How to Automatically Record Calls on Android and Never Run Out Of Space

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call recorder icon   How to Automatically Record Calls on Android and Never Run Out Of Space

I like email, because it’s permanent. When someone tells me something over email, it stays on record: I can look it up when I need it, and there can never be any confusion about what was said. With phone calls, not so. Have you ever forgotten important directions given to you over the phone? Or has a company ever reneged on its promise to you, and you were left with no way to prove that a service representative did indeed make that promise? That’s when call recording becomes indispensable. Of course, if you have to remember to record every call, chances are you’re going to forget to record that one call that really matters. So, not just call recording, but automatic call recording – that’s what you need.

Why Automatic Call Recording Is Tricky

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To automatically record calls on Android is tricky for two main reasons:

  • It’s a thorny legal issue: First and foremost, recording your own phone calls may not be legal in your country. I think that’s unfair (they’re your calls, after all, and the NSA probably already has a copy of them anyway), but life isn’t always fair. So, the first tricky part is figuring out if you’re allowed to record calls, and whether you must tell the other side you’re recording. In some countries, even if both parties know about the recording, that would still be violating the law.  Wikipedia offers some help in the form of an article about telephone recording laws. That’s a good starting point for figuring out whether or not you’re even allowed to record calls. Do your homework, or you might get into a very unpleasant legal situation.
  • It’s a finicky technical problem:  Even if you’re allowed to record calls and use them as evidence, chances are the first call recording app you’ll pick isn’t going to work right off the bat. That may have something to do with the fact call recording is a low-level system function, but regardless of the reason, actually getting a call recorder to work requires some persistence and a strategy. That’s what I’ll try to help you with.

The Hard Technical Part: Finding The “Best Call Recorder” for Android

record3   How to Automatically Record Calls on Android and Never Run Out Of Space

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Call recording apps tend to fail in a couple of ways: They may record nothing, or they may record just one side of the conversation. To overcome this, I suggest the following method to record calls on Android:

  • Make some time for this (this will take fiddling), and get two phones: One would be your own, and the other would be a phone you’ll be talking to, to simulate the other side of the call.
  • Install a call recorder app. Get a free or trial version – don’t spend any money yet. You can try Call Recorder, or Automatic Call Recorder, or any of the myriad other ones. It will likely not be the only app you try. I’ve personally had luck with Automatic Call Recorder, which was the second I tried.
  • With the app installed, call yourself using the other phone you have to hand.
  • Speak into one phone, quietly, taking care to keep the other phone’s microphone well away from you. Say something distinct so that you’re able to tell which side of the conversation this is (i.e, “this is me, talking into the other phone”).
  • Now switch to your own phone, and say something, quietly.
  • Repeat this a couple more times, switching back and forth, then hang up. The call should be at least 30 seconds long, because many recorders begin recording only once a few seconds elapse.

Now go to the call recording app and try to listen to the output. It’s very likely you will hear nothing, or only one side of the conversation. That doesn’t mean the app is bad: Now it’s time to dig into the settings and figure out how to change the recording source to something that works for your device. For Automatic Call Recorder, the relevant settings page looks like this:

Call record 1   How to Automatically Record Calls on Android and Never Run Out Of Space

This dialog differs between apps, but all of the serious apps feature some way to switch recording sources. Don’t give up on an app you like before you try fixing this part. Note that the app offers no less than eight different audio sources. I believe Mic was the first one, and that didn’t work for me. Once I switched to Voice_Call, it started working. This is why people trying to find “the best call recorder for Android” often end up feeling frustrated: It depends on your device. An app that works wonderfully for someone else may utterly fail on your device, and vice versa. Trial and error is the only way to figure this one out.

Once you pick a different audio source, call yourself again and repeat the testing procedure. This is annoying, and the audio source names can be confusing, but it works. Another issue you may have is with the recording levels: Some apps may record your side very loudly, and the other side too softly. Changing sources may help – and sometimes you can configure the recording volume, too.

If you can’t find an audio source that works (or discover you just don’t like the app), it’s time to try another app.

Bonus points: Many apps (and even some ROMs that come with a call recording feature) use file formats called AMR or 3GP. That’s annoying, because it’s not always easy to find a player that can play these recordings. The better call recorders let you switch to a common format like MP3 – see “File format” below:

Call record 2   How to Automatically Record Calls on Android and Never Run Out Of Space

Now that you have reliable, automatic recording, comes the easy part: Making sure they’re reliably backed up, and that they don’t clog up your phone.

The Easy Technical Part: Never Running Out of Space

When I say “never run out of space,” I mean space on your phone. That always tends to be at a premium, especially if you’re an app junkie or if you have lots of videos, photos, and music. The solution I found is to sync the recordings to the cloud as soon as possible, and automatically remove them from the device once that’s done. To do this, I use Dropsync. Dropsync is a powerful third-party Dropbox client, and it has a feature the official Dropbox app doesn’t have:

Call record 3   How to Automatically Record Calls on Android and Never Run Out Of Space

It lets you specify any folder on your SD card for synchronization, as well as how exactly you want it synchronized. Above you can see I’ve directed Dropsync at the folder my call recorder uses to store recordings, and told it where to save those recordings in my Dropbox. But the really important bit is the Method: “Upload then delete.” This means I never have any call recordings taking up space on my device.

