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.
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.
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.
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