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.

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