VoIP Features for Residential Users

VoIP delivers an abundance of useful features to the home phone user and they are, in most cases, included free when you sign up with a provider. This guide will take you through the most common Residential VoIP features, providing an explanation of each one along with our own WhichVoIP.com opinion and rating.

Visit our business service features guide if you are more interested in VoIP for business use as they tend to be even more feature rich and have features that are directed towards enhanced productivity in the workplace.

Residential VoIP Features

Click on any feature below to go directly to the description for that feature or scroll down to view all features.

Basic Features with Home Service
Call Blocking Caller ID Caller ID with Name
Call Forwarding Call Waiting Fax
Last Number Re-dial Local Number Portability Voicemail
3-way Calling 411 Directory Assistance 911 Service
Advanced Features with Home Service
Anonymous Call Block Area Code Selection Change Phone Number
Call Transfer Caller ID Blocking Contact Lists
Distinctive Ringing Do Not Disturb International Blocking
E911 Service Enhanced Voicemail Extra Virtual Numbers
Keep Number for Life Line Unavailable Forward Multi-Ring
Online A/C Manage PC to Phone Option Repeat Dial if Busy
Return Call Speed Dialing Telemarketer Blocking
Toll Free Numbers Travel Globally Unlimited to US/CAN

Call Blocking

Any phone number can be added to a call block list which will then prevent this number from being able to call your phone.

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This can be a useful feature if you want to block certain phone numbers, for example an ex-boyfriend/husband or ex-girlfriend/wife. This can be a lot easier than changing your phone number. Another great VoIP feature for helping you manage your calls.

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Caller ID

Sometimes also called just Call ID. This is a standard feature with practically every modern phone service. The number of the caller will show on the phone screen when the call is coming in and you can determine whether or not you wish to accept that call  or ignore it.

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If you don't like answering the phone not knowing who is calling, this is a must. You can see straight away if it's a number you know and who is calling. This VoIP feature helps you easily manage and screen your incoming calls. Also see the feature Anonymous call block, which is related to this feature for cases where the Call ID is blocked by the caller. Caller ID also is important for outgoing calls as this is what other people will see on their phones when you call, if they have the caller ID feature of course. This outgoing call ID name usually defaults to the name you supplied when you signed up for service. The Caller ID change name can usually be edited in your login portal at the VoIP service providers website or in some cases you need to get them to edit it for you.

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Caller ID with Name

Very similar to caller ID except the name of the person is also displayed on your phone.

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A great feature for managing your calls. With this feature you know the name of the person who is calling you before you pick up the phone. You can then decide whether you want to answer the call or let it go to voice mail. Please note that you will need a Caller ID enabled phone to use this feature.

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Call Forwarding

This feature is enabled by selecting the call forward or forward all button on your phone followed by entering an alternative phone number for calls to be forwarded to. There are typically 3 versions of this, these being, call forward busy, call forward no answer and call forward always.

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This can be a very useful feature if you don't want to miss any important calls while you are away from your home. You can configure this VoIP feature to forward your calls to your cell phone, your work phone, your voice mail, or even your parents home when visiting.

For more information on call forwarding consult our article on this feature:

How to do Call Forwarding (Extended)

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Call Waiting

If this feature is enabled, you will typically hear a little beep every few seconds when a call is coming in while you are already talking on the phone. You can use this in conjunction with caller ID to take a quick look at the number coming in and then decide if you need to take the new call.

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This is a great feature if you are waiting for a call, but then someone else calls you and ties up your line. No more worries about missing that important call. Typically, you will hear a succession of beeps letting you know that someone else is trying to get through. You can then simply connect to the incoming call, generally with a touch of a button. Another effective way to manage your calls.

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Fax

A typical fax machine will have an RJ-11 phone cable connection so to send a fax over your VoIP line you will need to connect the fax to your ATA.

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This is dependant on the users requirement, a must for people who use standard analog fax machines and not important to those who don't. Most service providers who do support analog faxing don't provide a 100% guarantee on all fax machines working though. There could be some trial and error with this feature. Some providers may require a second line specifically for a fax machine connection. Another option to consider is what is commonly known as 'e-fax'. This is a feature that allows the user to receive faxes as email attachments. Some providers support the 'e-fax' feature.

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Last Number Re-Dial

Quickly call the last number that called you by pushing the redial button.

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This can be useful and time saving when you call someone and the line is busy. You can then use the re-dial feature to quickly try calling again, rather than dialing the whole number each time.

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Local Number Portability

Avoid losing your phone number when you change phone service by issuing a port request. If a phone company offers number portability it means you can bring your current phone number to them rather than losing your number when you switch phone service providers.

