Of all the tasks we use our smartphones for, calling might be one of the most neglected. You probably check Facebook or Twitter, check your fitness tracker data, or play games on your phone several times a day without even thinking about calling.
No matter how often you place phone calls, though, everyone has gotten an unwanted call at some point. Maybe it’s a political call during election season, a telemarketer that just won’t let up, a phone scammer, or even an ex-lover that you don’t want to speak with anymore. If this has become a problem for you, there are apps you can download to remedy the situation; let’s have a look at some!
Try Blocking Numbers on Your Device First
Blocking numbers at the system level used to require a rooted phone, but thankfully Android allows you to do a lot more without rooting these days. The process differs depending on who makes your phone, but we’ll try to cover all the bases.
First on stock Android (though it may work for others), try blocking the rogue number from your call history list. Open the Phone app and navigate to the Recent Calls list (usually designated with a clock icon). Long-press on the number that you want to block, and choose Block number.
With this method, calls are automatically ignored and all voicemails from the offender are immediately deleted. Thus, they’re out of your sight!
To block a number that isn’t in your recent calls list, open the Phone app and click the three-dot overflow menu in the top-right (up on the search bar). Choose Settings and then Call blocking. Here you can add any number or contact to your block list, achieving the same effect as above.
If your phone doesn’t have this option due to phone manufacturers’ customizations, then you should try to block them as a contact. If the person you want to block isn’t on your contacts list (likely for robo-callers), just create a new contact called “Ignore” or “Blocked Callers” and add the number to it. Once you’ve done so, visit the Contacts app (sometimes called People) and navigate to your new contact. Tap the pencil icon in the top-right area of your contact, followed by the three-dot overflow menu.
— Jason Anderson (@jasonlanderson) February 5, 2016
Now you can check the All calls to voicemail box, suppressing all calls from this user. To avoid these numbers clogging up your contact list, add each number you want to block as an alternate number for the same contact — then they’ll all be blocked under the same name. Having the caller leave a voicemail is annoying and not a perfect solution, but at least you won’t be bothered by the call.
Can’t get either of these methods to work? If you have a Samsung device, try opening the More menu from the Phone app, then go to Settings > Call Blocking, where you can add numbers to a block list. For LG devices, tap the three-dot overflow menu in the Phone app and go to Settings > Call Reject > Reject calls from and add some numbers.
The Best Apps for Blocking
If the above methods don’t work for you, seem too limited, or you want a more versatile solution, there are tons of apps that will block unwanted communication for you. These might not be apps everyone should install right away, but if you’re having a real problem with bad calls, have a look at these.
Putting my phone back on block mode. I said it many times. I don't do phone calls
— Anthony Whetstone (@anthony_terrell) March 18, 2016
Mr. Number is a free app for blocking unwanted calls that doesn’t require too much overhead setup. When you install the app, you can pick from three general categories of calls that you don’t want to get: scam/dangerous numbers, spam/annoying numbers, and any numbers listed as Unknown.
In my case, I wouldn’t want to block Unknown numbers because I have family members who have their number hidden by default, but if you have an issue with prank callers or something, this setting could help you out.
Once you’re in the app, there’s not much more on your end to set up. From the main screen, you can enable/disable the app’s protection completely, or change your blocking settings by clicking the Blocking Enabled field.
Here, you can adjust your choices from earlier, as well as block international numbers or any numbers not in your contacts (probably not a good idea if you get a lot of business calls). To add your own numbers manually, just click Numbers on my block list and add any number you’d like.
That’s about all the setup Mr. Number requires! Now just wait for some calls and you’ll get information about them when they call — if a dangerous number rings, the app will alert you while your phone is ringing. Make sure that it’s not accidentally blocking any calls that you need at first, then enjoy a peaceful phone life!
Call Blocker Free
Call Blocker Free is a similar app to Mr. Number, but gives you some different controls. Call Blocker doesn’t have general categories like Mr. Number, instead allowing you to add numbers to a whitelist. When you first launch the app, you’ll see places where the app collects blocked calls (and texts, if you’re below Android 4.4 KitKat), but it won’t do anything until you set it up. Slide over to the right tab that looks like a funnel to get started.
You can add numbers to the Blacklist (numbers that aren’t allowed) and the Whitelist (numbers that are always allowed) by tapping their field and pressing the white plus in the top-right corner of the screen. You can choose to add numbers from your call history, contacts, recent text messages, or just punch them in manually. Once you’ve got these numbers set up, it’s important to make sure that the Blocking mode on the funnel page is set to your liking, because that’s how this app sets itself apart.
You can choose from four options:
- Accept all is pretty much pointless if you want to use a call blocking app in the first place!
- Block all from blacklist is a good choice if you need to block only certain numbers. This keeps you from having to tediously add numbers to the whitelist and is a good default option.
- Accept only from whitelist is a strong option, but if you have a real problem with phone harassment, this is a great way to ensure that only the people who you allow can reach you.
- Accept only from whitelist and contacts allows you to use your contacts list as a built-in whitelist and add other numbers in the app as needed, similar to the above.
The app has a settings menu, accessible by pressing the three-dot overflow menu in the top-right, but it’s crowded by a bunch of ads for other apps, so watch out for that. Here you can change the way the app blocks calls (the default Hang up is probably fine), as well as if you want to be notified when the app blocks a call. Most people shouldn’t need to bother with these.
