In an emergency, first responders will know exactly where you are. A 2014 survey by Find 911, a coalition of first-responder organizations, found that less than one-fifth of 911 dispatchers had “a great deal” of confidence in the GPS information that they received from cell-phone carriers. Current regulations require the carrier to locate an individual only within a radius of up to 1,000 feet when outdoors. There are no requirements for indoor or vertical accuracy, which can lead to dangerous delays in getting help if the person is in, say, a highrise building. Landline calls, however, are traced to the street address, which is usually more precise. Government regulators aim to improve the system. In the meantime, “if you call 911 on a wireless phone, be sure to give your exact location, like ‘apartment 20E, in the guest room,’” says Brian Fontes, the CEO of the National Emergency Number Association.
You don’t have to worry about spotty cell reception. Even in the tech hub of San Francisco, residents spend about 4 percent of their days without a cell signal, according to James Robinson, a cofounder and the chief technology officer of Open-Signal, a London-based company that tracks mobile access worldwide. The problem is far worse in cellular dead zones, like 13,000 square miles of West Virginia.
A landline’s sound quality is superior. Even the best smartphones can’t compare, says Mike Gikas, the senior electronics editor of Consumer Reports. This will be changing soon: Wireless carriers are adopting technologies that cancel background noise and extend audio frequencies to provide clearer conversations.