You’ve probably had that moment where you observe your phone buzzing its way across the table. Then you realize that yet again it’s a number you don’t recognize. Do you answer it, only to be annoyed by another spammer who claims you’ve won A MILLION DOLLARS? Or do you let the call go, only to realize later it was the credit card company alerting you that your credit card account has been breached?
Unfortunately, this is a situation that has worsened because the National Do Not Call Registry isn’t as effective as it once was. Numerous robocallers and other scammers have moved overseas, outside the arm of U.S. regulations. They’re then free to bug you as much as possible.
While you can block numbers individually on your device, that won't help you to prevent any of the potentially millions of spam callers. And there’s no chance you’ll be able to filter out all millions of them on your own.
So it’s third-party apps to the rescue. I tried out several over the past few weeks and landed on three that I really liked. While I don’t get a ton of these calls, these apps all offered some additional features that I found added some nice value to my Android phone. If you’re sick of such calls, or maybe just want to inject some smarts into your phone’s dialer app, then it could be worth giving some of these a try.
CHECK OUT TRUECALLER
One good option is Truecaller. I especially like the interface, which is minimalist and adheres to Google’s Material Design aesthetic, a design approach that seeks to use familiar tactic attributes to ground user experience and to keep to a bold, simple and graphic visual approach.
The setup is also easy, though the app (like the others here) will ask to upload your contacts. You should be aware of this if you have concerns about apps logging or retaining information you consider personal - but the whole point to these apps is to see whether or not the people who are calling you is people you want to have call you.
Along with alerting you to unnamed callers and identifying them by the app’s database, Truecaller also serves as a faster way to find a phone number. You’re able to search through your contacts also, though that is part of a $1.99 monthly premium feature. This feature is nice, though it’s not really necessary if you happen to have a Nexus phone (then, Google uses its search prowess to make the dialer a hub for searching all of your contacts and other businesses).
Truecaller will alert you when you’re getting a call from someone on the blocked list, identifying the number so you can quickly zap it with one slide of your finger. I like how specific it is: Fake Insurance or Robocall are specifically spelled out.
While TrueCaller does a solid enough job, I wasn’t inspired to spring for the $1.99. I could imagine, however, it being helpful if your number ended up on the wrong list and you’re getting bombarded with these calls throughout the day.
MEET MR. NUMBER
With a soothing name like Mr. Number, you’d have to think that it will be your friend in keeping your phone safe from nefarious callers. In general Mr. Number does a great job - it’s straight to the point and gets the job done by throwing up a clear indicator when you’re getting a call from someone you’d rather not talk to.
I liked how this gave you a lot of information about unsavory dialers: Mr. Number taps into crowdsourced data to tell you if a number has been reported as spam or is connected to a cable company that’s known for bothering you at all hours with deals you can’t refuse.
If you’re not careful, however, the app can get over-aggressive and block everything that’s not in your address book. That isn’t good if someone needs to get a hold of you, whether it be as innocuous as your insurance agent or an actual emergency. So spend time in the settings to get it just the way you want.
REPLACE YOUR DIALER UI WITH CONTACTS CALLAPP
CallApp is more of a replacement dialer, which is sometimes necessary since some of the Android hardware makers produce terrible dialer user interfaces. CallApp even creates a dialer icon for you to replace the existing one on your phone’s home screen.
What I liked the most was the customization. For example, you can determine how private you can make your phone number: you can tell CallApp to block common spammers, private and hidden numbers, or specific contacts if it’s someone you would prefer to banish from your life.
The software is kind of oppressive at times, constantly bugging you to connect social media accounts so all your contacts’ pictures and networks are up to date (do I really need Uncle Jimmy’s dog as his contact profile? Especially if I'm trying to banish him from my life?). If you can bypass this, however, it could help restore some sanity to your life.
KEEP AN EYE TOWARD PRIVACY
The only downside to the options here is the apps all want access to your contacts, something you might not be particularly comfortable with. All the apps pledge that the information remains private and is never shared publicly, but it might be enough to give some pause.
There’s also the issue of adding some unneeded complexity to your smartphone life: if you’re not getting a ton of these calls, you may just be best to block the occasional ones you get instead of retooling your workflow for another app. Yet these options remain your best chance of avoiding the need to change your number if you’re getting bombarded with spam calls. That alone might be worth the temporary pain of disrupting how to make and receive phone calls.