door call box on brick wall


If you own, manage, or develop multi-tenant buildings, you’re probably familiar with door entry systems. And one of the most common types of building entry systems is the multi-tenant call box. But if your property relies on a call box, you and your residents are missing out on access control systems that offer greater convenience and enhanced security.

Read on to learn more about door call boxes, how they work, and why you should ditch your call box and upgrade to a better entry system.

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What is a door call box?

A door call box is a door entry system that allows visitors to call residents and request property access.

Door call boxes are usually installed at entrances to:

  • Apartments
  • Gated properties
  • Offices
  • Commercial buildings
  • Industrial facilities

You can also use a call box for gate entry, in which case you would purchase a gate call box.

Sometimes called a telephone entry system or an intercom system, a front door call box consists of hardware at the entrance and hardware within each unit throughout the building. The system’s in-unit hardware could be a landline phone, a tenant’s cell phone, or a device with ‘listen’ and ‘talk’ buttons.


How does a door call box work?

Door call boxes work by enabling a visitor to contact a resident within a building to alert them of their arrival and request property access.

The outdoor call box device is connected — either wirelessly or with wiring — to all the indoor hardware. This connection allows visitors outside the building to talk to tenants within it. Most door call boxes operate with telephone technology — that is, telephone wiring or a cellular network.

In addition to the hardware and the phone connection, a door call box also requires a power supply and a door release system. The door release enables tenants to remotely unlock the door for their visitors. With the push of a button, a tenant can instruct the call box to unlock the door’s electric or magnetic lock.


Watch how ButterflyMX works:


How to use a door call box

Call box entry systems are straightforward to use because they operate similarly to telephones.

Here’s how to use a door call box:

  • First, a visitor searches for a tenant in the directory within the call box’s outdoor device. Alternatively, there may be buttons assigned to each tenant’s unit, which a visitor can press to call them.
  • The tenant receives and answers the call on their phone or in-unit device.
  • Finally, the tenant unlocks the door for their guest by pressing ‘9’ on their phone or the ‘door open’ button on their in-unit device.


5 reasons why you should ditch your door call box

Every multi-tenant building should have a door entry system, but a call box isn’t the best solution. There are better access control systems that offer improved functionality and enhanced features.

Here are the top five reasons why you should ditch your door call box:

  1. No video calling. Call boxes generally don’t have cameras, so they don’t enable video calling between tenants and visitors. This can create a security risk because residents can’t see who’s requesting property access.
  2. Difficult to install. Most door call boxes require you to run wiring throughout the entire building. And even cellular telephone entry systems — which operate over cell networks instead of wiring — require a separate cellular control box.
  3. No mobile app. Door call boxes don’t come with a mobile app. As a result, residents can’t remotely control access.
  4. Expensive to maintain. You’ll need a costly phone plan for your door call box. Additionally, you may have to pay a technician to manage and update your system.
  5. Inconvenient. Door call boxes don’t provide convenient property access. Most call boxes don’t offer any features enabling residents to open the door for themselves. So, residents are stuck carrying keys, fobs, or keycards. Call boxes also don’t integrate with other proptech or access control devices.


Granting access for visitor using a mobile app.


Best alternatives to door call boxes

Many door call boxes don’t offer robust visitor management features for both residential and commercial properties. So, if you’re considering a call box for your existing property or a new development, there are better entry solutions to choose from.

Look for an entry system that delivers a modern access experience designed for the way your residents live. After all, residents cite amenities that offer convenience and security as their highest priorities in an apartment. And an effective entry system can deliver both.

Here are the top three alternatives to a door call box:

  1. IP intercom: An IP intercom beats out the traditional door call box because it operates over the internet. As a result, it can transfer larger and more complex data, including video. Additionally, you won’t have to tear down walls or lay extensive wiring to install an IP intercom.
  2. Cloud-based access control system: Cloud-based access is ideal for any property because it empowers you to manage the system from anywhere. You’ll cut costs by hosting data in the cloud rather than maintaining a physical server onsite.
  3. Video intercom: Most door call boxes don’t come with a camera, which limits security at your property. Without a camera, your entry system doesn’t enable residents to visually confirm who’s requesting access. But a video intercom lets residents see their visitors before opening the door for them.


Read customer reviews of ButterflyMX


ButterflyMX door entry system

If you want to upgrade your door call box, consider ButterflyMX.

The ButterflyMX video intercom is the ideal solution for your front door because it enables seamless property access for residents and staff while also providing a simple way for visitors to enter. Residents enjoy video chatting with visitors and property managers appreciate ButterflyMX’s cloud-based dashboard.

Here’s what you get with ButterflyMX that you won’t get with an outdated door call box:

  • Integrations. You can integrate your ButterflyMX entry system with your property management software, apartment smart locks, and other proptech for a more efficient property.
  • Delivery passes. The ButterflyMX Delivery Pass is a one-time access code that residents send to delivery carriers. Couriers use the code to enter the building and successfully complete deliveries.
  • Keyless access. Your tenants bring their smartphones everywhere — so let them use their phones to open doors. ButterflyMX enables completely keyless entry.
  • A powerful mobile app. From the ButterflyMX mobile app, residents can open doors, update their personal access settings, create virtual keys for visitors, and more.
  • Easy installation. You only need three wires to install ButterflyMX: internet, power, and door strike. As a result, you’ll save time and money over installing a traditional door call box.
  • Audit trail of all door entries. Improve security at your property with a record of all door entries complete with time- and date-stamped photos.


replace your call box with a video intercom system


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Sophia Cooper

Born and raised in Colorado, I love the outdoors, good food, and anything related to real estate or technology.