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This is a common feature and every service provider will offer to port your number as long as it has coverage in your area code. With this feature you can keep your current phone number if you decide to change your phone service over to VoIP. This can be very useful if you are training young children to memorize your phone number, or if you just don't want the hassle of providing friends, family and businesses with your new phone number. Of course, you can always choose a different number if you want to. Check to see if your new provider can support your number prior to signing up.

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Voicemail

Allows you to leave a message if there is no one available to take your call.

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With VoIP your messages are stored in the cloud as opposed to on a physical answering machine device in your house or business. Simply dial your access code to listen to messages. Also, see "Enhanced Voice Mail".

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3-Way Calling

Often referred to as an ad-hoc conference call, this feature enables you to quickly add a 3rd person to the call while keeping the initial call active.

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What a great feature. You can now talk to your mum and your brother or sister at the same time, or maybe your two best friends. Whoever it is, 3 way conversations are very convenient for saving time when spreading good news, making plans with a group, or just for catching up with friends.

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411 Directory Assistance

Call and speak to a person if you are looking for a phone number for a local business. Most likely in significant decline as using a Smartphone is much quicker and easier.

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A useful feature to those people who like to use this service. This is purely dependant on the person, some people like to use this service and some people may never use it. Directory assistance is usually up to date with new businesses that may not be in the phone book yet. This usually comes at a premium since you pay for each 411 call.

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911 Service

Your VoIP provider directs calls to local Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) based on the area code for your system.

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The 911 service provided by VoIP service is different than what your regular phone service provides. With you normal telephone service, your 911 call is routed to a 911 Emergency Response Center. With VoIP your 911 call will go to a general access line at a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). Due to the nature of VoIP the PSAP will not be provided your location information automatically when your call is answered. Therefore, you will need to provide your location and telephone number clearly, after stating the nature of your emergency. Please be aware of this difference, and let visiting family and friends be aware of these differences in case an emergency arises and they need to provide the relevant information. Also, see "Enhanced 911 Service".

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Anonymous Call Blocking

If someone is using caller ID blocking then their call will show as an anonymous call. This feature will ensure that you never receive any call that does not pass through a caller ID.

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If you are fed up with getting anonymous phone calls, then you'll love this feature. With this great feature you can automatically block calls that do not have an originating number. This is another great feature for managing your incoming calls.

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Area Code Selection

The area code is the first 3 digits of a 10 digit phone number. The next 3 digits are also part of the code but are more granular and specific to a certain town within an area code. So keep that in mind if you want an area code that is tied to your city.

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What a great feature. Maybe you are moving to a new location with your job, going to college, or just want to have a new start somewhere else, you can still select your old area code for your phone number (if the service provider has service in that area). This means that you will still be a local call away from family and friends back home.

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Call Transfer

If you need to connect a caller with someone other than yourself, use the transfer feature to connect them to the appropriate person.

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This can be a very handy feature. It allows you to easily transfer an important call to another member of your household who might not be home.

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Caller ID Blocking

Enabling this feature will result in hiding your caller ID from the people you are calling. Your call will show up as an anonymous call. Be aware that some people use a feature called anonymous call rejection to automatically reject these types of calls and their phone will never ring.

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A great feature if you want to stop your identity from showing up on Caller ID enabled phones. Keep in mind that people may not answer a call if they are checking their caller ID and don't see a phone number they recognize.

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Change Phone Number

This is fairly self explanatory. If you decide you want to change your phone number for any reason, just login to your online portal and give your provider a call.

Whichvoip.com Guide and Rating

This could be a very useful feature. You can change your phone number without changing phone companies. Problems with unwanted callers, decide you want to change your area code, moving house, whatever the reason, with this feature changing your number is easy. Some providers allow you to request a new number on-line with a click of a button, others may require you to phone customer service.

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Contact Lists

In this day and age you probably can't even remember anyone's phone number as you will typically call people using your phones contact list. You might still want to memorize the important numbers though in case you ever need to call them, but don't have your phone handy or have access to your contact list.

Whichvoip.com Guide and Rating

A great feature. Personalize what your Caller ID displays. You can have Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Bob, whatever you want. Use this feature in combination with the "Caller ID with Name" feature.

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Distinctive Ringing

You can pre-program a specific ring for specific phone number such that when that number calls you, a distinctive ring is heard, and you will likely know who is calling just from hearing the ring.

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A great feature for helping you manage and personalize your phone calls. You can have different ring tones for different callers so you know exactly who is calling when your phone rings. If you have two numbers on your primary line, you can also set these up to have different ring tones. This can help distinguish between your business number and your home number for example.

