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Google’s Phone App Gets Smarter About Spam Calls

Posted July 14, 2018 | Android | Windows

Spam voicemails, as far as the eye can see

This week, Google quietly updated the stock Phone app in Android to push suspected spam calls directly to voicemail. This is a solid improvement over the previous behavior. But I’d like to see them take it yet another step further.

Here’s what’s happening.

To date, Google’s Phone app has displayed with a red background when there is a suspect spam call incoming. To dismiss it, just swipe down on the screen, and the call will go to voicemail. In my experience, the resulting voicemail will be about 3 seconds of silence, and just seeing that is basically a confirmation that the call was spam.

So, that’s nice. But now you can enable a new feature in the Phone app that will automatically push these suspected spam calls to voicemail. How you do so is explained on a Google support page: Open the Phone app and navigate to More (“…”) > Settings > Caller ID & spam. Then, under Filter spam calls, enable the “Prevent suspected spam calls from disturbing you” feature.

So, that’s nice too: No more annoying phone ringing sounds and manual pushing of those calls to voicemail. I found out about this change from The Verge, and I was happy to configure my phone to lessen the annoyances.

How bad is it? Today, spam calls account for roughly 90 percent of my received calls, I bet. Looking at my ten most recent calls received, I see only one that wasn’t spam (from my dentist). All 10 of my most recent 10 voicemails are 2 to 4 seconds long and are spam. (The 11th, from June 16, a month ago, was from Best Buy, which was alerting me to the completion of a car stereo install.)

So I’m glad Google is working on fixing this. But let me take this a step further.

Google, if the resulting voicemail is only three seconds long, don’t even show a Phone app alert. And if the same phone number leaves multiple 3-second empty voice mails, assume it is spam and never allow those calls to even reach my voicemail. This baloney needs to end.


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