When I moved into a new apartment a year and a half ago, I was dismayed to discover that the only phone jack in the place was in a far corner from which I would be highly unlikely to want to chat on the phone. Knowing that this would be a fairly temporary residence, I did not want to pay for installation of a new jack, so I decided to invest in a portable phone.
I headed to Target armed with parental advice to make sure I got a phone with at least 40 megahertz to ensure good reception quality. I soon found that most of the available phones actually offered nine hundred megahertz—even many of the phones on the lower end of the price range. I chose the Sony SPP-900 because it was a brand I knew, had 900 MHz (which seemed to be the new standard), and was cheap (I believe I paid about $30). In the 18 months I’ve used the phone since, I have been generally quite pleased with its performance, despite a few annoyances.
Features and Performance
The Sony SPP-900 has none of the bells-and-whistles, like caller ID, that come with more expensive phones. It does provide a few basic features—a redial button, the ability to store 10 speed-dial numbers, and a paging mechanism to help locate the phone by pushing a button the base. The package also includes a piece of plastic for mounting the phone on the wall if desired. In other words, this phone is about as basic as a cordless phone gets.
One notable difference between this phone and other portable phones is size. The handset of the Sony SPP-900 is shorter (only 6.5” long, slightly over 8” with antenna) than most portable phones, and in addition, it is significantly lighter in weight than most cordless phones I have used. Luckily, the Sony achieves these benefits without making the handset flimsy, so it is more comfortable to use than most phones while still being sturdy enough to stand up to long-term use (and abuse).
Reception quality is one of the most important considerations in choosing a portable phone, and on this front, I have no complaints about the Sony SPP-900. According to the packaging, the phone “automatically scans all available channels and selects the clearest one for your call.” In addition, the handset has a Channel button with which you can manually switch channels in search of a better connection. I have never had to use this button; whatever searching the phone does on its own (which I somehow doubt is any different from what any cordless phone does) works adequately. Of course, any portable phone will have occasional interference, but in general, the sound quality is clear and there is not a problem with background fuzz.
The other crucial factor in choosing a basic cordless phone is battery life. Obviously, the ability to roam with one’s phone isn’t worth much if the phone has to be recharged too often. The packaging of the Sony SPP-900 boasts that its battery offers a seven-hour talk time or six-day standby which “allows you to use the handset longer between battery charges.” This estimate of battery life is, quite frankly, preposterous. My phone runs out of battery life a few times a week, despite the fact that I recharge it every night while I sleep. Having the phone off the cradle for 10 hours, during which I have perhaps 10 phone calls, is enough to run the battery down. This is a far cry from the 7 hours of talk or 6 days of standby touted on the box. While it is possible that the battery in my phone is a bad battery, I am assuming at this point that the problem is with the phone/battery interaction in general, not a case of one weak battery. This shorter-than-promised battery life doesn’t cause me too much trouble, as I don’t mind (and don’t have trouble remembering) charging the phone overnight, but it might present a problem for some users.
Additional Annoyances and Pet Peeves
So, the Sony SPP-900 offers good reception and acceptable (if a bit disappointing after all the hype on the box) battery performance, and it’s small and lightweight. There is, however, one aspect of this phone that makes it somewhat annoying to use: the low battery warning feature. (This is particularly annoying to me since, as noted above, the phone runs out of energy a few times a week for me.)
To warn users when the phone’s battery is running low when the phone is simply off the cradle, a small red light (which also illuminates when you are on the phone) begins to blink on the handset. The phone, however, makes no noise when it is running out of battery power in this standby mode. This seems to me a highly foolish design—how likely is it that you will be sitting close enough to your phone, and paying enough attention to it, to notice this small flashing light?
However silly this feature may be, Sony managed to trump it with the way they designed the low battery warning for when you are on the phone. At this point, the handset will begin to emit loud, closely spaced beeps. I suppose that it makes sense for the beeps to be so obtrusive given the worst part of this feature: one only has about 30 seconds to get to a new phone before the portable battery will run out and disconnect the call. While I am not an engineer, it seems likely that Sony could have designed this warning in a more sensible way—say, for example, giving users more warning of the immanent cutoff.
Despite my almost daily annoyance at the low battery feature of this phone and disappointment with its shorter-than-promised battery performance, I am generally pleased with the Sony SPP-900 after a year and a half of use. Its high quality reception and small size make it pleasant to use in spite of the battery-related problems, and at the low price it goes for compared to other cordless phones, I would recommend it to any buyer looking for a no-frills, quality cordless phone.
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