“Good morning, I’m calling you from …”. Indiscriminate business calls on mobile phones have become a serious nuisance for many users. It is a relatively inexpensive resource for large corporations, which outsource to call-centers “cold” calls (without knowing the recipient) to sell a specific service. These telemarketers are prepared to be persistent and try to convince their interlocutor to close a contract that they may not need. The pandemic has caused an accordion effect with this type of communications: in the first place they were reduced, but then they have rebounded.
Spain is the fifth country in the world with the most calls of these characteristics per user (18 on average per month), according to a study by the Truecaller platform. In the US, the second most affected after Brazil, 94% of users say they do not answer the phone if they are not clear who is on the other side. But sometimes doing this means losing valuable calls and that is when technology can help us better filter unwanted communications.
One remedy that existed before the digital age – although not all advertisers respect it – is to sign up for the free Robinson List service. In it, any citizen can express their wish not to be contacted commercially by any company by phone, post, email or mobile message. If an entity wishes to send personalized advertising to an individual and he has not given his express consent, he has a legal obligation to consult the list first. This system protects citizens from companies with which they have never had a relationship, otherwise they would have to contact them directly to request that the calls stop.
When commercial calls become a serious problem or the advertiser does not respect the laws, it is time to take other measures. The most drastic is to avoid answering all that call from which we do not recognize the number. But this solution can pay a very expensive toll, since we will not answer the call of couriers, the ambulatory or any other body that wants to contact us in a timely manner. However, there are intermediate options, which allow filtering and which will depend on the operating system of our phone.
Android phone solutions
Google’s mobile platform, in those phones that use the Android operating system, is the one that offers the user the most tools in the fight against indiscriminate calls. The least sophisticated consists of silencing and blocking all those phone numbers that we have identified as spam. Manufacturers have the option of customizing the menus, but Google has put together a simple guide by which you can block a specific number or all unknown numbers:
To block a number, just open the Phone application, access the call history, select the number to block and click on Block or Mark as Spam. Alternatively, we can block by default all those numbers that are not in our contact list, a very radical measure, but definitive. To do this, we must open the Phone application, click on the three-point icon, select Settings / Blocked numbers and activate the Unknown option.
Android also offers a powerful tool through which the system alerts about possible indiscriminate calls at the moment they occur. The operation of this tool is simple: the system is authorized to send incoming calls to Google’s servers, where an updated algorithm compares them with the potential database spammers. In this way, the system will alert at the moment of displaying the incoming number, about a possible commercial call. The option is enabled by default for all Android versions above 6.0.
More advanced is the solution that incorporates the Google assistant in its range of Pixel phones: the Filter calls option, which adds a button on the screen to filter them as soon as they are received. If pressed, the Google Assistant will respond for us through a voice-over and will ask for the name and reason for the communication. The user will then receive a message with the transcript of the response. The Google assistant also acts as a secretary: the user can order it to ask the caller if it is something urgent, or warn that the call will be returned later, among other options.
The tool is advanced, but has room for improvement. According to David Freire, editor of the specialized publication Andro4all, “in the future this call filter will be done automatically, being able to configure that it is activated only with the numbers that are not in our agenda”, that is, without having to press not a button. For Freire, there is no doubt that it is a solution “with which we will live in the next two years” and that will put telemarketing companies in check.
Apple does not offer a range of solutions as powerful and varied as Android. However, iOS offers from version 13 an interesting option: silence unknown numbers by default and block those numbers that we have already identified as indiscriminate. Once this system tool is activated, calls that are not in our contact list will not ring, and will appear as lost. This is a half-solution because it doesn’t eliminate the problem – it just silences it. To activate this function, just go to Settings / Telephone and activate the option “Silence unknown numbers”.
“It is very good that you can silence unknown numbers, but it does not complete its mission 100%”, explains Fran Besora, an iOS expert from the iSenacode blog, who remembers that Apple entrusts these tasks to applications dedicated to call management available in your store.
Apps for Android and iOS
The mantra “there’s an app for that”(There is an application for that), it is almost always fulfilled, and this also applies to the management of indiscriminate phone calls. There are many alternatives, but two of them stand out due to the volume of data they manage: Hiya and Truecaller, both available for both Android and iPhone. How do they work? Basically, they repeat the model that we have previously exposed with the automatic identification function: as soon as it reaches the mobile, the call is checked on the service’s servers with the database of indiscriminate commercial communications issuers.
The main advantage of this type of application resides in its huge database, permanently updated; Its main drawback, unlike the system solutions, is that they are usually paid if you want to take advantage of all its services. They also allow the user himself to report a call as indiscriminate, so that the rest benefit from it. However, this type of application has an additional advantage over all the systems discussed above: they automatically block calls from spammers confirmed, so that we don’t even know when they take place.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.