Truecaller brings live caller ID to iPhone… but with a catch

Truecaller has been a known name in the app market globally — thanks to its eponymous caller-identification service. Its active user base these days numbers 338 million, but it could be bigger: a lack of a caller ID feature on iOS has arguably held back its growth among iPhone users. Now, an effort to expand its reach, the Stockholm-based company is introducing an update that will finally provide live caller ID support on iOS, available to people using its paid tiers.

The new feature comes as Truecaller continues to see a lot of growth, but also some knocks in its strongest markets. The app has been one of the more popular among mobile users in markets like India where spammers target the masses. Yet the company has faced criticism over how it collects data for its caller ID service.

Last year, an investigation by Indian magazine The Caravan claimed that Truecaller was “comprised of details which have been collected without consent.” However, the company denied the allegations and asserted that the investigation was flawed and based on inaccurate information.

The new caller ID feature will be offered only to users who are on the app’s premium tiers (priced at a range of tiers ranging from $0.99 per month per individual, through to $4.99/month when a user’s carrier is not supported and $9.99/month for family plans, with discounts on annual subscriptions).

And it won’t be just like it is on Android: unlike the seamless experience available on that platform — users see a caller ID instantly when they receive an incoming call — the iPhone experience will involve a step that requires interacting with Siri.

Nakul Kabra, product director for iOS at Truecaller, told TechCrunch that the app has had a limited experience on the iPhone due to how Apple works with third-party caller ID apps.

The current framework for identifying calls in Truecaller is limited to a finite set of numbers stored in directors in Apple’s CallKit framework, chosen by Truecaller’s spam algorithm. That means that other numbers not stored locally require manual search, he said.

To use the new feature, Truecaller subscribers on an iPhone running on iOS 16 or above will be to access live caller ID support by saying, “Hey Siri, Search Truecaller.” This will allow Siri to capture the number appearing on the screen, search for it on the app, then show the result to the user.

The feature leverages Apple’s Siri Shortcuts and App Intents to offer the anticipated live caller ID experience.

That means users will need first to enable the Search Truecaller shortcut on their iPhone by tapping the Add to Siri option in the Premium tab. The first time the shortcut runs, the user will be prompted to allow Truecaller to search from the screenshots the shortcut captures.

“We have been tinkering around with App Intents for the last few months since iOS 16 was publicly launched… Previous iterations didn’t have the right experience to be used in the context of a live call. One of the more recent iterations is what has evolved into this feature,” Kabra said.

Truecaller live caller ID on iPhone

Image Credits: Jagmeet Singh / TechCrunch

Users with more recent iPhones, including the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, will have the option to access the feature without having to call out the Siri phrase and instead will be able to tap the back of their handset. For this, they need to enable the Search Truecaller shortcut from the Back Tap gesture settings.

With this update, Truecaller has also doubled its CallKit directory size and improved its spam detection algorithm to ensure that spam, scam, and fraud calls are recognized more accurately.

“This improved directory makes sure that most top spam and verified business calls can be identified right away even without needing to ask Siri. However, given the limitations of the platform, we cannot identify all calls using the traditional call directories mechanism. This is where the new Live Caller ID comes in and makes sure that you can identify every single call,” Kabra said.

The company also says premium users’ spam lists will receive daily updates. Meanwhile, free users only have the option to update the list manually.

Truecaller additionally introduced a commenting feature for iPhone users that lets them read user feedback coming on spam calls and even contribute with their own comments. This feature was previously available on Android.

SMS filtering on iOS is also being improved with the ability to categorize incoming text messages into Finance, Orders, Reminders, Coupons, Offers, and Junk categories. This categorization is currently live in India, South Africa and Nigeria and will soon be rolled out to other markets.

The new set of features on Truecaller for iPhone comes months after the iOS app received a revamped experience in August last year. Since then, the company said its daily users on the iPhone had grown more than 80%. The company declined to provide details on how many users it has on iOS in total.

“Live Caller ID on iPhone is the one major aspect that has eluded our iPhone app, and we are excited to finally introduce it with the help of Siri,” said Alan Mamedi, co-founder and CEO at Truecaller, in a prepared statement.

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