We have several forms which enable users to enter a phone number. Corresponding to the number, we have a "Phone Type" field which allows them to select work, mobile, home etc.

Phone Type lacks descriptiveness but I haven't been about to see any particular semantics for the term.

In this case, what is the proper term for "Phone Type"?

  • Could you please give a bit more context? What do you need that information for? Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 22:27
  • 1
    To keep it simple for user, Preferred contact or alternative number Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 8:24
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    why do you even need to know that?
    – njzk2
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 16:38
  • This was written in a mobile confirmation order. My question is: What is the meaning of "Other"?
    – user87196
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 1:32

6 Answers 6


Why do you need to know the phone type? Is what you really want to know the preferred phone number and secondary phone number?

It seems to me that when people ask for "home", "work" and "mobile" phone numbers, they are assuming that the home number is preferred, and you should try to reach them at that number first. One might then try work number during the day and then the mobile phone last since that was once considered an expensive call.

But none of these assumptions holds true today. I might want you to call me at work in the evening if the mobile number is somehow not answered (when does THAT happen?) and really never to call the home landline (if such a thing exists). In my case, for example, I do not have a home landline and nobody ever calls me at my work number (except for wrong numbers). I prefer everyone just call my mobile phone.

This situation is a good example of the UX principle to identify the need rather than just collect data or go with what we've always done before or what our competition does.

Unless you are gathering data on what sorts of telephones your users have, I would assume you are trying to gather information on how to contact them and some priority of method.

So why assume when you can ask them?

Give three phone number options:

  • Preferred phone number
  • Alternate #1
  • Alternate #2


Please let us know how to reach you:

  • Daytime telephone number
  • Evening telephone number
  • Alternate telephone number
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    Why do you assume that the reason why @zwerdlds needs this information is to give the numbers a preference when deciding the best time for calling? Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 22:27
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    @luchomolina: the answer isn’t assuming that. It’s asking OP to question what purpose they are really using the information for, and suggesting time-based preference as one likely answer.
    – PLL
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 15:15
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    You need phone type to know what value the phone has to marketing and spamming services: if it is a mobile, they cannot put it on certain lists, etc.
    – Yakk
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 18:15
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    @zwerdlds "Phone Type" is accurate if you have no idea what any of the numbers will be used for. Any other term, as Eric has answered, requires context. I'm not sure how you can design a form to collect and store personally identifying information without any context.
    – EKW
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 18:23
  • "the mobile number is somehow not answered (when does THAT happen?)" - If you're not in my contacts, I send it to voicemail ;)
    – Izkata
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 19:27

Version A

I think Apple has a very good and simple design pattern for the "Phone Type". They are not even displaying a label (see below).

Given the customer base you have, take a look at the most common "type" people are choosing / selecting and make it your default.

Phone Type

Version B

O.R. Mapper brought up a good point in comments below about tooltips, which I think is a good point and maybe a better UX given a different audience. The tooltip could provide all necessary information describing the group and labels for each field.

Phone Type plus a tooltip

  • 2
    Indeed. Not everything needs a label. Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 18:43
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    Can you upload a screenshot / wireframe of what those forms look like and i'd be happy to provide an alternate solution given your particular situation.
    – Igorek
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 20:29
  • If you MUST use a label AND if you are asking what that label should be, then 'Phone Type' is clear and common label, it's used by Google Voice and other VoIP companies when setting up your account. If you are looking for possible alternatives, Stanley is right, 'Label', 'Type' could suffice. Other option is 'Phone Location' (assuming multi-level office and different conference rooms). Third alternative would be asking users to 'nickname' the phone, but it's not a common pattern. IMHO, i dont see what is preventing you from dropping that label and simplify UX
    – Igorek
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 22:07
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    @zwerdlds The best terminology depends on the situation. Without more context, the safest label would be the generic "phone type". Which may or may not be helpful for a particular use case.
    – nightning
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 22:15
  • Is this really a quote (and if yes, from which source)?
    – unor
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 9:28

I think you should leave it more of a free form, because the labels may not necessarily correspond to the numbers assigned. It is up to the user to label them appropriately, thus LABEL or TYPE enter image description here

I can have someone's number that is a mobile phone but it could act as an office number...so to lessen the confusion I think just LABEL and leave it in the hand of the user to allocate them as they see fit.

  • 1
    In this case we have a need to tie it to a pre-existing format, which includes the various "types" of phone numbers, so enabling a user-defined label is not appropriate.
    – zwerdlds
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 20:21
  • i think LABEL would still work in your condition.
    – Stanley VM
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 20:43

One thing that could be clarified is the meaning of phone type. Does it refer to the situations and types of calls the phone is used for? Or the location of the phone? Is a work-phone one that is physically located at the office all the time (like a typical stationary/landline phone), or could a mobile phone which you take with you also be a work-phone if you use it for work related calls/tasks from home?

If phone type refers to physical location, then perhaps "Phone Location" would be the right term. In this case "office" might be a more precise term than "work".

If phone type refers to situation/type of calls, then perhaps "Phone Usage" would be the right term. In this case "personal" might be a better term than "home", and you might remove the "mobile" option.

A more generic term to cover both cases would be "Phone Context", but the ambiguity (are they asking me for location or usage?) might be confusing for some users.

Also, it is worth considering whether the options should be mutually exclusive or not. For example, I only have a mobile phone, which I use for everything, both personal and work. If you were asking me for location, I would select "mobile". If you were asking me for usage then I would select both "work" and "personal".


If you are collecting contact information, you are presumably also collecting email address, and/or other information. You can add a contact method subsection and allow user to select any at random.

Alternatively, if the options are predefined, you can use toggles below the input to select the type.

Also you can autodetect if it is a mobile phone number or a landline and show appropriate toggles, so you can reduce the options shown at a time.

"Device type" is a good term if you want to stick with your method.

  • 1
    '"Device type" is a good term if you want to stick with your method.' - aren't my home landline phone and my work landline phone really the same type of device? Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 14:59
  • Contact method is a good term then. But it is too broad of a term and should then include email, mail and other options as well.
    – Roh_mish
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 6:45

As long as it is clear that it pertains to the phone number provided*, what about "Contact Type"? (*so as not to invite answers like "email", ie. confusion with "preferred contact type")

  • 1
    Because "phone type" makes me want to answer "Samsung Galaxy" or "corded"
    – Nat
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 3:40

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