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caller identification appSick and tired of unknown callers hammering away at your sanity? The vast majority of such calls originate from commercial entities, rather than your friends or loved ones calling from roadside assistance phones. But how would you know the difference between a telemarketer and a family member?

Simple: There exist apps that can identify your callers in real-time, meaning the software will check the caller ID of the incoming number against a database of known telemarketers and scammers. Most of the Android apps presented in this article will display the identity of the caller as the call comes in. For your convenience, I’ve reviewed each app, using a fairly standard set of criteria.

Criteria

I determine which app provides the best experience based on three criteria:

  1. Pros: I look at factors such as aesthetics, features and its overall utility. Did I find the app useful?
  2. Cons: I look at the more annoying features of the app, such as whether it was overly-permissioned. Some over-permissioned apps potentially expose the user to malicious activity. However, the very nature of a caller identification app requires a great number of permissions—but it may go overboard and request some unnecessarily. For more information on Android app permissions, check out my article covering some of the most dangerous permissions The Seven Deadly Android Permissions: How to Avoid the Sin of Slothful Preparedness The Seven Deadly Android Permissions: How to Avoid the Sin of Slothful Preparedness Everyone with an Android device should know that your private information isn’t treated as private. For example, making an app purchase may expose personal contact information, including one’s name, physical address and email address, to... Read More . Also, for additional reference, read Chris Hoffman’s excellent explanation of Android permissions How App Permissions Work & Why You Should Care [Android] How App Permissions Work & Why You Should Care [Android] Android forces apps to declare the permissions they require when they install them. You can protect your privacy, security, and cell phone bill by paying attention to permissions when installing apps – although many users... Read More .
  3. Third, I evaluate the apps with a letter grade.
For additional discussion on the technical aspects of caller ID apps, check out our discussion on the Answers forum.

Thread

Thread, currently in beta, comes poorly regarded in the Play Store with a score of 2.9/5—the most common complaint being that the app’s bugs and sluggish performance. However, on my Nexus 4, Thread ran smoothly and without issue. It includes a caller identification app features function as an overlay on your screen, displaying your contact history with the incoming call.

Pros:

  • Social integration: Thread can also integrate with all the major social networks—Twitter, Facebook and more. Whenever an incoming call hits your phone, the apps displays all your recent communications with them, also including Tweets, email and Facebook posts. To some extent, that’s creepy, but I found this highly useful in figuring out the nature and urgency of the call.
  • Deep Gmail integration: Thread can pull all your contact information from Google, which greatly increases its utility in finding information on incoming calls.
  • Great caller ID overlay: Thread superimposes the a very detailed caller ID over incoming calls—easily the most effective out of all the apps reviewed here. It includes recent contact information from all possible sources, such as email, SMS and social networks.
  • Aesthetically appealing: Great looking app! Thread incorporates a beautiful, easy-to-use design into its user interface.
  • Call and text filtering: Thread also can block calls and text messages from known spammers and specific individuals.

Cons:

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  • Over-permissioned: Thread includes slightly more permissions than a cautious user would be comfortable with. In particular, it includes the “precise location” permission, meaning it receives access to your GPS—more than likely for targeting ads to your geographic location.
  • Overly invasive: Thread really digs into your personal life, searching through emails and scouring through your contacts and SMS.

Final grade: A

caller identification app

TrueCaller

TrueCaller comes in second place in the Android app store, just behind Current Caller ID. It offers many of the same features as the other apps in this list, with few vices.

Pros:

  • Call and text filtering: Like most of the other apps, TrueCaller allows you to blacklist certain callers or texters. Numbers on the blacklist get blocked—this is incredibly handy for calls from telemarketers, scam artists and other irritants.
  • Social integration: Like the other apps, TrueCaller also integrates with Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.
  • Top spammers: TrueCaller keeps a database containing “top spammers” or known elements that your phone should automatically filter. Subscribing to this block-list automatically prevents these numbers from reaching you.
  • Aesthetically appealing: Great looking app! TrueCaller has a slick, easy-to-use interface.

Cons:

  • Poorly stated terms of service: TrueCaller includes a searchable database that they refer to as “enhanced search”. When you activate it, contact information copies from your phone into the TrueCaller database. However this feature doesn’t fully work for Android users (due to Google’s terms of service), although you search the database, your information isn’t added to it. What’s troubling is that the app appears to copy your information. You have to read the complete terms of service to learn that your information isn’t added to the database. Or is it?

Final grade: A-

caller identification software

Current Caller ID

Currently the ranking caller ID app in the Android Play Store, Current Caller ID offers a wide variety of features, ranging from filtering to social integration.  Developed by the WhitePages, it naturally offers access to the forenamed publication’s databases. Many users might appreciate its simplicity, although it comes off as the most vanilla of all the apps presented here.

