Getting spam calls is no fun. Screening those unwanted calls with Google’s free “Screen Call” feature available for Pixel phones gives you a chance to protect your privacy.
Here’s how it works: when you think you’re getting a spam call, or you just don’t know who is on the line, you press a “Screen Call” button instead of the green button used to accept a call. The Google Assistant answers on your behalf by informing the person on the other end (if there is one) that you are screening the call, and asking the caller to identify themselves and describe the purpose of the call. You can listen live, jump in to answer it at any time, or continue to follow along via an automated transcript that is generated on the call screen. If you deem it to be a scam, or just don’t want to be contacted again, there’s a handy “Report Spam” button you can select, after which the Google Assistant will request that your number be removed from their list.
The ability to screen calls is active for all Pixels by default, but there are a few settings that may help you get more out of the feature. And while, as I mentioned before, this feature is available only on Google Pixel phones, if you own a Pixel 4 or Pixel 3A, you’ll even have a few more features on your side against suspected spam callers.
We’ll walk through the steps of how it works for each generation of Pixel phone.
Screening calls on a Pixel, Pixel 2, and Pixel 3
Next time you get a call from an unknown number, go ahead and hit the “Screen Call” button. It’s above and slightly to the left of the green button used to accept calls.
If you want to tweak a few additional options for how call screening works during a call, open the phone app (the feature only works with Google’s default phone app that comes pre-installed on Pixel phones).
Open the Phone app
Tap the menu button near the top right, then select “Settings.”
Next, look for “Call Screen” near the bottom of the “Settings” page.
Within this sub-option, you can choose one of two different voices and see a demo of what it will look like in action.
If you back out to the Settings menu and select “Caller ID & spam,” you’ll see the image above on the right. Your phone will filter spam calls and automatically decline them if it’s toggled on. However, it may filter some non-spam calls that are just unfamiliar numbers, so keep that in mind.
Screening calls on Pixel 3A and Pixel 4
Compared to other Pixel phones, the Pixel 3A and Pixel 4 (and their respective XL counterparts) offer far more call screening settings. You don’t have to toggle anything to use the “Screen Call” feature, but if you want to activate a few exclusive features, follow along.
Follow the same steps as above to reach “Settings,” then select “Spam and Call Screen.”
On the next page, select “Call Screen” to make adjustments to the feature.
Both phones can decline robocalls, and the feature runs numbers that call you through Google’s database of spam numbers. If it finds a match, the call will be declined so you won’t have to interact at all. You’ll have to activate this, though. To do that, select “Spam” under the “Unknown Call Settings” submenu heading, then select “Automatically screen. Decline robocalls.” Refer to the screen below if you need a reference.
Calls that make it through the robocall filter will be automatically screened, meaning the Google Assistant will ask who is calling and why.
If you don’t want automatic screening, you can choose a different action for your phone to take when you get a suspected spam call that makes it through the filter. You can let your phone ring as usual with no screening, or let it silently decline the call with no screening.
In the same way that you can customize what action your phone takes for spam callers, you can also tweak how your phone behaves when it receives a call from a first-time caller or from those calling from a private or hidden number. The same options apply here, including automatic screening, letting the calls come through normally, or silencing them without screening.
Additionally, you can toggle an option for the Google Assistant to automatically save audio clips from calls that it answers automatically. Select “Save Call Screen audio” (shown in the photo above) to activate this feature. Google claims that call audio or transcripts are not saved to your Google account, nor are they registered anywhere in your Google Assistant activity or Web & App activity.Of course, there are other ways to block spam callers, and you may find them especially useful if you’re about to move to a non-Pixel phone. Check out these tips from The Verge’s Jake Kastrenakes in the YouTube video below.
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