Here’s how Google’s Call Screening A.I. works, and how to use it

You can now save and review Call Screening transcripts on the Pixel 3

Google’s Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are the best Android smartphones you can buy right now, but it’s not because of hardware — the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro trump them in that regard — but because they offer thoughtful software and artificial intelligence features that are “radically helpful.”

Our favorite is Call Screening, which uses the power of Google Assistant to save you from answering the phone when telemarketers come ringing.

Here’s everything you need to know about Google’s Call Screening.

How does Call Screening work?

Google Pixel 3 XL review
Julian Chokkatu/Digital Trends

Call Screening is a feature built into the Google Pixel 3’s phone app. You don’t need to do anything, because it’s on by default. When you get a call, there’s a “Screen call” option above the answer or reject button.

It uses Google Assistant to answer the call for you, and the caller will hear the following message from Assistant: “Hi, the person you’re calling is using a screening service from Google, and will get a copy of this conversation. Go ahead and say your name, and why you’re calling.”

At this point, you will see a live transcription of whatever the caller says — the quality of the transcription will rely on how clearly the caller speaks, but you’ll be able to tell if it’s a telemarketer or a robocall within seconds. If it’s proving to be tricky to identify, you can tap on a few responses for Assistant to say on your behalf. These include, “Tell me more,” “Is it urgent,” “Call me back,” and more.

Choosing a few phrases like, “Call me back,” or “I’ll call you back,” will have Assistant say the phrase and then end the call. There’s also an option to report the call as spam if you have identified it as a robocall or a telemarketer.

You can change the voice of the Assistant to a male instead of the default female voice: Just tap on the three vertical dots on the top right of the phone app, and hit Settings. Then go to Call Screen > Voice to choose between Voice 1 and Voice 2.

Privacy and transcripts

Call Screening is handled entirely on your phone, and there’s no information sent to Google’s servers or any third party. As Google said itself: “The Google Assistant helps with screening calls, but doesn’t save call audio or transcripts to your Google Account, your Google Assistant Activity page, or Web & App Activity.”

However, an update has made it possible to save a transcript locally, and rate the quality of the transcript. To access your saved transcripts, access the Recents tab of your phone app, then select the call you want to check out. From there, choose Call details. You should then see a See transcript option. You will be able to thumbs up or down the transcript’s quality, as well as read up on exactly what was said.

The real-time transcription and screening ends as soon as the call ends, or as soon as you join the call.

When should you use Call Screening?

Just because you can use Call Screening for all phone calls on your Pixel phone doesn’t mean you should. It may appear rude or jarring to use the service on family and friends, so we recommend using it only when you get a call from an unknown number.

What phones work with Call Screening?

Google’s Call Screening feature only works on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones, but it will be available for the Pixel and Pixel XL, as well as the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in November. It’s unclear if Google plans to keep this as an exclusive Pixel phone feature, or if it will be baked into Android at a later date.

Updated on December 4, 2018: Added information on how to save and review Call Screening transcripts under the “Privacy and transcripts” section.

Mobile

Verizon’s deal could get you a free iPhone XR — but there’s some fine print

Verizon launched a new deal for its smartphones aimed at encouraging customers to open a new line. If you're willing and you want two new phones, you could get a free Samsung Galaxy S9, iPhone XR, or Pixel 3.
Mobile

Here’s how to download podcasts and listen to them on Android or iOS

Podcasts have become a cultural staple. Here's how to download podcasts and listen to them on your Android or iOS device, and which apps to use if you're looking to get the most out of the format.
Mobile

Here’s how to take a screenshot on an iPad, step by step

The ability to capture screenshots may not be the iPad's most glamorous feature, but it's one of its most useful. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to take a screenshot on an iPad, whether it's an iPad Pro from 2018 or an older iPad model.
Mobile

Benchmark scores surface for Google's midrange Pixel 3 XL Lite

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a midrange line. Say hello to the Pixel 3 Lite and Pixel 3 Lite XL.
Social Media

Spice up your Instagram videos by adding your top tunes to the soundtrack

Have you ever taken a beautiful video, only to have it ruined by some jerk in the background yelling curse words? Here's a list of apps you can use to add your own music to Instagram posts as well as your Story.
Home Theater

Dolby’s secret recording studio app may soon exit stealth mode

In secret testing since June, Dolby's stealth recording and social network app may soon be ready to make an appearance. Dolby 234 blends unique noise-canceling tech with Instagram-like audio filters.
Mobile

5G phones make a lot of promises. Here’s what to really expect

There has been a lot of marketing copy expounding the potential benefits of 5G networks, but a lot less on the practical implications of 5G smartphones. There's a reason for that.
Business

Google is buying mysterious smartwatch tech from The Fossil Group for $40 million

Google is about to step up its smartwatch game. The company has agreed to buy an unnamed smartwatch technology from The Fossil Group for a hefty $40 million. Considering the acquisition, it's clear Google is serious about smartwatches.
Home Theater

Here are some common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds we’ve seen, but they’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, take a look at our guide to the most common problems and what you can do to fix them.
Social Media

Here’s how to save someone’s Instagram Story to your phone

Curious about how to save someone's Instagram Story to your phone? Lucky for you, it can be done -- but it does take a few extra steps. Here's what you need to know to save Instagram Stories on both iOS and Android.
Wearables

Lack of regulation means wearables aren’t held accountable for health claims

As fitness trackers become more like health monitors, some physicians are concerned they can lead to over-diagnosis of non-existent problems. It’s already happening with wearable baby monitors.
Business

Apple banned from distributing some iPhone models in Germany

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Mobile

Windows 10 Mobile support ending: Switch to iOS or Android, Microsoft says

A Microsoft support page detailed the company's plans to end support for Windows 10 Mobile in less than a year. Users with devices powered by the platform are suggested to switch to iOS or Android devices.
Mobile

How to use iOS 12’s Passwords and Accounts tool to autofill passwords

Keeping track of all your passwords and accounts can be a real chore. If you use an iPhone with iOS 12, then you don't have to. Here's how to use iOS 12's own password manager to autofill passwords.