There are a number of legitimate reasons for wanting to record a phone call. For example, if you are talking to a medical professional about test results, for example, you may want to make sure you have all the information correct. Or if you’re interviewing someone for an article or for a position, you might want to make sure you remember the conversation. Or if an older family member suddenly starts a story about one of your grandparents, it might be nice to have a record of it.
Unfortunately, it has become almost impossible to record a phone call. As I explained in a previous article, federal law in the US says you can legally record a phone call but only if you join that conversation. State laws differ. While most states generally follow federal guidelines, some require all parties to agree to the inclusion, rather than just one. You know how, when you call a company, you get a recording telling you that your call can be recorded? That’s why.
So if you’re on a call and try to use a recording app to record that call, it probably won’t work. (There may still be some Android apps that claim to be able to record your calls despite Google’s preventive technology, although most are no longer available. Some use workarounds, such as creating a third “caller” who is actually a cloud recorder. If you’re tempted to try one, go ahead, but make sure you’re within a free trial.)
But don’t despair – there are some strategies you can use if you really want to record a conversation. They’re clunky and not always useful, but at least they give you some options.
Quick Note: Whichever method you use, the ethical (and often legally required) thing to do is let the other party in a call know that you’re recording the call. Just say it.
Using Google Voice for incoming calls
Google Voice has been around for quite some time; it’s a free service that gives you a virtual phone number that you can use instead of the number that came with your SIM card. I’m fairly familiar with it; I’ve been using Google Voice for years because it was easier to rate phones. If I wanted to use a new device for a week or more, I could just turn on my Google Voice number and not worry about switching SIM cards. (This was before eSIMs were a thing.)
One feature that Google Voice still has is the ability to record an incoming call. This is of course not a complete solution, as no outgoing calls are recorded. But if you are expecting a call that you want to record, this can do it for you. (This is also available for iPhone users, by the way.)
This is how you set it up:
- If you don’t have a Google Voice number, then set up first.
- Download the Google Voice app to your phone.
- Open the app, tap the menu icon (three parallel lines) in the top left corner and go to Settings.
- Scroll down and enable Incoming call options.
Now if you’re on a call, tapping 4 on the keypad will start recording (and everyone in the call will hear an announcement to that effect). If you tap 4 again during the call, it will stop (and again, there will be an announcement). Once the call is over, you’ll find your recording in the Voicemail tab of the app.
Use a recording app on another phone
If you are in a place where you can easily use your speakerphone and you have another device with a recording app, you can use that to record the call. (And no, your phone’s built-in recording app won’t work even if you have the call on speakerphone.) This is something I often resort to, using an older phone as the recorder. You can use Android’s Recorder app or a third-party app like Otter or Temi; all three also provide you with auto-generated transcripts. (You can of course use any other recording app you prefer.)
Using a conference app
Since the start of the pandemic, conference apps like Zoom have become much more widely known as communication methods — and many of them allow you to record the session.