Ask LH: How Can I Record Phone Calls On My Smartphone?

Dear Lifehacker, I'd like to make recordings of my phone calls with coworkers so we can refer to them for notes later. Is there an easy way to do this on my smartphone? Thanks, Spoken, Not Typed

Dear Vague James Bond Reference,

First, the inevitable legal note. As long as you're just looking to record your consensual conversations with coworkers, you should be fine, but for everyone else, it's a good idea to brush up on when it's legal to record calls first. The key rule? Make sure you let people know before you do so. Surreptitious recording is definitely not on. The lack of legal certainty (especially when offering apps worldwide) has undoubtedly influenced development of software in this sector.

In any case, recording using only your phone is quite difficult. In countries where Google Voice works, we'd recommend that as an option for recording incoming calls, but that isn't the case in Australia. While it's possible to work around the geo-restrictions, it's too fiddly a choice to be sensible in most cases, especially on mobile devices.

Free Methods

Most developers approach the problem in one of two ways. The first way is crude, but (sometimes) effective: recording all audio through your microphone. In order to do this, you have to turn your volume up or use the speakerphone. Unfortunately, this will usually result in extremely poor audio quality, but it gets the job done. Record My Call for Android uses this method. (You can take a similar approach and record on your computer if you're in an office.)

InCall Recorder for Android deviates from this method by being able to record any phone call without resorting to the microphone. However, some users on the Play Store have found it incompatible with their device, so you'll need to check first. It seems that the iPhone seems to block the ability to record via the microphone while in a call entirely, so this approach won't work for iOS users.

Paid Methods

The other method to enable call recording is to reroute phone calls through a VoIP service. Many services offer the option to record a call while it's being run through their own servers. This allows the user to record both incoming and outgoing calls on any device. The downside is that you'll inevitably have to pay to do so — both for the app up front and for the calls themselves. Here are a few options to consider:

  • IntCall (pay per minute, iOS & Android)
  • Handsfree.ly (pay per call, iOS)
  • Record Phone Calls ($10.49 for app + "yearly maintenance", iOS & Android)

The pricing models are different for each service and can become expensive if you need them for more than just a few minutes every now and then. However, you'll avoid a lot of the technical problems that some of the free apps run into.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    The legal aspects really are quite serious - since I doubt anyone is recording their calls just to listen to later, it's usually to prove something to limit legal liability. It's complex as you say, even things like for example your coworker calling you about a work related matter. Can you record that call? It's not as though your coworker has the choice to decline talking to you.

    Not worth it in most cases, though could be good for when your mum says "no id never say that!!"

      Personally, I'd be happy to accept the fact that I couldn't use the recording legally. Often I just want to find what was said in a given conversation in the past (not for blame, more along the lines of searching your past emails).

        I want the same, but usually just ask whoever i'm talking to that they confirm with an email. That way it's no fuss and I know my ass is covered.

    "May I record this conversation so that I may create notes about our teleconference?". Problem solved?

    But I'm interested to know why (on a technical level) why you can't record a phone call'even when rooted.

    Also, wouldn't there be Bluetooth or audio jack options?

    If you're jailbroken, there's a few good ones, like Call Recorder.

    I use record my call and record every call that is made. it comes in handy to remember certain details I have had in conversations before. I dont think id ever use it in a legal way and I never go about telling anyone I record my calls.

      What if you were able to record calls then have them transposed to text automatically..? Then you could organise your "calls" & perform searches for specific info. That would be cool! Free idea, just mention me in your thank-you's.

    Nothing legal ,I just wanna record addresses/ directions when I don't have a pen handy.time to jailbreak? Ole Nokia used to do it

    I've jailbroken my iPhone 4s, unfortunately there really isn't a good free (or single time payment) app available.

    An ideal app would allow you to automatically record every incoming and outgoing call, sorted by phone number (or contact name if you have it programmed), with date/time stamp, and allow them to be exported (via e-mail/wifi/ftp).

    I don't see why this isn't possible, but there have been many discussions in many forums, and all the solutions just seem crude and unelegant (they're so ugly, they more than inelegant).

    What about when speaking with a call centre? Both parties would be aware call is recorded, just not that its recorded from both sides...

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