If you’re not regularly plagued by unwanted robocalls offering you no end of services, scams, and stuff you don’t want, consider yourself lucky. If these automated calls are a blight on your daily existence, you don’t have to sit back and suffer. We’ve collected some of our favorite tools for offering respite, from tools build by the major carriers, that usually do a great job for a small monthly fee—to less expensive blockers that have nothing to do with the big four (soon to be three?).
Call Filter may come pre-installed on your Verizon Android phone but you can also download it separately for Android and iOS. As calls come in, they’re matched against a database of numbers, and you see an educated guess about how likely they are to be spam (you can also just auto-block suspicious numbers if you want). The app is free, but for an extra $3 a month you can identify unknown numbers and set up a personal block list.
T-Mobile Name ID (for Android and iOS) is the most advanced of the options T-Mobile offers and will cost you $4 a month (unless you’re on a Magenta Plus or One Plus plan, which include the tool). That monthly subscription gives you options for flagging up suspicious calls, sending certain types of call (like political calls) to voicemail, and putting together a personalized block list of numbers that you never want to hear from.
Those of you on Sprint can take advantage of Premium Caller ID, but you activate it through the network rather than downloading an app, and it’ll set you back $3 a month on top of your contract cost. Like the other tools here, you get warnings about how likely a call is to be a robocall before you answer it, and there’s the option to block specific numbers as well (basic blocking is actually free if you don’t want to pay anything extra).
If you’re on AT&T, meanwhile, you can install the Call Protect app for Android or iOS, and get a warning if a call has been identified as spam. You can also have calls auto-blocked if they’re known to be from bad actors. AT&T has also announced plans to start turning on robocall and spam call blocking at the network level—if you sign up for a new AT&T account you’ll get the service automatically, and it’s rolling out now to existing customers.
RoboKiller goes beyond the spam and robocall blocking to put a stop to unwanted texts as well. You can get the app for Android and iOS to try out the service for free for seven days. It then costs $3 a month. Calls identified as robocalls are actually answered by RoboKiller’s own bots, so you don’t even have to deal with hanging up or refusing to take a call—you can then review the calls that have been taken on your half when you have time.
Nomorobo, which is available for Android and iOS, claims it can tell the difference between bad spam calls and important communications like a message from your kid’s school—there’s the option to block and hide bad calls completely, or just flag them with a warning on screen as the calls arrive. You can try out the Nomorobo app for free for 14 days, after which point it’ll set you back $2 a month.
One of the new robocall-killing apps out there, and only available for iOS for the time being, Callblock compares incoming calls with its database—3 million records strong, apparently—and will then either flag suspicious calls or just block them completely. You can even specify the types of calls you’re happy to let through, if you (for example) don’t mind hearing from charity fundraisers but definitely don’t want to speak to telemarketers.
Hiya is one of the biggest and best-known anti-robocall apps out there, and can identify unknown numbers, as well as giving you warnings about callers that show up as dodgy in its extensive database. That database is constantly updated with reports from users, and you can report bad numbers yourself if you want. The Android and iOS apps are free, but you can choose to pay $3 a month to have suspicious calls blocked instead of flagged.
Samsung phones come with a built-in feature named Smart Call—though some carriers have been known to remove it in order to push their own robocall blocker. It’s actually powered by Hiya, which we just mentioned above, and it will try and identify calls as they come in (giving you the option to accept or reject them). From the Settings app on your mobile, choose Call Settings then Caller ID and spam protection to configure the tool.
You can now have the Google Assistant answer your calls for you, if you want, and see what the person (or robot) on the other end wants—callers get told they’re speaking to the Google Assistant and can leave a message if they wish. It works very effectively and comes built right into the Phone app, but for now, it’s almost exclusively available on Pixel phones. The feature is slowly rolling out to other Android handsets, however.
iOS 13 is out this September, and is going to come with upgraded robocall blocking tools, Apple says. While it’s not clear exactly how these tools will work, we do know Apple will scan the Mail and Messages apps, as well as Contacts, to try and identify calls from people you actually know and give you the option to send unknown numbers straight to voicemail. Expect to hear more about this when the software update drops in September.