There are a number of legitimate reasons that you’d want to record a phone call. For example, when you’re talking to a medical professional about, say, test results, you may want to make sure that you got all the information right. Or if you’re interviewing somebody for an article or for a job position, you may want to be able to make sure you remember the conversation accurately. Or if an older member of your family suddenly launches into a story about one of your grandparents, it might be nice to have a record of it.
Unfortunately, though, it’s become nearly impossible to record a phone call. As I explained in a previous article, federal law in the US says that you can legally record a phone conversation but only if you are taking part in that conversation. State laws differ. While most states generally follow the federal guidelines, some require all parties to consent to the recording, rather than just one. You know how, when you’re calling a business, you get a recording that tells you that your call may be recorded? That’s why.
As a result, if you’re on a call and try to use a recording app to record that call, it’s probably not going to work. (There may still be some Android apps that claim to be able to record your calls despite Google’s preventative tech, although most are no longer available. Some use workarounds such as creating a third “caller” that is actually a cloud recorder. If you’re tempted to try one, go ahead, but make sure you’re within a free trial period.)
But don’t despair — there are some strategies you can use if you really want to record a call. They are awkward and not always convenient, but at least they do give you some options.
Quick note: whatever method you use, the ethical (and often legally required) thing to do is to let the other party on a call know you are recording the conversation. Just saying.
Use Google Voice for incoming calls
Google Voice has been around for quite some time; it is a free service that gives you a virtual phone number that you can use instead of the number provided with your SIM. I’m quite familiar with it; I’ve been using Google Voice for years because it made it simpler to review phones — if I wanted to use a new device for a week or more, I could simply enable my Google Voice number and not worry about switching SIMs. (This was before eSIMs were a thing.)
One feature that Google Voice still has is the ability to record an incoming call. This isn’t a complete solution, of course, since it won’t record outgoing calls. But if you’re expecting a call that you’ll want to record, this can do it for you. (By the way, this is also available for iPhone users.)
Here’s how you set it up:
- If you don’t have a Google Voice number, then first set one up.
- Download the Google Voice app to your phone.
- Open the app, tap the menu icon (three parallel lines) in the upper-left corner, and go to Settings.
- Scroll down to and toggle on Incoming call options.
Now, when you’re on a call, if you tap 4 on the dialing pad, recording will begin (and everyone on 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 will find your recording in the app’s Voicemail tab.
Use a recording app on another phone
If you’re in a place where you’re comfortable using 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 will not work, even if you have the call on speakerphone.) This is something I often resort to, using an older phone to be the recorder. You can use Android’s Recorder app or a third-party app such as Otter or Temi; all three will provide you with automatically generated transcriptions as well. (You can also use any other recording app you prefer, of course.)
Use a conference app
Ever since the pandemic started, conference apps such as Zoom have become much more familiar as methods of communication — and many of them allow you to record the session.