Sometimes, we may need to record phone calls for documenting information, training purposes, as legal evidence, or even for creating mock telephone conversations for entertainment reasons. Digital call recording is stored in the form of audio files, and in some cases, audio recordings may also be accompanied by text transcripts of the recorded conversations.
However, recording phone conversations is not an easy task to perform. This is because during a call, the voices of the two calling parties are transmitted along two different channels. In order to record both sides of the conversation, the recorder has to simultaneously track both the channels. Quality of the recorded call is also another factor that needs to be addressed. In this article we’ll try to provide some simple ways to record phone calls, without compromising much on recording quality.
It should be mentioned here that phone call recording is not legally permitted in all countries. In some countries, recording of telephone calls needs to be authorized by a legal court or similar authority. In some other countries, one is allowed to record phone conversations provided both the parties involved in the call agree to it. In a few countries, you are allowed to record phone conversations even without a prior consent. So, before recording any personal phone call, ensure that you are aware of the telephone recording laws applicable in your country, and only record calls in a way that is legally permitted.
With these legal concerns in mind, you can record mobile phone conversations for personal reasons with the help of smartphone apps or portable call recording devices. If you are creative enough, you can also build your own DIY call recorder for recording personal phone calls.
Types of call recording apps
Smartphone apps with call recording features are usually of three basic types. One type of such apps allows the user to dial an extension (usually toll-free) number, and add another person to the call in conference. The extension in this case acts as a third party in the conversation, which can record both ends of the conversation between the caller and the callee. Thus after the call recording is completed, the user can listen to both sides of the conversation. These services usually require registration and are restricted to use in certain countries only. Also, they make use of the 3-way call conferencing feature for recording calls, and thus may not work if conference calls are not supported by the cellular carrier. Recording clarity depends primarily on the strength of cellular signal on both ends. Some of these call recording solutions openly publish their extension numbers, so that users can directly dial that number and record calls directly using any phone, without installing any dedicated app for the service.
The second type of these apps can record calls from different hardware sources. But they can usually record from only one source at a time (either the microphone or speaker, for example). This means, you can either record the call from the recorder’s end or from the other end, but not both. However, it is also possible to record conversations from both ends in this case, if loudspeaker is enabled in the recording side, and the call is recorded using the source as microphone. That way, the sound from the recorder’s end is picked up directly by the microphone, while sound from the other end is audible over loudspeaker, which is collected by the microphone and hence recorded. The recording clarity in this case might depend on a lot of factors such as external noise, quality of sound from the loudspeaker, etc. These apps are not restricted to any country as it directly records the call using the smartphone hardware without involving any third party services. Also, such apps are only available for Android devices, as iOS (iPhone) and Windows Phone platforms do not allow other apps to access the microphone during an ongoing call.
The third type refers to the VoIP based call recording services, which are similar to our first type of all recording apps, but requires an internet connection to set up a call. These services can make IP-based calls to any phone number around the world, but call rates may vary among different services. Also, these services may not be available for all countries. VoIP call recorders can record both sides of the conversation, but usually they can only record outgoing calls. These services generally ask for the user’s phone number at the time of registration. While making an outgoing call using a VoIP service, it is usually identified as the caller’s original phone number at the receiving end. Thus, if the receiver wishes to call back, he’ll directly connect to the user’s phone and not to the VoIP service.
Phone Call Recording Apps
TapeACall (iOS & Android)
TapeACall is an app that lets you record call conversations creating a 3-way conference call. You need to register your phone number in order to use the service. Whenever you want to record a (new or ongoing) call, just tap on the Record button in the app. A call is then initiated by TapeACall and you’ll get an option to add a new call to it and merge ongoing calls. Once the calls are merged, TapeACall records the phone conversation on both ends. Recorded calls can be retrieved from the app, and may be shared via email, DropBox and other file sharing services. This app is recommended for users who need to record calls regularly, as it is available for a fixed one-time payment and allows unlimited use after that. There are other apps like Call Recorder, which may be available for free and also provide similar features, but usually they support only limited duration of recording or charge you on an hourly or per-call basis. TapeACall is currently available in about 50 countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Germany and more.
