Our smartphones are part of us. Mine sits on the table next to my laptop, seemingly ready to interrupt me at any moment. (Thankfully, I turned on Do Not Disturb.) When I walk away, it will slip into my pocket. To reach my phone is to reach me anywhere, (almost) any time.
It was not always this way. In the dark pre-iPhone age, many had "landlines", phones attached to a location, rather than a body. The phone would ring in the kitchen or the office but go to voicemail (or a more-classic "answering machine") when one was out. Calls going unanswered were the norm for a while.
In the transition between landlines and our current cut-cord era, many had both. Friends and family would get the cell phone number, while others continued to get the ever-less-used landline number. Many feared the prospect of being "always-on", while a younger generation yearned for just that, especially since they had no institutions trying to sell them things: they were kids!
Eventually, many cut the landline entirely for cost savings, and others never got one in the first place for their new homes either with moves or just growing up with phones in their pockets.
Today, many professional offices have phone lines, but fewer homes do, and the mobile number is the one we hand out.
As we hand out our number, we cringe at the coming onslaught of unsolicited calls that we have to mute away or wonder if they are in fact valuable or important. We get the interrupt, and then later we need to listen to find out if they needed something.
Text spam is worse - immediate interrupt, and the message consumes our attention through a text-based notification.
There is a better way: a phone number that is not going to interrupt us.
For friends and family, we continue to give our cellphone number. We want to hear from and correspond with them in close to real-time.
For businesses and agencies that might need to reach us, we can use a virtual phone number of some kind. Key considerations should be non-interruption, reliability, and cost.
- Non-interruption means that we should not get immediate notifications for these calls and messages. The whole point is that we can ignore them for later
- Reliability means that we can trust that this number will stick around, or that we can take it with us to another location.
- Cost should be low since inbound calls are far less expensive than outbound calls. Also, cost has a time component: you should not have to do much - any - management to receive the benefit.
There are many vendors and ways to address this:
- The landline you might already have: Some cable companies bundle phone service with their internet and TV offerings. Check with your provider to see if there is a number and how to check messages (since you do not want that phone to ring!). That number is yours as long as you have that service, and it might be the best price point: free!
- Virtual phone services: Google Voice, Phone.com, RingCentral, and many others offer phone numbers that are accessible over apps and websites. They range in pricing from $10/month to $29/month in their starter configurations.
- Simple inbound-only phones: A smaller number of vendors, including eVoicemail.net, Copycall, and PhoneToEmail offer a focused service that addresses the inbound-only needs at a moderately lower price point: from $5/mo to $15/month.
We created PhoneToEmail to be the second phone number for people who wish they didn't have to hand out their cell phone number. Obviously, we think this is the best solution, but please check out the competition - especially if you have a free option that can work for you!