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How to Record Phone Calls on an iPhone

Apple doesn't make it easy to record calls on an iPhone. Here are some of your best options.

By Eric Griffith

My Experience

I've been writing about computers, the internet, and technology professionally for 30 years, more than half of that time with PCMag. I run several special projects including the Readers' Choice and Business Choice surveys, and yearly coverage of the Fastest ISPs and Best Gaming ISPs. I work from my home, and did it long before pandemics made it cool.

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How to Record Calls on an iPhone (Credit: Shutterstock/maradon 333/Apple)

You want to record a call on your smartphone. Maybe it's an interview for work, a customer service call, or a conversation with a loved one.

Things get tricky when you want to record a call while using an iPhone. (And it's not quite as easy on Android anymore, but certainly possible.)

You would think there'd be an iOS app for that, but Apple doesn't allow third-party apps to access the microphone and the integrated Phone app directly. However, there are tricks within some apps and services to get around that limitation and make you a mobile wire-tapping master.

Be sure to tell the person on the other end of the line you're recording. Depending on your location, you may be breaking a law(Opens in a new window) if you don't. Some US states—like New York(Opens in a new window) and even the feds—only require one-party consent, which means you can record without telling the other person or persons. In California, all parties must know they're being recorded—even if the recorder is out of state. Under federal law, one-party consent is okay, but only if you're part of the conversation; otherwise that's considered eavesdropping.

None of these laws are as cut and dried as they seem (Nevada's one-party consent has been viewed by the courts as an all-party consent). Play it safe and get permission on any recorded call. "Forgiveness" could get litigious and costly, and even lead to criminal charges. If you're nervous, don't record at all. The folks at Rev did a deep-dive into the laws(Opens in a new window) to help drive that advice home.

Simply Record a Speakerphone Chat

This works for any call, live conversation, or endless Zoom meeting. On a second device—be it another iPhone, an iPad, laptop, or an Android device—open a voice-recorder app and hit record while you're talking. On iOS, the built-in version is called Voice Memos; we have a full tutorial on how to use it. Windows has a built-in Sound Recorder. Android has a bunch of them.

You can do this with third-party voice recorder apps as well, like Rev Voice Recorder, Otter, and Alice, which offer some transcription. Usually for a price. The downside to this method is the quality can be sketchy. Plus, people hate talking on speaker phone.

*Deals are selected by our partner, TechBargains(Opens in a new window)

Employ Google Voice

If you haven't used that free Google Voice account in a while, check it out. It provides free voice mail, a free phone number, call-around service (it'll ring as many IRL phones as you want it to until you answer), and yes, even conversation recording on incoming calls. While it's possible to make an outbound call using the Google Voice app on your iPhone, you can't record them.

For recording to work, it must be activated in settings. In the mobile app(Opens in a new window) or via voice.google.com(Opens in a new window) on the desktop, go to Settings > Calls > Incoming call options.

Google Voice Incoming Call Options
Google Voice Incoming Call Options (Credit: PCMag)

You have the option in settings for calls to be answered either via the app itself (check off iOS Device) or by having the call forwarded to your mobile number. Either way, you are not technically doing the recording on your iPhone. It's all done on Google's servers, which handle the Voice over IP (VoIP) connection.

When you answer calls made to your Google Voice number, tap 4 on the number pad. Participants will hear a robot voice state that recording has begun—this is Google's way of keeping you legal; Alphabet Inc. wants no part of a lawsuit. To stop recording, tap 4 again or hang up. You can hit the 4 key as often as you like to start and stop recording.

Call recordings are forwarded to you via email and appear in Google Voice's list of voice mail recordings. You can generally tell the difference between voice mail messages and recorded conversations because the latter are longer, and say "Transcription not available."

Use a 3-Way Call Merge App

On iPhone, recording phone calls is blocked, period. The apps that do exist to record a call—and there are quite a few—provide a workaround, but it will usually cost you.

iPhone recorder apps only work because they utilize 3-way conference calls, either incoming or outgoing. The third "caller" is a recording line, provided as a service by the app's developer. Obviously, 3-way calling is a must-have feature of your iPhone for this to work, so be sure your carrier supports it. In the US, the big three all do, but some smaller carriers do not.

A downside to these apps—they are not as simple as hitting a key on the number pad. You have to take extra steps to make the merge happen with the third number doing the recording. However, they can be activated in the middle of any normal phone call; afterwards you get easy access to recordings in the app and can play, download, share, or export them as desired.

Rev, our top-rated transcription service, offers an app to facilitate recording incoming and outgoing calls by merging in a Rev recording number on a 3-way call. You access the recordings in the Conversations area of the app.

Unlimited recording is free with Rev's service, there's unlimited storage, and you can share the recording all you want. It only charges for transcriptions (it's $1 per minute but offers top-notch accuracy, according to our review). The Rev Call Recorder app, only on iOS, is free. Don't confuse it with the Rev Voice Recorder mentioned above (also free, for iOS and Android), which is for recording in-person conversations.

Most similar apps will cost you for the recording alone and some limit recording time. 

  • TapeACall Pro(Opens in a new window) is $10.99 annually for unlimited call recording length. 

