Google's latest Pixel update automatically silences unknown numbers in a push to end robocalls once and for all

Google Call Screen

Google

  • Google's journey to end automated telemarketing - also known as "robocalls" - is taking another step forward this week with a major update to Android's "Call Screen" feature.
  • The latest update enables Google's Pixel smartphones to outright skip phone calls that may be automated. Your phone doesn't even ring if it receives a call from an unknown number.
  • After Call Screen intervenes, it determines whether the call is from a robot. If it isn't, Google Assistant transcribes the caller's text and provides you with more information "a few moments later."
  • Though the new feature rolls out to Pixel 4 users first, Google says it's coming "to all Pixel devices with Android 10 over the coming weeks."
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Google is stepping up its long-running effort to curb the billions of unwanted robocalls Americans receive each year.

The latest move is a major upgrade to Android's "Call Screen" feature, which enables Google Pixel owners to screen phone calls using Google's virtual assistant.

Where Call Screen users previously had to activate the function, the update automates the service. Call Screen "now helps you automatically screen unknown callers and filter out detected robocalls before your phone ever rings, so you're not interrupted by them," the company said.

In short: Unknown numbers will skip your phone's ringer, and Google Assistant - the company's version of Siri - will answer the phone call for you. If the service determines you're not getting a call from a robot, it'll push the phone call back to your ringer "with helpful context about who is calling and why."

Here's a look at how it works:

Google call screening gif

Google

The Call Screen upgrade is coming to Pixel 4 owners first at some point this month, but a Google representative said the update will "roll out to all Pixel devices with Android 10 over the coming weeks." That includes Google's Pixel, Pixel 2, Pixel 3, and Pixel 3a.

But it may be a while before all robocalls go away. That's because of the way some telemarketing services catalog their phone number databases. These services can track whether numbers they call answer attempted outreach. Numbers that receive a pick-up are subsequently marked as answered phone numbers, and those numbers are targeted again.

Some automated call services often use number-spoofing services that enable them to hide their identity as another phone number. This could be because the call is coming from a telemarketer with multiple call centers but a single call-back number, or because it's a scam caller looking to avoid being detected or marked as spam.

If these robocalls are categorizing Call Screen's screened call as a "pick-up," it could result in more calls. We'll have to wait and see how it works in real life to know for sure.

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