Pros:

  • Caller and text blocking: Like the other apps, CCID can block texts and calls from irritating sources, such as telemarketers.
  • Social integration: Similar to its competitors, CCID can also integrate with a variety of social networks, such as Facebook Linked-In and Twitter.

Cons:

  • Over-permissioned: Current Caller ID, like the other caller ID apps, requires quite a few permissions. The majority of which can be explained, but several exceed the scope of the application. In particular, its access to your GPS seems a little over the top.

Final grade: B+

caller identification software

Mr. Number

Formerly the best of all the caller ID apps, a recent change in the Google terms of service killed off a major feature of Mr. Number—its crowd-sourced database of numbers, which identified around 70% of all callers (this number was very impressive). Its remaining features still make it a decent app, however.

Pros:

  • Searchable database: You can still independently search the identity of callers using Mr. Number’s online database. However, this interface is entirely manual, meaning you must type in each number before activating search.
  • In-call overlay: Whenever Mr. Number detects an incoming call, it overlays the caller’s previous contact history with you. This is highly useful for keeping track of your previous conversations with your contacts. Mr. Number’s overlay comes in second best, only behind Thread.
  • Great blocking: Mr. Number uses a database of known spammers and commercial lines, which you can use to automatically block irritating callers. It includes information on the business, if the call comes from an identified commercial line.

Cons:

  • No calling or texting.
  • Limited to 20 searches for numbers.
  • Over-permissioned: Like all the other caller ID apps, Mr. Number requests too many app permissions, in particular the ubiquitous access to your GPS.

Final grade: B+

caller identification app

Conclusion

Thread really is the best out of all the caller identification apps. It offers everything within the other apps and more. However, it’s important to note that before Google’s alteration of its terms of service, Mr. Number provided the best caller ID experience. Unfortunately, without its 70% accuracy in number identification, it falls behind Thread.

For Americans seeking to block irritating callers on landlines, check out the National Do Not Call Registry. And for additional caller ID apps, visit our Answers forum.

Does anyone else use caller ID apps? Are there any other contenders? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credits: Phone via MorgueFile.com

  1. Bob
    August 26, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    I would like to find an app that really does tell you who is calling BEFORE you answer the call. Unfortunately, True Caller and all the others I have tried do not do this, and I do not need to know it was a spammer AFTER I have answered it. My last gasp will be your first pick, Thread, & if that does not do what you say it does, I'll just stop answering any call I do not recognize as apparently this simple idea must be beyond tech capability.

    • Bob
      August 26, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      reply to my own post: downloaded the Thread apk & installed it, but in setting it up, I entered my e-mail address and password, and it will not respond to the enter tab being pushed at all. Just sits there. So much for your advice. I am switching to 2 tin cans on a string, and yes, call me a Luddite.

    • Kannon Yamada
      August 26, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      Thanks for letting me know about the apps. The article is around 3 years old now, so many of these apps might behave differently than they did back then.

    • Bob
      August 26, 2016 at 7:58 pm

      LOL, so is my phone (3 years old)...maybe it's telling me it's that time again....
      thanks for the article tho, liked it.

    • Kannon Yamada
      August 26, 2016 at 8:06 pm

      Thanks for the kind words. 3-years old isn't bad. It's the security problems that older versions of Android have that cause issues. Most of the malware, though, comes from outside Google's Play Store.

      I've been reading some disturbing things about these sorts of apps. i might need to remove it from publication.

      By the way, we've written articles on blocking telemarketers:

      http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/stop-annoying-telemarketers-robocalls-calling/

      However, the best service for blocking them is Google Voice:

      https://support.google.com/voice/answer/115089?hl=en

      I haven't received a single auto-dialer that I didn't want to receive in... 11 years now? My landline is totally devastated by auto-dialers though. :-(

  2. Marcel Twinbaum
    January 9, 2016 at 1:41 am

    TrueCaller definitely DOES or at least DID upload your contacts to their database--and it does so silently. I found my underage daughter's name and number there, along with the same for many of my contacts--too many to be a coincidence. And, of course, my own name and number was there. To unlist, they present a web page with a captcha that is the hardest I've ever seen; I could NOT figure out what it read, therefore I could not unlist without opening a support request, which was met with rudeness.

    • Kannon Yamada
      January 9, 2016 at 2:13 am

      That is absolutely horrible. Google needs to stop letting apps get so much of their users' personal data. It really opens the door to identify theft.

  3. Abhishek
    December 19, 2015 at 10:10 am

    I have truecaller ..
    But i have an issue i have good internet connection but when call coming internet connection is gone automatically off and after i disconnect the call data connection comes...... Sir pls help me if u can...