Of course, you may run out of Dropbox storage space, but that’s something that’s far easier to solve. Once the files are on your computer, you can run a scheduled task to move them to some other folder, or use an app like Belvedere to automatically move them out. Then again, if you happen to own a Samsung device, you may have received a 2-year 50GB Dropbox allowance when you first activated your device, making the whole thing a non-issue.

Final Thoughts: Takes Some Time, But Worth It

This whole setup takes a little bit of fiddling to get right, but it will all be worth it the first time you realize you need to re-listen to a phone conversation. Not only will you have the recording ready, it will already be waiting on your computer, so you can listen to it with a proper audio player and using decent speakers. Another benefit of this system is that it is not dependent on any specific ROM for your device – so if you switch to a ROM that doesn’t have built-in call recording, that won’t matter.

Will you be giving this a shot? I’d love to hear what recording settings worked for your particular device, and what recorder app you ended up picking. Good luck, and let me know below!

Image credit: Man talking via Shutterstock, Frustrated Woman via Shutterstock

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15 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Taha Baba

thanks for this article

Reply

DmitryIV

I have been using “Call Recorder” for one year. This app is very simple, stable and useful. If you ever forget all that they say to you on the phone then this app is useful to you.

Reply

Kannon Yamada

This is easily one of my favorite articles published this month. In particular, I like how it covers the synergy between two apps, resulting in an entirely new, and highly useful, feature. Thanks for publishing this.

Unfortunately, within California at least, it would require asking for permission to record on every call. I wonder if it’s possible to use it in combination with a doormat service that rolls a prerecorded disclaimer at the beginning of each call (these calls may be recorded)? Those disclaimers legally allow recording, without asking for consent (since consent is implied).

Erez Zukerman

Thank you, Kannon! :) So nice to hear you liked the article. Integrating with a doormat service could work from a legal perspective I think, but it would be very odd for day-to-day conversations. I mean, starting a call with a friend with a pre-recorded “This call may be recorded” message might get pretty awkward. :)

Kannon Yamada

If a friend of mine calls me he had better be prepared for an awkward conversation.

Erez Z

LOL! :D

Reply

Jeremy Garnett

I have been using Automatic Call Recorder for some time, and have been satisfied with it thus far. I’m not too concerned about the legal repurcussions as I only use it to record the conversations between myself and my parents. That being said, what I am concerned about is their eventual deaths, and being able to hear their voices, afterwards.

Reply

F

Hey there! Thanks for the informative article!
I need to buy a new smartphone and I was thinking I want one which has a strong support for call recording right out of the box. Can you suggest one? I was thinking a quad-core like Nexus 4 or Galaxy S4 or a quad-core Huawei … is there a recent smartphone that is sure to have call recording capabilities?
Thank you!
F.

Erez Z

Hey F.

The Galaxy S4 is capable of recording calls, but it does require a slight software tweak to switch that ability on (not a new ROM). I personally use the app shown here with the Sony Xperia Z, and it is working well. Good luck!

Reply

Russ

Att Galaxy s4 – new software is not allowing phones to record calls on any app. My old s2 worked fine but on newer phones, you can only record the microphone.

The fix is to root the phone, then download Boldbeast recorder. This app has a feature that will actually change the software to be able to record the caller as well.

Reply

Acol

Hi, thanks for the article. Well written.

I use Bluetooth on most of my calls. Is there any app that supports recording that ?

Acol.

Erez Z

Well, what’s cool about the method I propose above is that it lets you find that out for yourself. :) I show exactly how to figure out whether a call app works for your phone/bluetooth combo – it’s easy and takes just moments. Good luck!

Reply

Arnold Farnswargle

Erez: I need a similar call recording app but it must answer all incoming calls with a message and notification — “Hello, you have reached Bob Smith. All calls are recorded. Press 1 to immediately connect to Bob, or if you do not consent to having this call recorded, press 2 to exit now and hang up.” If the caller presses 1, then my phone rings through to me and I answer with confidence the call is being recorded; no calls come through unless the caller consents to the call being recorded. I have dozens of friends who have all expressed interest in such an app, and I wouldn’t mind if it required me to buy a certain handset or spend an hour or two configuring and setting it up. Ideas? Can you think of relevant search terms to locate such an app, if one already exists? Regards, Farnswargle

Erez Z

Hey Farnswargle — that’s an interesting request! Here’s what I would actually propose: Since you have dozens for friends interested in it, you could actually put a list of them together and pledge to all pay for it — and then email a developer of an app to ask him to make the feature for you, collectively.

Actually that could be an interesting adventure to write about – feel free to email me (you can find my email on my author page) and maybe we can do something cool with your idea right here on MakeUseOf.

Reply

Farnswargle

Thanks, Erez! Great suggestion. I may just do that. We’re a bunch of professionals who bill hourly, and while it isn’t often that we are misquoted, or given strained, perhaps overly biased evaluations of fact sets, or in general finding our professional advice later questioned, it would be great to have this armor plated proof legally available. Email, MP3 attachment: issue settled. I might even add a “Press 2 for my statement regarding possible use of recordings” and with that, a reference to a webpage agreement that could be printed out to assuage those worried that I might make frivolous use of the recordings: no YouTube or mocking mashups, for example. Regards, Farnswargle

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