The Unbiased Guide: Best Phone System for Entrepreneurs & StartUps

Manassas VA

My partner and I recently spent the better part of a month banging our heads against the wall in trying to find a good phone system to use for our growing web design startup, FreshySites. Here I’m hoping to recap our experiences and help to point others down the correct path that took us so long to find.

Some important “features” we were looking for were full integration with our android devices, we didn’t have landlines, didn’t want landlines, didn’t want more hardware. The new system had to fully function through our android phones along side our current service.

Another feature was call quality. We wanted the customers we were talking with to feel we were professional and nothing says “unprofessional” like terrible call quality and dropped calls and “this number is unavailable” messages.

A third feature was individual numbers and caller ID to show those numbers. In other words, we wanted separate business numbers to give out and when we called customers with our androids we wanted those business numbers to show up on our customers phones. We didn’t want our personal numbers to be visible in our communications at any level.

The last feature (not really a feature, but def a deciding factor) was price. We didn’t want to spend a fortune, we we’re willing to shell out some cash for the perfect solution, but we wanted to stay well under the $30 per line mark if at all possible. So here was the path we traveled as we discovered one phone system (and their failures) after another before landing on a final solution.

Phone System 1: Google Voice

https://www.google.com/voice

Why it was awesome

  • Price – Google voice is free, which is awesome. Getting a local number is free, forwarding it to your mobile device is free, setting up voicemail is free, everything is free.
  • Business Number – This worked great as well. We could have our own business numbers and with the android app be able to call/receive from those numbers. Never using personal numbers
  • Call Quality – During phone calls that got through to us, call quality was great

Why it failed us

  • Mobile Plan – With google voice you use up mobile minutes during your call. This is why the call quality during connected calls is so good. This is a con compared to some other VoIP options where mobile minutes stay in tact. However, this was not a deal breaker for us as all members of our company have “truly unlimited” calling plans. Just thought it was worth mentioning for the sake of other reading this.
  • Call Connection – We were told every once in a while that the number would send our customers to a voice message saying “call cannot go through, this number is unavailable” or something like that. We even set up some tests to see if it was something silly that we just missed in our settings but after doing some research on the topic it seems this is a common problem with google voice. This was a deal breaker for us. We needed to make sure customers could reach us when they needed to, every time.

Phone System 2: Phonebooth

http://www.phonebooth.com/

Why it was awesome

  • Call Quality – Call quality was great. Just as if we were using a regular mobile connection.
  • Reliability – Every call got through every time. Never any connection issues.

Why it failed us

  • Business Number – We were able to have a business number to give out for people to call us on. However, we could not place calls using this number unless we bought desktop phones to connect via VoIP. This was def an issue for us because when we called customers back it would be through our personal numbers.
  • Call Handling – This was the other annoying part of how Phonebooth worked, basically it was just forwarding calls to our phonebooth number to our mobile phones. It also could not warn us that the call coming in was from Phonebooth, it looked just like any other personal incoming call. We would be totally caught off guard if it was a customer and we couldn’t answer by saying something like “FreshySites, this is Ben.” We would be forced to answer any unknown number by saying “Hello, this is Ben” which would usually be followed by an awkward pause if the person on the other end thought they just called a web design company to have this random “Ben” character pick up. This was another big issue for us
  • Price – This was the most expensive phone system we tried out. It was about $55/mo for two numbers and a decent number of minutes. Between the missing features above and the high price tag we decided to discontinue our use of Phonebooth in hopes of finding a better option.

Phone System 3: Skype w/Online Number

http://www.skype.com/

Why it was awesome

  • Mobile Integration – Fully integrated mobile app for android, easily the most polished app and interface we used.
  • Mobile Plan – Because skype was using VoIP it never touched our mobile plan minutes. Again, not a huge deal for us, but maybe for some others reading this.
  • Business Number – This was a great feature of Skype. We could purchase and assign business numbers and skype plans through their “Skype Manager” system. This was very easy to work with and setup for two lines took all of about 10-15 mins. The online numbers (new numbers we would use only for business) fully integrated with our android phones via the skype app so callers would call them and the app would ring on our androids. Also, we could place calls through the app and customers would see our business number coming through on their end. Perfect solution for this part of our needs.
  • Reliability – Every call got through every time. Never any connection issues.
  • Desktop Integration – With Skype we could also place calls from our desktops/laptops with a headset. This was an awesome feature that none of the competition offered. Call quality was also best here, while making desktop calls (as long as you have a decent internet connection).
  • Price – To setup 2 online numbers with unlimited minutes it was only about $150/year or $12.50/month. That means it was only about $6 per user per month. This solution was really great in terms of pricing, we were very impressed with what we got for the money.

Why it failed us

  • Call Quality – This is the only reason we are not currently using Skype with Online Number as our solution. The call quality was terrible when you were using your mobile device. There were tons of delays, even when on a wifi connection. It was pretty much unusable when you had to rely on your 3g connection if you were out and about and needed to place or take a call. Really sad, we loved this solution until we got on it and made some tests calls. If they could get their call quality up, this solution would be absolutely perfect.

Phone System 4: Line2

http://www.line2.com/

Why it was awesome

  • Mobile Integration – Fully integrated mobile app for android, second only to Skype in terms of polish, easy of use, ease of setup, etc.
  • Mobile Plan – Line2 has a few different options and lets you choose if you want to make calls using VoIP or our mobile plan. So if you want to conserve minutes while you have a strong wifi connection then you can switch over to VoIP right on the app (one button toggle switch, super easy).
  • Business Number – Perfect solution for our needs. We could get local business numbers and assign them to users. These numbers would associate with our android phones so when a customer calls us via our business number the Line2 app on our android rings in. We know the call is a business call and we can answer accordingly. We also can make calls with the line2 app on our androids and the customers on the other end see our Line2 business numbers on their caller IDs. Perfect!
  • Reliability – Every call got through every time. Never any connection issues, been using for well over a month now.
  • Call Quality – Because we both have unlimited mobile plans we keep our Line2 connection defaulted on “cell” so it uses our mobile minutes to place calls through our mobile networks. While this is not a great strategy if you are looking to save minutes, for us that didn’t matter and it gave us the best call quality of any service we have tried so far (well, same as google voice when the calls actually got through). It was just as if we were using our normal mobile networks to make and receive calls.
  • Price – Ahhh, price. Surely this is where Line2 will fall. Nope! We each purchased a Line2 Standard Plan which come in at $99.50/year. That means less than $200/year or $17/mo for both of us. A price that is just a tad bit higher than Skype was going to cost us.

Why it failed us

  • It Hasn’t! So far we have been using Line2 for over a month on our android devices and absolutely love it. We would highly recommend it.

In Conclusion

If you are looking for a phone system that will allow you to have customer local business numbers and fully integrate with your mobile device than look no further than Line2. Trust us, in our web design business we have searched far and wide for the perfect solution that does not require any other hardware and allows for seamless business-only communications. Feel free to leave thoughts, questions or other suggestions in the comments below! We would love to hear what systems you guys have tried and what you love and hate about them!

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