system with a ShoreTel abomination.

    The software regularly fails leaving us without any phones at all throughout the company, the call quality is terrible, and it bottlenecks the network (we have a gigabit network, whereas the shitetel phones only handle 100Mbs)

    Utterly fucking terrible, but no-one who greenlighted it here will admit it.

    Anon, as I know for a fact one of the bellends responsible for bringing it in here reads this...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Might not be the phone though...

      Call quality issues are rarely the phones fault and nearly always the network's. Specifically if you do not have QoS on the customer prem network (DSCP markings), then it doesn't matter if your network is Gbit or not - ample bandwidth does not equate to voice quality.

      Sadly for Shoretel and other voip vendors, customer network administrators hate to hear that their network is not up to snuff. I've heard lots of conversations that go like this:

      vendor: "your network isn't good enough for voip. We expect you to see lots of latency and jitter."

      customer bofh: "whaddya mean?! My network is Gbit/cat 6/cisco throughout. You don't know what you are talking about mr vendor"

      vendor: sigh.

  14. P. Lee

    form factor

    The article is correct about the disadvantages of pc and smartphone softphones.

    They are simply not as reliable/available (pc) or efficient (mobile) as the corresponding landline or Telco devices. As someone who runs a pc 24x7, a softphone is less useful than a wireless dect phone. Its handy, but not a killer-app or even close. It is far easier to plug your normal phone into a VoIP router.

    If you don't need sip, Skype/skype-out is probably good enough on a pc, on a mobile you'll be hard pressed to beat dedicated hardware.

  15. Steven Davison

    Hardphones FTW

    I'm with the others here on this one.... don't use softphones where you have the deskspace to put a VOIP hardphone... cabling is not an issue now as many SIP compatible phones have switches built in... and can also be run off PoE... (Linksys SPA922 is a prime example). If you are a truly 'mobile' worker, get a quality Bluetooth handsfree and pair that with your laptop..., rather than faff with a cabled headset...

    and definitely DON'T get a propriety SIP based offering from anyone.... get an expert in to set-up a Asterisk based system , and benefit from choosing hardware and software that suits your needs (rather than something that is almost there, or wildly overspecced, without having to pay the nose and ear for it... if your expert is good enough, and gives you the correct advice, you won't regret it...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    softphones are good for some things

    We have real VoIP phones on the desk, but I have a softphone equivalent on my PC for travelling. Works great for international travel when you're in a hotel with free (or fixed-price) internet, and extortionate in-room phone prices. It avoids international cellphone roaming charges as well. The setup gives my softphone the same number as my desk phone, so calls to/from it work exactly as they would when I'm in my office. I have colleagues who use it when working from home some days, effectively gives them their office phone at home. I use it with a Bluetooth headset, no echo or quality problems.

    About the only thing it can't do well is act as a speakerphone, but that seems to be a characteristice of our whole VoIP setup. Speakerphone conf call quality is poor from everywhere.

  17. Mookster

    Microsoft lync? Plug a headset into your PC and off you go... (give or take the odd lync server).


    How much did they pay you to publish this manure?

    1. alanturingslefteyebrow
      Thumb Up

      Lync - yes

      We use Lync and it's great, even when I'm working from home. Previously used the Cisco IP Communicator softphone. Call quality was fine but the application itself is an unusable clunker.

  18. Alan Brown Silver badge

    And in other news....

    ... smartphones are limited for most purposes by shite battery life.

    Seriously Samsung, HTC, et al:

    Make the bloody things twice as thick. We won't complain.

  19. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Seriously. Try building the phone to meet the battery *capability*

    Instead of hanging endless s**t on their design and then "discovering" that (gosh) it's battery life is not very long.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seriously. Try building the phone to meet the battery *capability*

      What an excellent idea. In fact, for a variation on the theme, why not offer a choice of battery so that light users can use a lightweight battery, and heavy users can use a bigger longer lasting battery.

      In fact that's such a good idea maybe I'll patent it.

      Who, hold on, there's prior art. Some outfit called Nokia and the Nokia 6210/6310 with standard and extended batteries. Some outfit called HP and the Jornada 720 ditto (a handheld PC, with ARM processor, touchscreen AND keyboard, but reduced to near uselessness by being hampered with Windows CE). To name but two.

      Oh never mind, I'll apply anyway, prior art and obviousness don't seem to be relevant at the USPO these days.

  20. Jamie Romanin

    Desk phone, softphone or mobility application; the choice is yours…

    Softphones and desk phones, each has its advantages. Desk phones have the convenience of always being on and ready to make or receive calls. Dedicated buttons, an ergonomically-designed handset and a high quality speaker add to the calling experience. However, a softphone that is fully integrated into a unified communications solution has great advantages too, particularly when it co-exists with a traditional desk phone. We do see pure softphone used for diverse applications including call centres, where agents are only ever taking calls when they are at their desk and in front of their CRM application, and mobile/remote workers who routinely use a softphone on their laptop or a mobility client on their smart phone to make business calls from hotels and WiFi hotspots while traveling and away from the office.

    Will the desk phone disappear completely in the next 24 months? Probably not, but we will see an increasing use of softphones, especially mobility clients on the smart phone – where the mobile device becomes a true extension of the PBX.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like