Home phones that'll help end nuisance calls

telephone call old lady©iStock.com/RapidEye

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

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Need to know
Price: £59.99
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.

BT 8500 home phone

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

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Price: £59.99
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.

Panasonic KX-TGH220

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

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Price: £44.99
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.

BT 6500

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

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Need to know
Price: £59.99
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.

Siemens Gigaset C620A

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

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Need to know
Price: £169.99
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.

BT Home SmartPhone SII

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.

In conclusion

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
Price £59.99 £59.99 £44.99 £59.99 £169.99
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

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