Truecaller, the crowdsourced, reverse-lookup phone directory app, is expanding its service, and breaking some ground in the process. Today the company is adding its Live Caller ID feature to its iOS app — which will let iPhone users identify spammy numbers, as well as callers that are engaged in one-ring scams.
Although TrueCaller, which is backed by Sequoia among others, says that it has been offering this feature on Android for some time, it is a first for iOS, since Apple normally doesn’t open its platform in a way that would let apps access calling information.
“The reason we haven’t had this on iPhone before is because you haven’t been able to intercept the call on iOS,” explains CEO and co-founder Alan Mamedi in an interview. “But we found a really cool way of solving it when you get a call from a number.” That method involves taking a screenshot of the alert that comes up when you get a call with an unknown (but displaying) number. Once you take the shot, TrueCaller identifies that you’ve done this and then automatically looks at the picture, references it against its database, and then tells you, “in Siri’s voice” who the caller is, or if it’s spammy. A demo of how it works is here:
If it sounds a bit tedious to do, as it slightly did to me, Mamedi says that in fact the whole process takes only a matter of seconds to push an alert through to you. He describes this as more of an iteration than a final product, made by working closely with Apple even to get this far.
What will be interesting is to see whether Apple works with TrueCaller to integrate the feature in further iterations of iOS. It’s worth wondering if, while in the past Apple has been justified in how it has resisted opening its platform to be able to keep more control over the look and experience, Apple feels as wedded to this idea now that it is losing so much more market share to Android.
“My hope is to work closer with Apple to see how we can make this better in the future,” Mamedi says. “We’ve been speaking with the developer team, and while we’re not yet getting access to their calling APIs, we’ll see what happens.”
In any case, he believes some of the way that apps work on iOS will have to change soon. “We are seeing a lot of changes on iOS7 and what we see today will be gone,” he predicts. “In future iterations it will be about interactive feeds on home page. Widgets.”
TrueCaller has a bit of a history with ground-breaking integrations of its platform. The company, which now has 55 million users and adding 155,000 per day (“Our goal is to reach 150 million by the end of this year,” Mamedi tells me), made waves last year when it unveiled an interesting integration with Twitter specifically for India. That tapped not only into Twitter’s ambitions to build up more usage in emerging markets, but of the force that TrueCaller has become in that region, where Mamedi says the most popular apps are “Facebook, WhatsApp, and us.”
That partnership lets users in the country locate people on Twitter via their phone numbers, and then lets them follow and tweet to those people, all via the Truecaller app. For now, there is no ability to comment on other people’s tweets or see full timelines.
Mamedi would not share details of how that service is progressing except to say that it’s been “pretty successful so far.” Between its basic service, partnerships with Twitter and also Yelp that gives people more business ratings and other data with each call, are bringing in 800 million searches every month on its platform.
Truecaller is also pushing the development of premium, revenue generating services while trying to grow. The main one of these is the service called, yes, Premium, which costs $0.99 per month and gets rid of any ads on the service if they are being shown to you. It also lets you see who is viewing your personal profile, a la LinkedIn; and gives you 30 contact requests to connect with people outside of your network.