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Do Not Disturb

This is very popular feature and is frequently a default button or softkey on most phones. Turning this feature on simply sends all calls directly to voicemail.

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A great feature when you don't want to be disturbed while you have that mid day nap, or the baby is sleeping, or you just don't want to be disturbed while you watch the game. All your calls will go straight to voicemail and your phone will never ring.

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E911 Service

E911 stands for Enhanced 911. When 911 is dialed the call is routed to emergency personnel at Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) and the location of the caller (address) is transferred to them. The service works like a regular 911 call would, except that the address transferred is the address on file for that number. However, if you move or take your VoIP device when you travel, you must remember to update your location with this service. For more information check out this article about E911 and VoIP.

Whichvoip.com Guide and Rating

The user must be aware that this is still not the same as the 911 service that is provided through your regular phone service. However, this is the closest to that service that is currently available with VoIP phone service. As long as you register your location information through your Service Provider your address will be available to the PSAP. Make sure you let any visiting family and friends know of the differences with this service.

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Enhanced Voicemail

This refers to voicemail being sent to your email or being able to listen to your voicemail by logging into a portal.

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Enhanced voicemail brings a whole new host of ways to listen to your messages and to be notified that you have messages. With this feature you can retrieve your voice messages from any phone, not just your home phone. So, if you are out or away overnight, you can dial in from anywhere and check your messages. You can get email notifications sent to you when someone leaves a message for you. You can even have an audio file of the message sent to your email, which you can then listen to on your computer, or any computer. This is a great feature for saving messages from loved ones, old and young, for years to come.

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Virtual Phone Numbers

You can purchase as many of these as you want and direct them to a single phone. If you want to call out using one of these numbers you will be limited to the number physical lines your phone model can support.

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This is one of whichvoip.com's favorite feature. You can add extra phone numbers to your primary line, with any area code of your selection (in line with area code availability from the provider). So, if you are from San Francisco and let's say your child decides to go to college up in Seattle, you can add a Seattle 206 number as an additional number (virtual number) on your primary San Fran line. This allows your child to call the Seattle 206 number which essentially maps to your home number in San Francisco and it is a free local call for your child.

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International Blocking

Prevents any phone from being able to make any international calls if enabled.

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Does your young child like to pick up the phone and dial random numbers and then leave the phone lying around? Ever found those unexpected international charges after friends or family have been visiting? This feature could save those unexpected charges on your phone bill by allowing you to manage whether or not international dialing is blocked on your phone. This feature can be turned on or off, typically via your online account manager so that it is not easily disabled.

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Keep Number For Life

In almost every case you will have the right to keep your phone number and can port it to another provider if you change services.

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Never have to change your phone number again. No more trying to remember your new number or trying to remember your old phone number at the grocery store. No more having to let people know your new number, or missing important calls after you have moved house. Move from Chicago to Miami and still keep your number. This is not an everyday use feature but can be very useful when you make that important decision to move.

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Line Unavailable Forward

Forwards a call if your primary number cannot be reached.

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We consider this a huge feature. One of the disadvantages of VoIP is that if your broadband connection is not available your VoIP service is not either. With this feature, you can have your calls forwarded to another number of your choice, your cell number or other number that you can be reached at, if your broadband connection is not available. With this feature you will never miss any calls.

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Multi-Ring

More commonly known as the simultaneous ring feature, setting his up will allow a call to ring more than one phone at the same time. A similar feature is called sequential ring where one phone will ring for a specified period and if it is not answered then the next phone in the sequence will ring, and so on until the call reaches the end of the sequence and likely ends up going to voicemail if not answered.

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This is a great feature for call management. Never miss an important call again. You can set this feature to ring multiple phones when someone calls your primary VoIP phone line. Most service providers allow you to choose from any number, US or international, cell phone or regular phone, and up to at least 4 numbers. So, when someone calls your primary phone number, your home phone rings as well as any other numbers you have set up to ring. Whichever one you pick up first gets the call. This can be a great feature for the small or home office too.

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Online Account Management Portal

If you ever need to update any account information such as your credit card information, then simply login to your personalized portal and easily make the changes.

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Most service providers allow you to control and manage your VoIP phone account and features on line. This can be a great way to check your call logs, check your account details, and to check all your features settings.

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PC to Phone Option

This more commonly referred to as a softphone and involves loading an application onto your PC, connecting it to your phone service provider and then making calls just the same as you would with a regular phone. It is a pretty neat feature to use when you are traveling.