What did people do before the 'block' feature for phone calls?
— nicholas revello (@Nicky560) February 27, 2016
Overall, Call Blocker is a good choice if you need to block calls (and want to block texts on Android 4.3 Jellybean or earlier), or have serious problems with phone harassment and need to maintain a strict whitelist. If neither of these apply to you, Mr. Number is a better choice for most people.
Truecaller has more setup involved than the other apps. You’ll need to confirm your phone number and create an account (Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn are supported, as well as the old-fashioned way) before accessing the app. From the main screen, you can search any phone number you like to get more info on it. This works great for those 1-800 numbers that call with no information; here you can see what they’re for at any time.
Aside from searching, the app has two other tabs: Discover and Block. The Discover tab told me that “There are no suggestions at the moment” in my testing of the app; perhaps this collects spam numbers that have recently called you and suggests you block them.
The Block tab is a similar story to the previous two apps — one click subscribes you to spam blocking from numbers that others have reported as spammy. If you find one of these to be in error, you can always unblock it. You can choose to block all hidden numbers if needed, and the app also allows you to choose whether blocking means rejecting the call or letting it ring silently.
I block every single telemarketer's number who calls my cell phone
— Zach Swartz (@zachswartz3) March 12, 2016
The Plus bubble in the bottom-right of this tab lets you add any number to block — manual typing, call history, and contacts are all supported. Truecaller also lets you block numbers in a certain series; for example, you could block a whole area code or all 800 numbers. This could make Truecaller the best blocking app for some people, while others might not care about blocking numbers in a certain series.
Of course, Truecaller also gives you information about incoming calls as they happen. The app neatly goes the extra mile by giving you the option to identify phone numbers that you copy from anywhere, ensuring you always know what phone numbers you’re working with without even visiting the app.
Truecaller feels like a more “full” solution than the above two apps due to its ability to lookup any phone number. For those who want more control over what numbers they block than Mr. Number or find Call Blocker a bit bland, this is the app for you.
You might think of phone spam as more of a problem in phone calls, but if you’re looking to stop SMS spam alone, SMS Blocker is an app to try. Upon first launch, you’ll be able to select any conversations in your SMS inbox that you want to block, and you can always add more after that.
SMS blocking apps ran into an issue in Android 4.4 KitKat, as only one app can handle text messages. If you’re on 4.3 Jellybean or lower, you can use SMS Blocker to block messages and use your favorite SMS app to actually text. On 4.4 or above, you unfortunately have to make SMS Blocker your default app to use its functionality, so consider that before you replace your current texting app.
Like the others, the app allows you to add numbers to a blacklist or whitelist. You can add a specific number, a series (all 1-800 numbers, for instance), or specific words to block or allow. If you constantly get credit card offers, you could simply block the word “credit” and not have to hunt down all the numbers who spam you with these ads. You can also block MMS messages from any number.
While the app is free, you have to upgrade to the Pro version for a whopping $8 to remove ads, block more than 30 numbers, block any texts from unknown numbers, or send a custom response when blocking a number. These features certainly aren’t necessary if you just need to block a handful of numbers, but this combined with the fact that you need to make it your default messaging app means you might as well just use Truemessenger if you’re going to go all-in with an SMS blocking messenger app as your default. You’ll get a better experience without ads.
Of course, this assumes you have a big issue with spam texts. If you just need to block a number or two and move on, many popular SMS apps (such as Textra) allow you to blacklist a number right inside the app. This means you can block the offender without giving up the app’s other features, like quick-reply windows and customizable notifications for each contact. This is all most people should need.
A Word on Carrier-Specific Methods
Phone carriers don’t have the best track record; they gouge you on new phone prices and limit the capabilities of your smartphone with annoying restrictions. Thus, while most carriers offer options to block phone numbers for you, it’s no surprise that many add another charge on your bill for the service — AT&T charges $5 a month to block up to 30 numbers, T-Mobile is also $5/month, and Verizon, while free, forces you to refresh your blocked numbers every few months.
I hate AT&T?I call to block a number and that number is still able to text me… why am I paying to have it blocked then..
— Taylor Ross (@ThatGirlTayRoss) July 25, 2013
Sprint is the only major carrier that offers call blocking for free with no qualifiers, and you can perform the process online if you want to. However, for everyone else, using your phone’s built-in methods or one of the great apps above should be more than enough of a solution. Less popular carriers might not even have support for blocking numbers; Google’s Project Fi (our overview) simply directs you to sending calls to voicemail as outlined above.
If you have a massive problem with someone pestering you or get incessant automated calls, you might need to escalate the issue to the police or take similar action; your carrier isn’t going to do much that you can’t already do yourself on your phone. Stick to taking control of your own device and deal with your annoying carrier as seldom as possible.
How Do You Say No?
Whether you want to stick to built-in methods or prefer an app take care of your call blocking needs, with these easy solutions nobody need suffer through unwanted calls. Your time is valuable; don’t waste it stressing about useless calls or sifting through voicemail from a robot for the tenth time this week. You’re in control of who calls you!
Now that you’ve got phone spam under control, take a minute to be sure you aren’t making mistakes in your email that could lead to spam!
What other apps/methods do you use for blocking unwanted calls? Tell us your worst annoying call stories in the comments below!