There are a number of legitimate reasons why you would want to record a phone call. For example, when talking to a medical professional about, say, test results, you might want to make sure you have entered all the information correctly. Or if you’re interviewing someone for an article or for a position, you might want 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 good to have a record of it.

Unfortunately, it has become almost impossible to record a phone call. As I explained in a previous article, US federal law states that you can legally record a telephone conversation, but only if you participate in that conversation. State laws differ. While most states generally follow federal guidelines, some require all parties to consent to registration, rather than just one. You know how when you call a business you get a recording that tells you your call may be recorded? That is why.

So if you’re on a call and try to use a recording app to record that call, it probably won’t work. (There may still be Android apps that claim to be able to record your calls despite Google’s preventative technology, although most are no longer available. Some use workarounds such as creating a third “caller” which is actually a cloud recorder. If you’re tempted to try one, go for it, but make sure you’re in a free trial.)

But don’t despair – there are some strategies you can use if you really want to record a call. They’re annoying and not always practical, but at least they give you some options.

Quick note: Whichever method you use, the ethical (and often legally required) thing to do is let the other party know on a call that you’re recording the conversation. Just say.

Use Google Voice for incoming calls

Google Voice has been around for a while; it’s a free service that gives you a virtual phone number that you can use instead of the number that came with your SIM card. I know him well; I’ve used Google Voice for years because it made reviewing phones easier. If I wanted to use a new device for a week or more, I could just activate my Google Voice number and not worry about changing my SIM card. (That was before eSIMs were a thing.)

One feature that Google Voice still has is the ability to record an incoming call. It’s not a complete solution, of course, as it won’t record outgoing calls. But if you’re waiting for a call that you want to record, this can do it for you. (By the way, this is also available for iPhone users.)

Here’s how you configure it:

  • If you don’t have a Google Voice number, start by creating one.
  • Download the Google Voice app on your phone.
  • Open the app, tap the menu icon (three parallel lines) in the top left corner and go to Settings.
  • Scroll down and enable Incoming call options.

In the Google Voice app, tap the menu icon and go to Settings.

Google Voice Settings menu showing toggle

Enable “Incoming call options” and you can record your incoming calls.

Now, when you’re on a call, if you press 4 on the dial pad, recording will begin (and everyone on the call will hear an announcement to that effect). If you press 4 again during the call, it will end (and again there will be an announcement). Once the call is over, you’ll find your recording in the Voicemail tab of the app.

Use a recording app on another phone

If you are in a place where you are comfortable with 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 won’t work, even if you have the call on speakerphone.) This is something I often resort to, using an older phone like recorder. You can use Android’s Recorder app or a third-party app such as Otter or Temi; all three will also provide you with auto-generated transcripts. (You can also use any other recording app you prefer, of course.)

Use a conferencing app

Since the start of the pandemic, conferencing apps such as Zoom have become much more familiar as methods of communication – and many of them allow you to record the session.