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This is a fantastic option for those people who travel with a laptop. You have your phone integrated into your PC. All you need is a microphone and speakers or headphones to be able to call anyone. Some service providers have this option in addition to your VoIP phone service, but more typically this is provided as a separate service. This is not a required feature for the typical VoIP user.

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Repeat Dial if Busy

Set your phone to redial if it receives a busy signal.

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Ever get fed up waiting to get through to someone on the phone? Still getting that busy signal? Now you can use this feature to let you know when the phone of the person you are calling becomes free. Your phone will even ring you back when you are being connected. A very useful feature if patience is not your strong point!

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Return Call

This is a call back feature for missed calls.

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Just got in the bath or shower and the phone rings? Relax, and let it ring. With the Return Call feature you can call back whoever was calling you with the touch of a few buttons without knowing who called or their number.

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Speed Dialing

Program your phone with your most frequently called numbers and then just hit a key once to dial.

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This is a great feature for those phone numbers that you call the most. No more dialing 11 digits and getting wrong numbers, just dial the pre-programmed digit(s) and connect. Just make sure you put your mom at number one!

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Telemarketer Blocking

This is a neat feature for blocking those unwanted telemarketing calls. Have you noticed that there is often a few seconds of quiet when you answer the phone? Well this is almost always because it is an auto-dialer and it is waiting for someone to answer before it will connect them with an agent. This feature will not allow them to waste your time as it will immediately disconnect the call before they can talk.

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This is a fantastic feature and one you will love if you are fed up with telemarketers phoning just as you sit down for your evening meal. This feature typically sends out a special tone that fools the telemarketers auto-dialers into thinking that your number is not in service. The auto-dialers disconnect immediately and move onto the next number, leaving you to eat your evening meal in peace.

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Toll Free Numbers

Many companies offer this as an option for people to call them while avoiding charges. The owner of the Toll Free Number will pay for the call at a premium rate.

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Have kids at college who complain about how much it costs to phone you each week? Have a small home business and want it to look professional? Your grandmother is on a fixed income and can't afford the charges to phone you? Then this is a feature you need to consider. With a toll free number anyone in the US can call you for free. When someone calls your toll free number your primary VoIP phone line will ring. Service Providers typically charge a monthly fee (around $5) for this service, with some incoming minutes free of charge, and then a fixed rate for minutes that you use over your free monthly quota (typically 4 to 5 cents/min).

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Travel Globally

Avoid expense international calling charges by taking your VoIP system with you abroad. Just connect your ATA to the Internet and your phone will be up and running exactly as if you were using it at home.

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One of the great features and advantages of VoIP is its portability. All you need is a broadband internet connection and your VoIP enabled phone, ATA adaptor, or PC based 'softphone' and away you go. Your phone number is associated with your VoIP device (either your VoIP enabled phone, your ATA of your PC based 'softphone' feature), so no matter where you go, your phone number will be the same. As long as you have your phone plugged into a broadband internet connection, your phone will ring when someone calls your phone number, no matter where you are in the world. If you are going to visit the in-laws for a week but want to keep in touch with people back home, then just take your ATA with you, plug it in and make and receive calls as if you were back home. Going on a business trip for a few days. Take it with you and keep in touch with family and friends. Please remember when traveling internationally that you are responsible for your ATA which often belongs to the Service Provider.

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Unlimited to US/CAN

This is unlimited calling in both the United States and Canada. Be aware that reasonable usage limits always apply and are typically around 2,500 minutes per month. After that you will be a per minute charge.

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Do you find yourself caught chatting with your mother, sister or brother back home for hours? Stopped calling all your old college friends due to high phone charges? Do you dread those phone bills each month, wondering how much the charges will be? With this feature you can talk for as long as you like to anyone in the US or Canada, safe in the knowledge that your phone bill will be the same every month. No hidden charges and no extra fees for minutes used. This is truly one of the great features and advantages of VoIP telephony service.

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Author: Anthony

Published: by WhichVoIP


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WhichVoIP Visitor Comments

#2 : Posted by Joe Pierce on November 12th, 2013:

Interested in Basic Talk but have a couple of questions related to features: 1) Do they support call forwarding. 2) Can I fax with them.

-> Response: Unfortunately no you cannot do either, it is a very basic service. So no call forwarding support and no official fax support. There are lower cost providers that are full featured and support both of these items Joe - see our residential home page (use tab at top of page)

 

#1 : Posted by Jane on April 25th, 2013:

can I transfer my number to voip?

-> Response: Jane you can transfer your landline number to VoIP in probably 90% of cases. There are a couple of corner cases but rare these days. Thanks for your question.

 

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