Google’s Phone app now tells users why businesses are calling

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Google's Verified Calls feature lets users know who's calling and why.
Image: Google

No one wants to be spammed by marketing calls. However, that’s exactly what happens to millions of people on a daily basis. There isn’t a perfect solution to fighting these calls, but some apps are helpful.

Google’s Phone app is one of them. It helps Android users figure out if calls from unknown numbers are important or spam with its new Verified Calls tool. The feature is available for devices with the Google Phone app already installed. It will also be available to download on more devices later this week.

Bye, Robot

When Android users with the Google Phone app get an incoming call it will now display the caller’s name, logo, and a reason for why they’re calling. A verification symbol reassures users that the call has been vetted by Google.

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Of course, the feature only works with calls from businesses who sign up to have their calls verified. This means it will probably take some time to catch on. Even so, many legitimate businesses will likely sign up for the verification system eventually. They can do so through one of Google’s partners, including Neustar, JustCall, Telecall, and more.

Interestingly, after months of testing the feature, Google discovered that verified calls were more likely to be picked up than non-verified ones. That could prompt companies to sign up to be a part of the program. Noteworthy businesses like 1-800-Flowers, Kayak, SoFi, and more have signed up for Google’s similar Verified SMS system.

Once a business sets up its calls, it will send its number to Google’s Verified Calls server. The customer’s phone number and the reason for a call, like “Food delivery,” will also be sent. Google then relays the information to the user’s Android device through the Phone app.

Their device compares incoming call information with records on the Verified Calls server. If a match is found, the Phone app will display the call as “Verified.”

Obviously, privacy is a concern here. Customers don’t want their phone numbers and call reasons floating around on a server forever. To address this, Google says that the data is deleted within minutes of verification.

Verified Calls will launch first in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Spain, and India. More countries will soon follow.

Perfect Timing

Google’s new call verification feature comes at a perfect time. In the U.S., spam calls are on the rise. Consumers received 61.4 billion spam calls in 2019, according to a report from RoboKiller. That figure marks a 28 percent increase over 2018.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that unwanted calls are its top complaint. Spam calls are not only annoying, they can be costly. According to YouMail, they cost consumers more than $10 billion annually.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the problem even worse. Scammers have increased their efforts, preying on fears surrounding the novel coronavirus, to try and trick consumers into paying fees or making donations to fake charities.

Although Google’s new Verified Calls feature doesn’t eliminate spam calls, it gives consumers the ability to simply ignore them without worrying about missing something important. That will be a welcome change.

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