Home phones that'll help end nuisance calls
WHETHER it's about PPI, "government funded boilers", or personal injury claims, marketing calls are a real bother.
In 2014 the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) received more than 175,000 complaints about cold calls and nuisance texts - but that's not even the tip of the iceberg: it's estimated that there were more than one billion unwanted calls made in 2014.
While the regulations are being tightened, and punishing the companies involved is being made easier, the majority of the measures that can help stop calls rely on the people being bothered - that's us - putting in some effort.
We've a guide to the quick steps that can help protect against nuisance calls here - but they won't stop all unsolicited calls.
That's when we might want to invest in a specialist phone handset. This is our guide to five of the best available.
1. BT 8500
Individual numbers blocked: 1,000
Blocks which calls? All but those in address book
The latest and most advanced of the BT call management range, and the strongest of the five phones in our list, the BT8500's call blocking capabilities are based on trueCall technology, which asks unrecognised callers to identify themselves before putting them through.
Basically, if a caller isn't ringing from one of the up to 200 numbers in the address book, their call won't get straight through - although this still requires users to be signed up to their provider's Caller ID service to work properly.
For numbers of a sort not already blocked, the user can decide whether to answer, block, or send the call to answerphone.
Blocking new numbers isn't at the expense of older barred numbers either: up to 1,000 individual numbers can be blocked. As mentioned, it's also possible to block calls by type - including mobile, payphone, international, withheld, and anonymous calls.
For those wanting total peace and quiet there's a "do not disturb" function, which stops all incoming calls getting through, unless they're from numbers tagged "VIP" in the phone book - for example those belonging to family members.
2. Panasonic KX-TGH220
Individual numbers blocked: 50
Blocks which calls? Anonymous, number withheld
Panasonic's entry into the call management sector is the KX-TGH220. The phone itself is more appealing than the name - a sleek handset with a 1.8 inch colour display that can be personalised with different wallpaper.
The phone's caller ID feature again requires subscription to the phone company's service, but it also has a serious incoming call barring feature.
Users can choose to reject calls from withheld and anonymous numbers - and can also block whole groups of numbers from calling based on anything from the first two to eight digits. There's the option to block up to 50 individual numbers as well.
Before the 8500 came along, this was one of the few phones we found that had the "do not disturb" feature, blocking all calls between certain times apart from those from pre-selected numbers, such as those belonging to family members.
3. BT 6500
Individual numbers blocked: 10
Blocks which calls? Withheld, international, payphone.
The predecessor to the 8500, the BT6500 has dedicated call blocking capabilities and a built-in answering machine.
Again users need to be signed up to their provider's caller display service in order to benefit from "enhanced" call management: they can choose to block all calls of a certain type, such as withheld or international numbers.
However, compared to the 8500, the ability to block just 10 specific numbers seems a little pathetic.
The built-in answer machine picks up any blocked calls, so genuine callers can leave a message - but there is a risk that important calls could be missed.
Just to cause confusion, the BT6510 is basically the same phone - it simply has a different base station.
The BT6500 costs around £45, but can also be bought in multiple handset packs: the twin (£70), trio (£90), and quad (£110) packs all work out cheaper than buying individual handsets.
4. Siemens Gigaset C620A
Individual numbers blocked: 15
Blocks which calls? Anonymous
The Siemens Gigaset C620A has some great call features, including brilliant in-call sound quality and the ability to forward texts, but it's lacking a little on dedicated call blocking.
The main thrust of the call blocking action is in the form of the anonymous call block and the blacklist function that allows users to block calls from up to 15 numbers.
Otherwise it can be set up to silence anonymous calls instead - the phone will light up, alerting the household to an incoming call, but it won't ring. This can also be extended to all calls for times when users just don't want the phone to ring, but want to be aware if a call does come in.
The base boasts a built-in answer machine capable of recording up to 55 minutes of messages - plenty of time for nuisance callers to leave their message.
Meanwhile the phone itself offers the ability to record live calls, and up to 26 hours of talk time - and the address book can take up to 250 entries.
As with the other phones listed, those who don't have caller display activated will find no amount of programming will get the Gigaset to show a caller's full contact details.
Instead the display will show the number, but not the name - and it won't use any personalised ringtones.
5. BT Home SmartPhone SII
Individual numbers blocked: 10
Blocks which calls? Withheld, international
BT's latest attempt at blocking the riffraff from getting through is a £170 device called the Home Smartphone SII.
Like its predecessor, the Smartphone S - reviewed here - it works by sending unknown, international, and withheld callers straight to voicemail - but to do that it relies on users subscribing to their provider's caller display service.
Once caller display is activated, BT say the phone will identify and block nuisance calls up to 80% of the time. That said, it only diverts those calls to answerphone. At least there's less risk of genuine calls being ignored.
The device itself is pretty appealing. It's basically a mobile phone for the home, running on Android Jelly Bean, with features such as Facebook and Twitter apps, email, web browsing, and a front-facing camera.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about all of these phones is that while they come with some fantastic and useful features, they all rely on the user signing up to caller display and voicemail services.
Some, like TalkTalk and Sky offer Caller Display free, but it can cost up to £2.25 a month from other providers. Our guide to what you can expect to pay is here.
But until UK regulations regarding marketing calls tighten up further, the onus would appear to be on users to do what they can to block the unwanted ones.
At least with the phones above that should be slightly easier. Here's a quick guide to their features side by side:
|BT 8500||Panasonic KX-TGH220||BT 6500||Siemens Gigaset C620A||BT Home SmartPhoneSII|
|Individual numbers blocked||1,000||50||10||15||10|
|Blocks which calls?||All but those in address book||Anonymous, number withheld||Withheld, international, payphone||Anonymous||Withheld, international|
|Address book||200||200||200||250+||Up to 1,500|
|Talk time||21 hours||14 hours||12 hours||26 hours||10 hours|
|Standby||310 hours||250 hours||120 hours||530 hours||65 hours|
|Answerphone capacity||60 minutes||40 minutes||30 minutes||55 minutes||24 minutes|
|Other features||Do not disturb, Outgoing call PIN guard||Do not disturb, Can block numbers based on up to first eight digits, Outgoing call bar||N/A||Anonymous call silencing||Do Not Disturb, Uses Android Jelly Bean OS: Facebook and Twitter, email client, internet access etc|