Google Fights Back Against Unwanted Calls

There’s a new update to Android coming in the very near future. If you own a Google-built phone, like a Pixel, you might already have Android 11. Owners of other Amazon-operated handsets might have to wait a little while longer, but it will arrive as part of a major update within the next few days or weeks. When it comes, phone users will have a new tool in the weapon against unwanted spam, marketing, and robocalls. We all get them, none of us want them, and as we’re now living in the 2020s, it’s high time somebody did something about them. Google has decided that it’s going to step up to the plate. 

To the average member of the public, the purpose of making robocalls is mysterious. The overwhelming majority of people would never answer such a call, and even if they did, they would be highly unlikely to buy anything because they received one. To answer that question, we need to think about how the games on online slots websites work. Although there are happy and lucrative exceptions, nobody expects to win anything from an online slots game with the first bet they place on one. Instead, they repeat the same action dozens or even hundreds of times, relying on the statistical inevitability that so long as they carry on trying, the online slots UK they’re playing will pay out some winnings eventually. The incentive to carry on making automated calls for sales or scam companies is the same. They may fail more than 99% of the time, but that one call in a thousand that makes them money pays for all of the failed calls comfortably. 

Regardless of whether not enough robocalls make money to justify the continuation of the enormously irritating phenomenon, the fact remains that nobody should be making them in the first place. Robocalls have been effectively illegal in the United States of America since the start of this year, and the USA was far from the first country to attempt to stem the tide of the unwanted sales intrusions into our lives. In most of Europe, it’s an offense for any business to make an unsolicited phone call – classed as any phone call that a customer hasn’t specifically asked for or consented to – and anyone caught doing so can be subjected to fines. That hasn’t stamped out the practice completely though, and so technology may finally be ready to step in where acts of government have failed. 

As of this week, Google’s standard ‘Phone’ app – which is supplied for free with every Android handset – will automatically display any information that the company knows about whoever might be calling you. This extends far beyond the name of the company, which can be obtained by using a call screening app like Truecaller. Using the massive amounts of data that Google has at its disposal, your phone will attempt to tell you the name of the business, its logo, and a likely reason as to why they might be calling. If it’s able to verify that the number belongs to a legitimate business, the Phone app will go a step further by confirming that you’re receiving a ‘verified’ call using a blue tick, clearly visible at the top of your screen. If you don’t like what you see, or there’s no evidence of a tick anywhere, you can decline the call and carry on with your day, free of the frustration of wondering who might have been calling you or why. 

Despite concentrated and collaborative efforts across the telecommunications industry involving every major provider, you might be able to name, automated and unwanted calls are still a scourge of the industry. YouMail, a business that attempts to provide full call screening facilities against unwanted calls, claims that more than 58 billion calls of this nature were made during 2019; a new record. Although some were legitimate businesses engaging in questionable methods to reach new customers, a worrying percentage of them are thought to be scams or phishing calls designed to persuade people to part with their money or information for fraudulent purposes. False claims about car accidents still make up the majority of these calls, although other topics, including the recent global health panic, have been used as triggers. 

Because verified businesses use different numbers for different reasons, the new Phone app is capable of distinguishing between an inquiry call and a call for a specific purpose. As an example, your bank will use one number to contact people about suspected cases of fraud, and another to promote new opportunities to open an overdraft, loan, or credit card account. Aside from being able to tell you that your bank is trying to contact you, the Phone app will be able to tell you which department it is that wants to get in touch. Knowledge is power when it comes to deciding who you do or do not wish to speak to, and if everything works as is intended, this might finally become an effective tool in the fight against malpractice by scam artists and con companies. 

You might need to make a few changes to your phone if you want to take advantage of this service. While Google’s Phone app is the default calling app for any Google Pixel phone, this isn’t the case for Samsung phones. You’ll have to switch to using the Phone app as the default one for handling calls. If in doubt, you’ll be able to download a free version of the app from the app store and enable it as soon as it’s finished downloading. Don’t be alarmed if nothing happens immediately; at the time of writing, the feature will only work in the United States of America, Spain, India, Brazil, and Mexico. Further rollouts for the rest of the world are expected in the near future. 

Receiving unwanted calls from mysterious numbers is an annoyance for most people, but it can be very stressful for others – especially those who have debt issues or have reason to be wary of who might be contacting them. Anything that can reduce the level of irritation and anxiety that can come with these calls is a good thing, and hopefully, Google’s new app will be a powerful tool in the fight against them. There’s now an onus on Apple to come up with a solution that does the same thing for iPhones.