Call Recording – NoNotes (iOS & Android)
Call Recording by NoNotes is another service similar to TapeACall, which can record phone calls from both ends by setting up a 3-way conference call. The app requires registration to access the service. Call recordings are saved in the cloud and can thus be accessed at any time using any device. One additional feature of this service is that it also provides transcripts of the recorded calls along with the audio file. The service is available for users of North America and the UK and is available for various price points depending on usage.
Call Recorder (Android)
This is a simple call recording application that allows one-sided phone call recordings. It uses either the loudspeaker or the microphone as the recording source, but both-way recording is also possible if loudspeaker is enabled in the recording end. Although, enabling loudspeaker is not always convenient in all situations. The app is free of cost and only available for Android devices. To record calls, all you need to do is enable Call Recording and keep it running in background. The app will automatically save all your calls in the device storage. If you only want to save certain calls, you can enable the “Save this call?” feature, which will prompt the user to save the recorded file after every call. But in order to use this feature, an upgrade to the Pro version is required.
Automatic Call Recorder (Android)
Automatic Call Recorder is similar to Call Recorder which allows the user to set up different rules for automatic call recording. It uses either the microphone or speaker as the source to record phone calls. User can select pre-defined contacts and configure the app to automatically record or ignore calls from these contacts. It also has the option to automatically turn on the loudspeaker during a call, so that both sides of the conversation may be recorded. Recorded audio files may be accessed from the device storage or shared over services like Google Drive or DropBox. Quality of recordings may vary according to device compatibility, cellular network and several other factors. The app is free to use but you can purchase the Pro version to unlock additional controls and features.
WePhone (iOS & Android)
This is a VoIP call recording app that allows you to make calls to any phone number around the world. It can record audio from both ends of the conversation, but only outgoing calls are possible using this app. You initially get some free credits that may be used for making calls. Call rates may vary depending on the location you’re calling. By default, the call quality is quite decent, but you can even enhance it by enabling the Premium line (extra call charges apply). The call recording quality may also depend on the speed of your Internet connection. If the credit balance in your account becomes zero, you cannot make a call unless you recharge your account again.
For Windows Phone users, even though there are no dedicated apps for call recording, you can use a third party call recording service like NoNotes, which allows users to record phone conversations by dialing a regional toll-free number and merging it with the call to the other party. This toll-free number is accessible via any phone, without the need of any dedicated app.
Phone Call Recording Devices
Many portable voice recording devices are available that may be used to record phone conversations. These voice recorders generally have suitable components for recording the incoming voice from the phone line, and also has a microphone to record the user’s end of the conversation. Thus, these portable devices can record telephone conversations in both ways. If you are a smartphone user, there are also portable recorders built especially for recording calls from smartphones. Below are listed a few of the call recording devices available in stores.
- ESONIC Cell Phone Call Recorder
- Voice and Call Recorder for Mobile Phones – Bluetooth, 8GB
- Browse more portable call recorders.
If the above methods for recording phone calls are not suitable, and you are adventurous enough to make your own call recording system, you can create one with the help of a combination of various gadgets and accessories (like headphones, microphone, computer, etc.). There are many DIY tutorials on the Internet that demonstrate different ways of recording phone calls. Put on your own thinking caps and build a suitable call recording equipment as per your convenience. Below is an example of DIY (telephone line tapping) tutorial.
So these are some of the ways you can record personal calls from mobile devices. If you need to record calls for professional purposes (for example, podcasts, interviews, etc.), you might want to consider a good quality dedicated microphone. Also, VoIP services (like Skype, Google Voice, etc.) are preferred over cellular network for recording professional calls, as cellular networks usually trim the top and bottom end of the audio range to save bandwidth. Thus, the quality of the call is usually better over VoIP than over mobile network.