Google’s Phone App Gets Smarter About Spam Calls

Posted on July 14, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 11 Comments

Spam voicemails, as far as the eye can see

This week, Google quietly updated the stock Phone app in Android to push suspected spam calls directly to voicemail. This is a solid improvement over the previous behavior. But I’d like to see them take it yet another step further.

Here’s what’s happening.

To date, Google’s Phone app has displayed with a red background when there is a suspect spam call incoming. To dismiss it, just swipe down on the screen, and the call will go to voicemail. In my experience, the resulting voicemail will be about 3 seconds of silence, and just seeing that is basically a confirmation that the call was spam.

So, that’s nice. But now you can enable a new feature in the Phone app that will automatically push these suspected spam calls to voicemail. How you do so is explained on a Google support page: Open the Phone app and navigate to More (“…”) > Settings > Caller ID & spam. Then, under Filter spam calls, enable the “Prevent suspected spam calls from disturbing you” feature.

So, that’s nice too: No more annoying phone ringing sounds and manual pushing of those calls to voicemail. I found out about this change from The Verge, and I was happy to configure my phone to lessen the annoyances.

How bad is it? Today, spam calls account for roughly 90 percent of my received calls, I bet. Looking at my ten most recent calls received, I see only one that wasn’t spam (from my dentist). All 10 of my most recent 10 voicemails are 2 to 4 seconds long and are spam. (The 11th, from June 16, a month ago, was from Best Buy, which was alerting me to the completion of a car stereo install.)

So I’m glad Google is working on fixing this. But let me take this a step further.

Google, if the resulting voicemail is only three seconds long, don’t even show a Phone app alert. And if the same phone number leaves multiple 3-second empty voice mails, assume it is spam and never allow those calls to even reach my voicemail. This baloney needs to end.


Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (11)

11 responses to “Google’s Phone App Gets Smarter About Spam Calls”

  1. HellcatM

    I agree! I get so many spam calls, and recently they are from my area code and first 3 digits of my phone number, which is fine because I know those are spam off the bat. Glad to see they're making it easier to not see these calls. They should make it so if you block a number, and someone calls you from that number it gives a message like "the number you have called has been disconnected, please check the number and try again". This way you'll be (hopefully) taken off the list.

    I remember years back there was a program for email that would do something like that for email (Spam washer I believe). The program would work with your email program and make it like the email address didn't exist by redirecting it back to them as a bad address. I loved that and wondered why more spam filters didn't work this way.

    Spam calls and emails suck and I wish someone would come out with a way to get rid of them all together.

    • skane2600

      In reply to HellcatM:

      It would be great if you could block all calls from the same area code except those that are already in your phone book. I've changed states, so basically all unrecognized phone numbers with my area code are unwanted calls.

  2. SherlockHolmes

    Funny I never get Spam Calls on my smartphone. But thats because I dont tell everybody my phonenumber.

  3. dcdevito

    Since switching to Fi I haven't received one spam call. What I learned was that all the spam calls I received prior were actually going to my SIM number, and (since I used Google Voice) the only "person" who knew of my SIM number, was my carrier (Straight Talk). By checking my gVoice app before I switched to Fi I realized all those spammy calls weren't going to my Google Voice number. So no doubt the carrier has a lot to do with this, in my opinion.

    (I know you use Fi, Paul, was giving one example).

  4. RonV42

    T-Mobile has spam id services for free. Also marking calls as spam in 3rd party dialer apps such as TrueCaller adds them to the public lists that T-Mobile and other carriers subscribe to. One has the think that the carriers are involved much more in this than just Google.

  5. willisus

    How do I install the Google Phone App on my Galaxy S9XL. I found a youtube video - it didn't work....

  6. willisus

    Sorry to bug you Paul. I found the article, but what I discovered was another setting. I had to allow the downloaded app to run from the download location. Now I'm anxious to check it out....

  7. Jeffsters

    Better to use the phone company’s apps that block them entirely. On my iPhone I use AT&T’s app and it flags potential calls it’s not sure about but blocks far more from ever coming through. It’s free.