A recent update to the Android OS on my smartphone triggered a new feature I really like a lot. I’ve started getting more and more spam phone calls on my phone, and Google is now building a list of spam numbers and letting me block them when the calls come in.

When a call comes in from a suspicious caller, after you hang up, Android asks me if this was a spam message. If I want, I can block the number right here as shown in the figure.

Figure 1

If I skip this for whatever reason, I can still pull down the alerts list and activate blocking as shown in the following figure.

Figure 2

This is a really cool feature, something I’m sure a lot of companies would try to charge you for, but in Google’s case, it’s just another feature of the OS.

This feature blends well into what I’m calling the World Without Apps (www.aworldwithoutapps.comwww.aworldwithoutapps.com) where more of your day to day activities will be controlled by agents on your smartphone, your home, your car, whatever. In this particular case, I believe this functionality is provided by the device’s Phone application, but I’m not sure. Regardless, the UX/UI of this particular feature appears at the system level – the alert pops up as you’re answering the phone (through an overlay over what you’re currently doing when the call comes in) or through the alerts area of the OS, NOT directly in the Phone application. See?

I’m curious how long it will be before the OS simply listens to the beginning of the call. If there’s a long delay on the other end, before an agent eventually clicks in to begin selling me something, my phone agent can quickly tell its spam, especially when I loudly curse and hang up, and block the phone number automatically if they ever call again.

Unfortunately, blocking the number directly really doesn’t help me. The chance I’ll get another call from this same number is slim. It does, however, help other people who get calls from this number, letting them know other people like me think this is spam and offering them a chance to not take the call. That’s valuable.

Eventually the technology will get good enough that the calls from these numbers won’t even disrupt me, they’ll be blocked by the OS and I’ll never even know.

A recent trend in spam calling is to make it look like the call is coming from your own number – the thinking apparently that any blocking software you use won’t be configured to block calls from this number. It wouldn’t be a hard update to the OS to simply add logic that if the phone gets a call from itself, immediately block it. Right?

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