Convert Your Home Phone Into Your Bluetooth Cell

Panasonic Link to Cell KX-TH1211 works well as promised, but do you need it?

The Link to Cell KX-TH1211 from Panasonic
The Link to Cell KX-TH1211 from Panasonic. Image © Panasonic

Guide Result: Recommended

Recommended For: Improving Reception, Battery Life
Not Recommended For: Those Already Satisfied at Home

“Your cell phone is your lifeline. Now it can be your home line, too.”

While that catchy marketing jargon is designed for you to understand the benefit of the new Link to Cell device from Panasonic, what it actually means is you can talk on your home phone while really using your cell phone (and its minutes and cellular service).

But do you really want to do that? More important, do you really need to do that? That’s Panasonic’s biggest hurdle to leap and could potentially be the top reason why consumers wouldn’t bite.

As for why you might, Panasonic says one primary reason you should use its Link to Cell device (model KX-TH1211) is because you can talk on your home phone and save your cell phone’s battery life.

Since you’re still using a cordless phone with this system, though, what about the battery life of the Link to Cell cordless phone? Why not just plug in the charger to your cell phone and sit a few feet from the wall?

This selling point from Panasonic could be dissembled just as easily as it could prove beneficial.

Link to Cell comes with one cordless home phone handset, so if you already have one, you don’t need it. The Link to Cell cordless phone requires seven hours to complete a full charge, but if you want to use it immediately out of the package, you still can.

While Panasonic recommends at least a 15-minute charge out of the box, in testing we found you could use it right away if you so desire.

The cordless phone must use two rechargeable Ni-MH batteries, which do come supplied. This means you don’t have to keep feeding the cordless phone with new batteries.

Link to Cell rates the operation time of its cordless phone at five hours in continuous mode, which competes favorably to the best cell phones on the market today. The killer iPhone 3G from Apple, for example, also rates at five hours of talk time. The Link to Cell cordless phone rates at 11 days on standby time.

If you’re not keen on the Link to Cell battery life bonus, a second and potentially more important perk centers around cell phone reception. Unless you’re in a spot where your entire environment proves to be a dead zone for your cell phone, you may find yourself having some areas that are weaker than others.

While you may find the concept awkward at first, the design of Link to Cell is for you to leave your cell phone in a spot where it gets its best reception. Then just let Link to Cell do the talking.

You could be on Link to Cell in a spot where you’d typically receive poor reception because you’re cell phone is still sitting in a spot where you receive strong reception. Link to Cell could prove especially beneficial for consumers who’ve eliminated their landlines entirely and buy into the battery and reception benefits of the device.

Still, there’s another factor to keep in mind: your cell phone has to “see” your Link to Cell cordless phone in order for all this to work.

If your cell phone doesn’t have short-range Bluetooth wireless technology (many phones today do but many still don’t), you can’t use Link to Cell at all. Also, even if your cell phone is Bluetooth compatible, it still may not work with Link to Cell. 

In testing, Link to Cell proved to be able to initiate and maintain a strong Bluetooth connection over a very lenient distance. This essentially means your cell phone is connected or “paired” with the Link to Cell cordless phone via Bluetooth.

Panasonic recommends for you to be within two feet to 10 feet for the best experience and says it’ll work up to 30 feet apart. In testing within an 840-square-foot apartment, the Link to Cell cordless phone stayed paired with its cell phone all throughout the space without losing the connection.

The pairing even maintained while going into other rooms and entering a bathroom with the door closed. The connection was severed only from walking outside of the apartment and far down the hall. If the Bluetooth pairing is lost, Link to Cell will try to reconnect automatically if it can.

A third potential selling point of Link to Cell can be confusing. Panasonic says no landline is required to use the device. Because the purpose of Link to Cell is to place and receive phone calls using your cell phone’s service and minutes, of course you wouldn’t need a landline to complete this kind of call.

Link to Cell can, though, still be used just like you use your regular landline cordless phone. Should you decide not to pair it with your cell phone and place a landline phone call instead, you do have that option.

A fourth and final perk to Link to Cell is its ability to expand and work with up to six cordless phones placed sporadically through your house (so long as the one you’re using at the time is paired with and near your cell phone). Extra Link to Cell cordless phones are sold separately.

Also, you can pair the Link to Cell base unit with up to two Bluetooth-enabled cell phones at once and decide which one to use with a simple button. You can also assign different tones to each cell phone to help differentiate the two. Link to Cell also has various other features including talking caller ID, night mode and call blocking.

The suggested retail price of Link to Cell (with one cordless handset included) is $99.95. The suggested retail price of additional handsets is $39.95 each.

While these prices are reasonable for the benefits they’d potentially afford you and the device does deliver on its promises with quality, your most important consideration is whether or not you have the pain that Link to Cell solves.

Update: Information about a competing product, which is called XLINK BT, is here.

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