  4. N0body
    October 18, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    I didn't try the apps on this post, but I would guess that the GPS coordinates are for filtering a list of numbers so that you can store on your phone only numbers that people near you are getting (to save space). I don't think you really care about robo calls in Japan if you're in the USA. Just my guess.

  5. Margaret Holt
    September 22, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Personally I just don't like all of the bloat that comes with most of the Caller ID apps. I did just buy Who Dat? Caller ID Lookup. So far its doing what I want. I don't need anything to fa.ncy all I wanted was to see who was calling and it does that just fine. And privacy is important to me and correct me if I'm wrong but it seems like a lot of the free apps have ads and cookies to track you.
    Enough of me rambling ;) I liked your reviews.

    God Bless

  6. Jean-Michel A
    April 30, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    but all these are data dependent i just stick to google voice and i am done next i wish i can hear the presentation like when we use to listen to the voicemail before we picked up ...

  7. Sam Rosario
    April 28, 2013 at 7:39 am

    I downloaded Truecaller yday and it doesn't seem to work on my android. I got few telemarketing calls yday and i cud see truecaller was "searching the database" until i picked up the call. Does it need an internet connection to work or a good network. It seems like. Aren't there any good offline apps where it can search the unknown caller and give me the results.

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 28, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      I should have mentioned that searching the database requires an active data connection. To my knowledge, there aren't many used-based offline unknown caller ID apps. :-( Which is a shame because data connections are always very spotty compared to other cellular bandwidth.

      To my knowledge, the only one that can be used in the US is:

      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=and.p2l&hl=en

      I've never tried it - it got great reviews but it requires a few too many permissions and also includes ads in the free version.

    • Sam Rosario
      April 29, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      Yeah. Because not all people have an active data connection and for these people this application won't be useful. Even if people who have an active data connection if they are in a poor network area this application wont work.

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 29, 2013 at 8:44 pm

      Good point Sam. My apologies for not doing more international apps.

      There's one app that may or may not be any good. I cannot test it because it is region specific:

      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=in.andapps.callerlocationin&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwyLDEsImluLmFuZGFwcHMuY2FsbGVybG9jYXRpb25pbiJd

      It supposedly offers an offline mode for spotty data connections. Hopefully this is helpful! Good luck!

  8. Gary Mundy
    April 27, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    On my cel I don't answer calls that I don't recognize and if you don't leave a message it wasn't very important. It is more about use of air time. At home I love to talk to telemarketers and try to keep them on the line for as long as I can then dump the call just when they think the are getting close. Ya I'm an ass but it's a hobby that I enjoy. ;~) Now that I'm old it is all about the small pleasures.

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 28, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      Gary, I am impressed with your patience and commitment to justice. Thank you sir.

    • tom
      June 20, 2013 at 4:56 pm

      Haha I got a buddy who loves doing the same thing

  9. macwitty
    April 27, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    True caller user as it works very well to block spam in Sweden. Not totally happy about the terms of service

  10. Scott M
    April 27, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    I generally don't answer any unknown callers.I don't think there isn't any reason to hide your name if you calling me.I like this program that will filter the spam when I'm not being attentive to phone at the moment.I am on do not call registries and it still continues.Anything that will make it tougher on these callers is great by me.I like the product and hope we see future refinements and there will be many more programs developed by others.

  11. Jim
    April 27, 2013 at 6:49 am

    If my phone does not recognize the number from my contacts then I just don't answer it. Most of those never leave a message so it's not even any extra work. Anyone you wish to talk to is going to leave a message. Judicious use of Google Voice numbers for things likes Craigslist ads means you don't have a problem with marketeers picking up your "real" number.

    So, unless you're in a business where you expect to get a large number of client calls from new numbers, I don't really see the need for this app.

    Well, unless their target is the people who each time the phone rings thinks they've either won the lottery or their mother is in the hospital.

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 28, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      Shamefully, I am one of those people who sweat every time the phone rings with an unknown caller. What if it's someone calling from a pay phone? Or maybe it's a new friend! I know it's not, but every time the phone rings, that's the first thought that goes punching its way through my brain. :-(

  12. Mark
    April 27, 2013 at 12:25 am

    Though it requires a little extra work, I use the SMS & call filter which is already part of avast! Mobile Security. First off, I don't answer numbers I don't know. When I get an unrecognized call, I'll look up the number (1800notes is a good reference) to see what other say about it. If it's a telemarketer, etc. I add it to the blocked numbers in avast! and they will never get through to my phone again with that number. A little more labor intensive, but this solution totally works best for me.

  13. vicntc
    April 26, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    I've been using Mr Number for some time and have been very happy with it. I might look at the others but generally find Mr Number works for me.

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