Sick 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.
I determine which app provides the best experience based on three criteria:
- Pros: I look at factors such as aesthetics, features and its overall utility. Did I find the app useful?
- 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. Also, for additional reference, read Chris Hoffman’s excellent explanation of Android permissions.
- Third, I evaluate the apps with a letter grade.
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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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.
- 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-
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.
- 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.
- 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+
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.
- 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.
- 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+
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.
Does anyone else use caller ID apps? Are there any other contenders? Let us know in the comments.
Image Credits: Phone via MorgueFile.com