  • Call Recorder Pro(Opens in a new window) is a $9.99 one-time purchase, but offers only 300 minutes of calling credits; do an in-app purchase of credits to record after that. There's a "lite" version to try out with limited record times (60 seconds) and features.

  • Phone Call Recorder - ACR(Opens in a new window) is "free." It trumpets that all call recordings, incoming or outgoing, even photo calls—meaning FaceTime calls—are unlimited in length. But that's only if you upgrade via in-app purchase to the pro version for $59.99.

Dial 3-Way Call Recorder Services

You don't need an app to record calls. There are several paid services that let you call them directly to get the recording going before you pull in the other party. This also means you're not limited to iPhone only—they'll work with an Android phone or even a landline.

RecordiaPro has options for recording both in the US alone (starting at $29.99 for 120 minutes) or worldwide ($40 for 190 minutes). Create an account before you call, put RecordiaPro's number in your contacts, and use it when you call out or add RecordiaPro to existing calls. For $36 per year, it will provide a number you can hand out to take future calls that get auto-recorded. Transcription costs extra.

Recordator has a free 10-minute recording trial; otherwise, it costs $10 for 67 minutes to start, then costs $0.15 per minute, but there are no monthly fees, just per-minute used fees. It works much like RecordiaPro, giving you a number to set up a 3-way conference that does all the recording. It also supports the merge-call option.

Use Your Own Voice Mail—Maybe

If your iPhone has support (via your mobile carrier) for 3-way calling and Visual voice mail, you have an option for the cheapest workaround of all.

When you're in a call, wait for the Add Call button to light up, so you can add a third caller via 3-way calling. Tell the other person to wait, click the button, and call yourself. Stay on the line and listen to your own voice mail greeting, then for the tone that indicates the recording has begun. Tap Merge Calls. All three calls are merged—and the third one (your voice mail) is taping the other two.

Later, you can access the recording like you would any other voice mail message. If you desire, export voice mail messages as audio files.

This isn't going to work for all carriers. On mine (AT&T), calling my own number dumped me into the audio voice mail menu and didn't record. You could always try calling the person on the other line again—you'll go directly to their voice mail, certainly. They could send you the recorded "voice mail" conversation after. However, that's not something most interview subjects want to get involved in.

Also, carriers have a limit to how long they'll let you record a voicemail message. Test it with your phone and a friend before you trust this method.

The safer option is to do this with a third-party voice mail system like Google Voice (but the voicemail recordings are limited to 3 minutes). Ultimately, it's better to have a paid voicemail service, use the Google Voice recording option for incoming calls outlined above, or spring for the paid recorder services like Recordator. Especially if you're going to talk for a long time.

The Hardware Options

It seems foolish to buy more hardware to record from the iPhone—the most advanced hardware in your pocket, if not your entire home. But the option exists.

The simplest, lowest-tech option—beyond operating a handheld voice recorder while you blather over the speakerphone—is a cable: the Olympus TP-8 Telephone Pick-up Microphone(Opens in a new window) for under $20. It doesn't digitally capture from your iPhone. Instead, it has a microphone built into the earpiece. Plug the 3.5mm plug on the other end into a recorder. Hold the iPhone up to your ear to talk normally. The TP-8 captures each side of the conversation from what comes out of the iPhone's ear speaker, while you can still hear the conversation.

Obviously, your recorder must support input via a 3.5mm microphone jack, such as the highly rated Sony Digital Voice Recorder ICD-PX Series(Opens in a new window). It has almost 32 hours of battery life, records to MP3 (storing 173 hours worth in 4GB of memory), and includes a USB connector for transferring data to a PC.

Sony Digital Voice Recorder ICD-PX Series
Sony Digital Voice Recorder ICD-PX Series

A digital recorder is nice and all, but if you plug a recorder directly into an iPhone using a 3.5mm audio cable, you're not going to hear the call. Using the iPhone headphone jack—assuming your iPhone is so old that it even has one—cuts off the speaker. Get the Recap(Opens in a new window), a $139 adapter that plugs into an older phone's 3.5mm jack, with output to a headset as well as to a recorder. The secondary recorder—connected via a 3.5mm male-to-male auxiliary audio cable(Opens in a new window)—is up to you. It could even be another iOS device or an Android or a PC.

An option with far fewer cables is the RecorderGear PR200(Opens in a new window). It records your conversation via Bluetooth. The call button in the middle of the device can answer calls on the Bluetooth-connected phone. Hold the PR200 up to your head to talk and listen, as if it's the phone. It also features a USB-A plug on the end to quickly access recordings on the computer. It will hold about 144 hours of conversation before it fills up the 4GB of storage. It records like any digital recorder sans smartphone, since it has an external pin-hole microphone.

Wondering how to get an extra phone number to use with your smartphone? Read How to Get a Secret Phone Number (and Why You Need One). And if you're only recording in-person conversations, check out The Best Voice Recorder Apps.

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About Eric Griffith

Features Editor

I've been writing about computers, the internet, and technology professionally for 30 years, more than half of that time with PCMag. I run several special projects including the Readers' Choice and Business Choice surveys, and yearly coverage of the Fastest ISPs and Best Gaming ISPs. I work from my home, and did it long before pandemics made it cool.

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