Truecaller is a household name in the global app market, thanks to its eponymous caller ID service. Its active user base now stands at 338 million, but it could be bigger: the lack of a caller ID feature on iOS has arguably stunted its growth among iPhone users. Now, in 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 strong growth, but also hits in its strongest markets. The app is one of the most popular among mobile users in markets like India where spammers target the masses. Still, the company has come under fire over the way it collects data for its caller ID service.
Last year, a survey by the Indian magazine The Caravan claims that Truecaller was “composed of details that were collected without consent”. However, the company denied the allegations and claimed the investigation was flawed and based on inaccurate information.
The new caller ID feature will only be offered to users who are on the app’s premium tiers (priced at a range of tiers from $0.99 per month per individual, up to 4 $.99/month when user’s carrier is not supported and $9.99/month for family plans, with discounts on annual subscriptions).
And it won’t be like on Android: unlike the seamless experience available on that platform – users instantly see a caller ID when they receive an incoming call – the iPhone experience will involve a step that requires interaction with Siri.
Nakul Kabra, product manager for iOS at Truecaller, told TechCrunch that the app has had limited experience on the iPhone due to the way Apple works with third-party caller ID apps.
The current caller ID framework in Truecaller is limited to a finite set of numbers stored in Apple’s CallKit framework administrators, chosen by Truecaller’s spam algorithm. That means other numbers not stored locally require manual searching, he said.
To use the new feature, Truecaller subscribers on an iPhone running iOS 16 or higher will need 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, and then show the result to the user.
The feature leverages Siri Shortcuts and Apple’s App Intents to deliver the expected live caller ID experience.
This means that users will first need to activate 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 screenshots captured by the shortcut.
“We’ve been tinkering with App Intents for the past few months since the public launch of iOS 16…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 evolved into this feature,” Kabra said.
Users of newer iPhones, including the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, will have the option to access the feature without having to invoke the Siri phrase and can instead tap the back of their combined. For this, they must activate the Search Truecaller shortcut from the Press return gesture settings.
With this update, Truecaller has also doubled the size of its CallKit directory and improved its spam detection algorithm to ensure that spam, scam and fraud calls are recognized more accurately.
“This improved directory ensures that most spam and verified business calls can be identified immediately, even without having to ask Siri. However, given the limitations of the platform, we cannot identify all calls to the “using the traditional call directory mechanism. That’s where the new Live Caller ID comes in and ensures you can identify every 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 has also introduced a comments feature for iPhone users which allows them to read user comments from spam calls and even contribute with their own comments. This feature was previously available on Android.
SMS filtering on iOS is also improved with the ability to categorize incoming text messages into Finance, Orders, Reminders, Coupons, Deals, and Junk. This categorization is currently in effect in India, South Africa and Nigeria and will soon be rolled out to other markets.
The new feature set 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 iPhone users have grown by more than 80%. The company declined to provide details on the total number of iOS users.
“Live caller ID on iPhone is the one major aspect that our iPhone app has missed, and we’re excited to finally introduce it with the help of Siri,” said Alan Mamedi, co-founder and CEO of Truecaller, in a prepared statement.