I've been in my current post for just over a year and since this is the phone that graces my work desk, I've probably had enough use of it over the last 12 months to give a decent enough overview. Before you read any further, I should point out that this is a phone that is aimed at small to medium sized business users. The cost of this phone on Amazon is currently £174.24 so it's not the sort of phone you'd be likely to invest in for making personal calls at home. So having seen the price tag for this phone and very nearly fallen off my chair, I suppose I ought to tell you if I think it's worth it and why. The short answer is no. The long answer will follow.
Aesthetically, the phone is perhaps average. The handset half is in a dull granite plastic and the side which houses the buttons and LCD screen is a far from vibrant silver. On the surface, it doesn't look any more impressive to me than numerous Binatone phones I have used at home which have cost me considerably less. The granite and silver perhaps have an aura of professionalism making them suitable for the workplace but this is not a phone you will fall in love with at first sight and it certainly won't make you stand out from all your other co-workers to have this phone on your desk.
On the plus side, the phone has a few useful functions, although perhaps nowhere near enough to justify the extortionate price. There is a quite large sized LCD screen which, according to the manufacturers, 'The graphic capability of the display provides a rich user experience by providing calling information and intuitive access to features.' Whilst in essence this is true, there is clearly a bit of spin being used in suggesting that it provides a 'rich user experience'. As a phone that is produced, marketed and priced in line with business users, I would expect a certain amount of functionality. As it is, the Cisco 7912 IP phone perhaps disappoints with only a basic, though useful selection of functions available.
The screen does display incoming calls, enabling the overworked and underpaid office user to screen which calls they choose to answer. It will also display a message if you have missed calls and, similarly to most mobiles nowadays, you can access dialed, received and missed calls in a few simple steps. You also have the option to change your ring tone and the phone also comes with an inbuilt answer-phone which is secured by a PIN. You can access voicemail messages from any other phone that is connected to your Cisco IP network using remote access as well as from an outside line or mobile.
In an office where a number of workers are using the 7912 phone, the functionality does perhaps increase slightly. I'm particularly fond of the pick up feature which enables me to answer incoming calls on other phones in the office without having to move from the sanctuary of my own desk. Perhaps even better is the ability to forward calls to another extension. Technically this is practical if you work from more than one office, in reality, I regularly find lazy colleagues 'accidentally' end up forwarding all their calls to me so that they can dedicate their efforts to updating their Facebook status.
Whilst these functions are certainly useful, they perhaps don't blow me away. The handset itself is a regular cheap plastic handset. The only difference I can see between this and a value phone handset from Argos is that it has a red light which will switch on when you have a voicemail awaiting your response. The buttons are easy enough to use and average sized, but again, there's nothing particularly awe inspiring here. The LCD screen does improve the functionality of the phone but, being monochrome, it can be difficult to see. Despite the blinds being closed on the window behind me, I need to do some nifty adjusting of the angle of my neck, combined with some subtle squinting, in order to make out the time and date on the screen.
The quality of calls is another factor I find particularly poor. Whether I'm talking to my colleague in the office next door or someone on a mobile hundreds of miles away, the sound tends to be muffled and fuzzy. Even the highest volume isn't particularly loud and as the volume is increased, the sound quality seems to go from bad to worse. The cord from the phone to the handset isn't particularly long either and whilst the handset, cord or both could technically be replaced this seems like an unnecessary inconvenience and expense considering the initial cost of the phone. Another disadvantage of the phone as a business user is that it lacks the ability to make conference calls, which again seems like a letdown for the price you're paying.
The cost of the phone does include a license for using Cisco Callmanager which I can only assume is the system that is responsible for the voicemail functions etc. Unfortunately though, on the whole, I just don't find this phone impressive and functional enough to justify the price. Whilst it's perfectly adequate for most of my telephony needs, I feel there are plenty of other phones on the market that could be just as useful and far cheaper to purchase. If you have money to waste on an average phone with average performance then by all means, buy this. But a bit of research will get you either an equally functional phone for far less or a fantastically useful phone for the same price.