Privacy & Security 3 min. read

Use an iPhone? Here’s why you’re getting so many robocalls

Use an iPhone? Here’s why you’re getting so many robocalls

Robocalls — those annoying phone calls from telemarketers or scam artists — plague us all. Since 2015, the number of robocalls has increased by the billions. Though both iOS and Android users are affected, new data shows that iOS users have it much worse.

YouMail, a call blocking app, released a report that said more than 3.1 billion robocalls were made in March of 2018. (Yes, that’s 3 billion in just 31 days). In that time period, Android users received 29 percent fewer calls than those on iOS.

To put that into context, that’s around 900 million more robocalls for iPhone users in one month.

These calls vary in content, generally offering student debt forgiveness, lower credit card interest rates, car warranties, health care plans, or plain old scams. Often they arrive via local phone numbers that make us more likely to answer.

Why is it a bigger problem on iPhone?

Breaking down the data further, it shows that iPhone users get 22% more scam calls, 32% more payment reminder calls, and 25% more telemarketing calls than Android users. YouMail says the reason iOS users receive more calls is due to the way iOS handles blocked calls.

With iOS’s well-intentioned block list — it is designed to minimize risk by preventing apps from silently taking over phone calls — it actually makes it impossible for call blocking apps to properly implement dynamic block lists, or whitelists for calls that need to go through. Apple would need to loosen the reins on third-party call blocking apps in order to make it easier for the apps to block spammy calls.

Can you not block robocalls at all then?

Yes and no. It’s complicated, but some call blocking apps will help. However, it’s not that efficient—especially on iOS. YouMail claims that up to 5,000 new numbers are created for spam calls each hour. These are all new, unique numbers that need adding to a blocked call list (robocallers won’t use the same number twice). With it being considerably tougher for call blocking apps to function on iOS, the volume of unwanted calls is that much higher for iPhone users.

What is the solution?

There might be more than one solution here. Android already has solutions in place for its users, so it is possible to do something similar with iOS devices.

One of the things Apple could do is allow call blocking apps to “wake up” when a spam call comes in. Then, you can choose what to do with that robocall — ignore it, hang up, stop the ringer, or even send the call to voicemail.

This would greatly increase your options and put some constraints on the spam callers. Plus, you could also make sure that the app isn’t blocking the wrong numbers, because you can still see every call that comes in.

Another thing that Apple could do is set up some type of permission system where the app can’t access the call unless the owner gives permission. This could be something as simple as a push notification.

Making a change to how iOS devices handle spam calls, giving more access to the apps that are designed to stop them, could greatly improve the robocall issues for iOS users. For now, however, those with iPhones will have to deal with a larger volume of unwanted calls, and Android users—despite having to deal with their fair share—can gloat in the fact that their operating system makes robocalls a little more manageable.

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