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How to screen calls on your Android phone and stop the spam deluge

Android's Call Screen is one of its best features: It's easy to use, nearly 100% effective, and - for some phones - manually configurable. You need to try it.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Jack Wallen with his phone.
Jack Wallen/ZDNET

I used to get tons of spam calls. Every day I could count on at least three or four of those calls interrupting my day. Because of those calls, I decided not to answer my phone unless the caller was a legitimate business or a saved contact. That led to a lot of voice mail but, thanks to Android's automatic transcription, it was pretty easy to verify whether or not a caller was of a spamious nature.

So, when Google introduced the Call Screen feature on Android, it was a game-changer. I would go so far as to say that feature has been probably my favorite addition to the platform. Not only has it helped me avoid 99% of the spam calls I receive, but it has also dramatically reduced the number of spam calls I get. 

How? One of the features of Android's Call Screen is the ability to tell the caller to remove me from their list, without having to talk to them. And it works! Combining the call screening with the "request to remove my number from call lists" feature, has reduced the number of spam calls I receive to near zero. I can't remember the last time I received a spam call.

Yes, it works that well.

Call Screen is also easy to use and enabled by default, so all you have to do is sit back and let Android take care of everything.

Of course, there are options. You see, recent iterations of Android ship with automatic call screening enabled. The screening of calls happens in the background, without your interaction. If you're afraid that will cause you to miss certain calls, you can disable that and take care of the call screening manually, which is just a matter of tapping Screen Call when a suspect call comes in. Otherwise, you do nothing. The caveat to the manual option is that it's not available for every device. So, if your Android phone doesn't offer manual call screening, you'll have to stick with the automatic option.

Before I show you how to make that change, know that Call Screen is available only in the following countries:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Spain
  • UK
  • US

Manual call screening is available only in the US and Canada, on selected Android devices, and with a SIM card from countries where Call Screen is available.

With that in mind, let me show you how to configure Android Call Screen.

How to screen your calls on Android  

Configuring Android's Call Screen feature

What you'll need: The only thing you'll need is a supported Android device in a country where the feature is available. That's it. Let's get to the configuration.

1. Open the Phone app settings

The first thing to do is open the Android Phone app. Once open, tap the three-dot menu button button at the top right of the window and then tap Settings.

2. Open Call Screen settings

On the resulting page, tap Call Screen to access the settings.

The Call Screen option in Android 14.

The Call Screen option should be near the top.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Configure Call Screening

If your device supports manual screening (such as my Pixel 8 Pro), you'll see an On/Off slider for Automatically Screen Calls. If you want to handle the screening yourself, tap to disable that feature. If you want to continue using the automatic option, leave it on. With automatic screening enabled, you can choose between three options:

  • Maximum protection: Screens all numbers not in your contact list and automatically declines spam.
  • Medium protection: Screens suspicious calls and automatically declines spam.
  • Basic protection: Automatically declines known spam.

The default setting is Basic protection, which has served me well. I like this option best because -- if an incoming call isn't known spam -- I can screen calls manually. This way, I know phone calls that I'm expecting (from unknown numbers, such as a business or service trying to contact me) won't get automatically screened and blocked.

The Automatic call screening options in Android 14.

Basic protection should be the best automatic option for most users.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

And that, my friends, is all there is to screening calls on your Android device. As I said earlier, this feature has dramatically reduced the number of spam calls I receive, which means (for me) this feature is a must.

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