In several countries, SMS spam is a real problem. People innocently give out their phone numbers when ordering food from restaurants or participating in a “lucky draw” at the mall. But soon after, they are bombarded with dozens of promotional text messages every day. Unlike email, many of these advertorial text messages don’t have any mechanism to unsubscribe from, and some of them can be scams too.
If you’re using an Android phone, there are apps that will help you deal with this problem. That’s because unlike an iPhone, Android allows third-party SMS apps into the Google Play store, and you can even set them as default apps for handling texts. Let’s look at some of the popular and most effective ones.
1. TrueCaller 8
True Software Scandinavia AB, a company known for the popular TrueCaller app, also made TrueMessenger, an app focused on weeding out spam text messages from your inbox. Since TrueCaller version 8.0, the app gained all of TrueMessenger’s features, the same way TrueDialer was rolled into the primary TrueCaller app in the past.
By installing TrueCaller on your Android phone, you get a dialler replacement and SMS app that populates unknown numbers with names from its database (and TrueCaller has a pretty good database in countries like India). Along with identifying the sender, TrueCaller also shows how many users reported a particular sender as spam. The app automatically blocks top spammers from reaching you over a text message.
What should you do when you get a spam SMS? The way to filter them out is simple: just click “Block & report spam” at the end of any conversation. By doing this, your phone won’t buzz the next time you get a text message from that sender, provided you’ve turned off the “Notifications for blocked SMS” option in the settings.
You can also quickly block senders by using the quick action shortcuts in a text message notification, or by selecting multiple threads from a list and clicking the block symbol at the top.
TrueCaller 8 is free to use but has an in-app purchase that removes the ads at the price of roughly a dollar per month. You should also be aware that apart from relying on public databases, the app also uploads your phonebook into their global database. That’s how it accurately puts names to phone numbers that aren’t publicly listed. You can also choose to unlist your number from their database, but doing that also means you can’t use their service using that number.
Download — TrueCaller (Free, ad-supported)
2. SMS Blocker
This app may not be as well-designed as the others, but SMS Blocker sure has some interesting features. A Block List lets you block texts from a sender, a series (for example, any numbers that starts with +1800), and even those that contain a word (like “offer,” “save,” or “coupon”).
This offers far more control over which SMS messages are declared spam than crowdsourced data. Similar to a Block List, there’s an Allowed List too, which is basically a whitelist of senders, series of numbers, and words that can get a qualifying message to your inbox.
SMS Blocker is an ad-supported app, and the $5 Pro version removes the ads and unlocks some features. In the Pro version, you can set it to automatically delete blocked messages or delete them in a single click, and there are no restrictions on the number of entries you can have in the Block List. You’ll also be able to choose a separate SMS tone for a message that isn’t landing in your inbox. You can even set automatic responses to blocked numbers, although considering most spam text messages are sent using SMS servers, we don’t think replying to those will be helpful.
Finally, there’s also this intriguing feature called “Block my Ex” where you can set up to five numbers, and any SMS that comes from those numbers will be permanently deleted as soon as it arrives (unlike a Blocked number, where the incoming message will show up in the Blocked Messages folder). The Pro version also lets you password-protect the app and backup/restore your preferences.
Download — SMS Blocker (Free, ad-supported)
3. Reos Message
Reos Message is a nice-looking SMS replacement app that takes a simple approach to dealing with spam. The app’s natural language processing (NLP) engine is trained to extract meaning from your texts, and it automatically sorts them into three tabs: personal, transactional, and promotional.
The personal tab is where you’ll see texts from your contacts, numbers you’ve replied to, or any other message that doesn’t fit the other two tabs. The tab next to it is Transactional because in many countries, transaction confirmations arrive via text message. Everything from hotel, flight, or movie bookings, to withdrawals from an ATM, to One Time Passwords (OTPs) all reach you via SMS.
This app neatly puts logos of companies in the area where the contact display picture shows up, which is a great visual cue when you’re looking for an SMS from a specific business. Another cool feature is Instant Cards, which contextually appear up on the top of the app, with just the relevant information extracted out of a text message. For example, when you’re transacting online and the financial institution sends you an OTP, you’ll only see the digits in a big, easy-to-read font. You can conveniently copy it from the app or the notification drawer in a single click.
The last tab is where all the “promotional” messages lie. In my testing, I found that the app was highly accurate in distinguishing between which messages went in which tab.
Download — Reos Message (Free)
4. Microsoft SMS Organizer
Born out of the software giant’s outlet for experimental projects, this India-only SMS replacement app also tries to tackle the issue of SMS spam. Starting the app for the first time, it moves what it thinks are promotional messages to a separate “Promotions” folder. Just like all the other anti-spam apps, you can choose to not make the phone buzz when a promo SMS comes in.
Text messages from numbers you’ve blocked appear in a separate “Blocked” folder.
With SMS Organizer, you can also star conversations, which puts them in a “Starred” folder (just like Gmail). Lastly — and this is smart — there’s a folder called Reminders that shows you informational cards generated after combing through your texts. For example, say you’ve received a text from your credit card company about the monthly bill and due date, all the relevant information neatly shows up in the “Reminders” folder.
Lastly, SMS Organizer also can automatically delete promotional, blocked, and OTP messages after a predefined time (a week, a month or a year). This is especially nice since those OTP messages aren’t valuable after a few minutes anyway.
Download — Microsoft SMS Organizer (Free)
Can You Really Get Rid of Spam for Good?
Well, these apps may help you segregate the wanted from the unwanted, but fact is that you’ll have to keep an eye on the blocked messages from time to time. This is because irrespective of whether the app uses user-curated, algorithmic, or rule-based flagging, there’s a chance a legitimate message may slip through.
The worst part is when companies use the same sender ID to send you transactional as well as promotional texts, so you can’t even block them for fear of missing an important alert.
Although I like TrueCaller’s ability to populate unknown numbers with names from its database in my SMS inbox, I’m beginning to like the way Reos Messages is managing my text messages better.
Which of these apps would you choose to fight SMS spam? Do you know of another app that we haven’t talked about? What can people do beyond installing apps to avoid this problem in the first place? Educate the crowd in the comments below.