Truecaller sells itself as a social, crowd-sourced call and SMS blocking app, boasting over 25 million users. The free version of the app (premium accounts cost $2.99 per month and $14.99 for six months) also has a host of advanced features, but don’t expect too much from this little app. It will keep blocked numbers (and some spammers) at bay, but everything else is iffy.
The first time you start up Truecaller, you’ll be walked through some features before the app attempts to send your phone a confirmation message via SMS to confirm the phone is legit. For some reason, my activation SMS never so I tried calling Truecaller as prompted. This also didn’t work, but the app suddenly completed setup and let me into the app without further warning.
While I was able to eventually make the app work on my Samsung Galaxy S4, this wonky setup process did not inspire confidence. I’m still not sure what happened.
Call and SMS Blocking
While PrivacyStar used multiple lists for its to screen unwanted numbers, Truecaller keeps it simple with a single blacklist to which you add numbers. You will, however, have to enter the Settings menu and toggle on SMS blocking. Unlike other call blocking apps, Truecaller cannot block partial numbers or whole area codes—a feature I really missed.
If a blocked number attempts to call you, the caller hears a busy signal and you hear nothing. Truecaller only generates a helpful visual notification with the caller’s information. It also has a combination call log and search history, though it is hidden as a sub-page of the search page. I thought this was pretty confusing, and I don’t think that having unified search and call history helped me.
When a blocked number sends you an SMS message, you’ll receive no notification and there’s no log to view either. I really didn’t like this lack of transparency. Even if I have blocked a number I may want to see what they have to say or when they tried to contact me. If nothing else, I want to see that an app is actually doing something.
Like most other call blocking apps, Truecaller can be configured to automatically block unknown numbers. These are those weird numbers that appear as “blocked” or “unknown” in your caller ID.
I was underwhelmed by Editors’ Choice Mr. Number’s tiny caller ID window that sits in the middle of the standard Android call screen, but I really didn’t like PrivacyStar’s caller ID that took over the whole screen and served me ads each time I got a call. Truecaller isn’t much better compared to its competition: when you receive a call from someone not in your contacts, the app drops its own caller ID information window over the stock Android’s caller ID message. While smart, it’s inelegantly executed. You can actually see most of the caller info on the stock Android call screen peeking out from underneath Truecaller’s window.
After a call has come in, you can easily mark it as spam or add the number to your contacts. You can also view a map of where your call came from, but it’s far from exact. I also question its accuracy. Most caller IDs list my number as coming from Royal Oak, Michigan. Truecaller said my number was from Pontiac, Michigan, which is a few towns over. One of PrivacyStar’s signature features was a list of the 25 numbers most blocked by users. While this was impressive, Truecaller has an even longer list of offending numbers to block, and it covers far more regions than PrivacyStar’s list. Though I cannot say which list is better, Truecaller’s certainly looked more impressive.
Social and Search
Truecaller puts big emphasis on being social, and lets you connect the app to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I’m always wary about doing this, but the developer writes that doing so will let you place your friends’ pictures and status updates on the call screen.
Like other call blocking apps, Truecaller lets you perform a reverse number lookup. Unfortunately, it failed to locate any of my numbers, while Mr. Number succeeded admirably. Truecaller did, however, correctly identify my parent’s home number, suggesting that its reverse number lookup feature does work, but is limited. I wasn’t able to find a limit on how many lookups I could perform with the free version of Truecaller, though the developer writes that the premium version comes with 30 lookups per month.
One feature I did like was the ability to text a friend about a number directly from the app. This marries the social aspects of the app with the call blocking pieces, and is a fast and easy way to confirm a number you’re not sure about. You can also ask about numbers over Google+ and other social media networks.
The social media components and crowdsourcing features of Truecaller suggest the developer had high aspirations, but I didn’t really feel like they were realized in the app. Though its core features—SMS and call blocking—work fine, the rest of Truecaller isn’t mature enough.
PrivacyStar struggled to actually block my calls, but Truecaller succeeded admirably. Mr. Number, however, will keep its Editors’ Choice award; it has the right combination of ease of use and powerful blocking features that the others just cannot touch.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc