Remember the story about the guy who recorded a hilariously horrific customer-service call with Comcast? If I was on the receiving end of such disastrously bad service, I’d want audio proof as well.
Of course, there are other, more innocuous, reasons for recording calls, like if you’re interviewing someone for a job or conducting market research.
All of which raises the question: How does one record a phone call? There are plenty of tools available, but before you use any of them, make sure you’re legally allowed to do so.
Know the law
Sure, the NSA can get away with recording calls, but can you? As noted by the Digital Media Law Project, “From a legal standpoint, the most important question in the recording context is whether you must get consent from one or all of the parties to a phone call or conversation before recording it.”
There are both federal and state laws pertaining to this, and it goes without saying that you should investigate them before recording any phone conversation.
That said, when you call a customer-service number and hear the message, “Calls may be recorded for training and quality purposes,” that’s the company’s way of obtaining your consent. (If you don’t consent, you obviously have the option of hanging up.) To my thinking, this also implies consent on the part of the company, meaning you should be free and clear to record at your end. But I’m not a lawyer.
Likewise, if both parties verbally consent to the recording — like if you’re conducting a phone interview — and you capture that consent within the recording, that should be sufficient to absolve you of any legal complications. Again, consult a lawyer if you have concerns.
Tools for recording calls
Assuming you’re squared away with the law, how do you actually make a recording of a phone call?
The most obvious method: Enable speakerphone mode on whatever phone you’re using, then use a second device to record the call. This could be anything from a handheld digital recorder to your PC’s Webcam (it records audio, too) to a smartphone running any voice-recorder app.
The downside to this approach is that the speakerphone picks up all other ambient noise as well. If you’re typing while talking (like during an interview), the clack of your keys might be an unwelcome addition to the recording.
A better option: Google Voice. The service makes call recording insanely easy: Just press 4 during a call to start recording, then press 4 again to stop. When you’re done, you’ll have an MP3-formatted file you can listen to online or download. Just take note that it does announce when you start a recording, so you can’t do so in secret.
Also, this works only with incoming calls. If you’re making an outbound call, like to a customer-service line, you’re out of luck. (Pro tip: Use GetHuman to set up a customer-service callback to your Google Voice number. Now you can record away.)
If you need to be able to record an outgoing call or conference call, check out Recordator. It’s platform-agnostic, meaning it works across landlines, cell phones, etc. That’s because it relies on 3-way calling, effectively merging your call with a recording service. It’s not free, though: You pay as you go, with plans starting at $0.10 per minute.
You can also try some app-powered recording options. Call Recorder – ACR (Android), for example, can easily preserve both incoming and outgoing calls — but make sure you test it first, because not all phones support recording.
iPhone users can try something like Call Recorder Free, which is similar to Recordator in that it relies on three-way calling to merge your call with a recording line. But take note that although the free version will record your entire call, playback is limited to the first 60 seconds unless you purchase the Pro upgrade ($9.99). There’s also TapeACall, which costs $7.99 annually and works with both incoming and outgoing calls. The price nets you unlimited recording and no per-minute fees.
Yet another option: a voice-over-IP phone app that supports call recording. WePhone, for example, offers competitive rates for both long-distance and international calls, and starts/stops recording with just the tap of a button.
Readers have also mentioned apps like FireRTC, RecordiaPro and Yallo. Hit the comments section for other recommendations, and feel free to add your own. We’ll be listening…
Editors’ note: This article was originally published on January 16, 2016, and has since been updated.