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There’s been a bit of a spam call epidemic going on recently, on both sides of the pond. Sometimes it’s a robot on the other side, sometimes it’s a tone, sometimes it’s a real human being making an effort to scam you, sometimes it’s nothing at all.
In iOS 10, Apple rolled out a little-known feature called CallKit. This allows developers access to something they’ve never had before: the Phone app. Developers can now hook into the Phone app and pre-screen calls for you.
We now have a selection of call blocking apps that actually work, reliably. If you’re sick of the phone spam, it’s high time you install one of these apps.
Activating Call Blocking Apps
Call blocking apps need to be enabled manually. Once you’ve installed an app, go to the Settings app, tap on Phone and select Call Blocking & Identification. This menu will allow you to enable the app.
CallKit apps can’t do anything other than screen calls, so don’t worry about them snooping in on your conversations. At any time, you can disable the app via the option in Settings.
Once it’s all set up, you’ll see a visual cue right below the phone number telling you that it’s a spam or a robocall.
1. Nomorobo ($1.99/mo)
For U.S. users who care about privacy, Nomorobo is the top choice. Multiple reviewers who have been testing the app for weeks have confirmed that this is the best app for blocking calls in the U.S.
Other than its spam blocking prowess, privacy is another reason reviewers love this app. Unlike some other apps on the list, you don’t need to provide your own number, or your contact list, for the app to work. Nomorobo has its own directory of spammers and robocallers that it keeps updated.
This privacy comes at a price though — $1.99 per month to be exact. Nomorobo is the only paid app on this list but it’s a price worth paying if you want to keep your phone number private.
Nomorobo is awesome because it blocks calls silently. Whenever it detects that a call could be a potential spammer, it directly sends the call to voicemail. You are never disturbed. This is better than other apps because you don’t even have to pull your phone out to decline the call.
Calls that get sent to voicemail will have a Nomorobo tag, so you can delete them without listening.
2. Hiya (Free)
If you don’t want to pay for a call blocking service, just use Hiya. The app works in a similar fashion to Nomorobo when it comes to identifying spammers and blocking calls.
But it does ask you to grant access to your address book. Pay attention during the signup and select Not Now when the app asks for Contacts access to avoid this step.
Hiya also has a Caller ID feature. What this means is if you get a call from someone who’s not in your contact book, and Hiya knows their name, the app will display it. Knowing who’s on the other side of the line — your real estate agent or a sales rep you actually want to talk to — is a great thing.
3. Truecaller (Free)
Here in India, anyone who’s anyone has Truecaller installed with their number and information added. It’s a kind of Facebook in that way.
This means whenever you get a call, most of the time, you know who’s calling. You also get contextual information about what that person does, if they’ve added it to Truecaller. Plus, Truecaller is really good at identifying spam calls.
Truecaller is a prime example of the cultural differences between Asian countries like India and the west. It’s a privacy landmine. You basically have to give the app access to your Phone app and your contacts if you want the full experience. The only way to hide your private information from Truecaller is to install the app, and then manually make it private. If you choose to remove your phone number from Truecaller, you can no longer use the service.
If you’re from the U.S. or similar, you might think this is all a bit too much. But in developing countries like India, a mobile number is not a sacred thing. It’s like an email address, and it’s used as a login for almost any app you download.
That said, Truecaller is really good at what it does: identifying spam calls, and telling you who’s calling. Give it a shot if you fancy, though Nomorobo or Hiya might be better for users in the U.S.
Tips for Using Call Blocking Apps
Call blocking apps are updating their databases constantly and you need to do so as well, from time to time. Whenever a new database update is available, you’ll get a notification. It’s a good idea to go in every day or two and update the list manually.
All the apps listed above let you look up a phone number manually or directly from the Phone app. If you’ve missed a call, go into the detailed view by tapping the i button. From here select Share Contact and from the bottom row, select the Search option for the app you’re using. If the number is in the database, the app will give you details for the number.
Have you been affected by the spam or robocall epidemic? Or has the frequency decreased? Share with us in the comments below.