Phone Therapy, Pt. I

2018.05.14-hiyaHi Tim,

Three Two suggestions:

1. If someone does not pick up your FaceTime call, wouldn’t it be great if there was an option to leave a brief recorded video message? Perhaps sent to their iMessage account (like those approaching-the-uncanny-valley animojiis). It would remove some of the friction of communication and I think delight many people.

2. When you force-touch an app icon from the iOS launch screen there should be a link to that app’s settings screen.

3. Spam calls are getting so bad. There should be a better way to report spam calls built into the phone app. 

It was barely after noon and I was just barely into Penn Station and — while at the kiosk replenishing my MetroCard from a year before — my phone just completely blew up with spam calls. Four in the course of trying to dip one card to fill the card. They seemed to like to call then, around 9am Pacific, the beginnings of your business day when you are more likely to receive random calls. And time zoned based on area code. They — being robots and scripts and hundreds or thousands of servers.

This is all too common now, to have the smartest phone become incredibly immobile and inconvenient because of its actual telephonics.

Anything with an open address is vulnerable to junk, and the phone is ultimately just another address to which it can openly receive requests.

So the next morning, when I found myself inspired by these other things to email, I decided to Google the problem again before complaining about it to a magical thinking inbox where — at best — it would be filtered by an algorithm similar to what I was looking for. As if unsolicited constituent advocacy now extends to the city-state leaders of the glass age.

To which I discover that there was, in fact, an app for that now, and an entire developer kit released by Apple in iOS 10 to address these issues1, in a third party way. Which, if you’re keeping score, is one major and multiple minor versions of iOS ago.

So if you experience spam calls on your cell— you might consider downloading an app called Hiya.

It does the thing, of saving your phone. In theory. It blocks bad calls. I’ve been using it installed for a week in “warn” mode to see how it works. The good news though is that if Hiya doesn’t work, like say for example it turns out to be just another form of a scam (which there is, certainly, a greater-than-zero chance) Apple designed the tool to allow for multiple apps and services to run these annoyances against their call-block fatigues.

  1. There is also this bizarre but perhaps benign and not too-Black-Mirror story in the documentation:
    For example, consider a user who is friends with Jane in a social networking app, but who doesn’t have her phone number in their contacts. The social networking app has a Call Directory app extension, which downloads and adds the phone numbers of all of the user’s friends. Because of this, when the user gets an incoming call from Jane, the system displays something like “(App Name) Caller ID: Jane Appleseed” rather than “Unknown Caller”
    As if Jane would ever just call.
  2. Due to the probability and the way in which these robocalling tools are able to scale up and my anecdotal sample size of most of the loyal readers of the blog, if you are reading this post then you have this problem and this app might be for you.

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