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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Caller ID hacked onto the iPhone by Stockholm's Truecaller

Landline caller ID did wonders for those riddled by spam callers and those too socially anxious to pick up the phone. But as we’ve shifted to mobile, we’re more stuck with what’s in our address book and clueless when an unknown number starts ringing in your pocket.

Android phones have had the benefit of third-party Caller ID thanks to Google’s fast and loose policy of letting apps take over phone calls, but Apple’s tight-gripped control over the iPhone doesn’t allow apps intercept call data. But like most things in life, there is a workaround if you’re creative enough. With a €13.8 million Series B funding round led by Sequoia in thier pocket, it seems like Stockholm-based Truecaller has found the resources to make caller ID work with a new iPhone app.

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The way the app works is pretty smart. When you receive an incoming call, what you do is take a screenshot of the number. The Truecaller app, running in the background, quickly picks up the unknown number from the screenshot and references it against their crowdsourced directory. Then, as the phone is still ringing, the same voice as Siri reads out the name to you, or lets you know if the number has been marked as spam. Sure, it’s not as smooth as it could be, and yes, it’s annoying to be left with all these screenshots in your camera roll, but it gets the job done for the first time.

I’ve tested out the app on my phone, and while it’s annoying that the app needs location services enabled to work, it feels pretty cool to quickly take a screenshot to get the caller’s name read back to me.

It’s hard to talk up their spam value proposition because my number is staying pretty clean, but this spam angle is what they’re playing up heavily in their press release, saying that they’ve seen a 250% rise in spam calls, such as scammers pretending to be Microsoft help support or the IRS. Truecaller has counted more than 38 million registered spam numbers and additionally the company is seeing 75,000 new spam numbers being added every day by their users.

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