phone ico

For a smartphone operating system, Android hasn't always had the best features for, you know... calls. One of the especially annoying omissions has long been caller ID, but Android 4.4 takes a big step toward fixing that. If you get a call from a business that Google knows, it lets you know on KitKat's incoming call screen. Neat.


The phone will try to identify unknown callers (i.e. those not in your contacts) by searching through local business listings on Google Maps. If there's a match, you get the business image and name displayed before you answer. That's going to be really neat when it works, but it does nothing for personal numbers or (presumably) business numbers that aren't local.

There's still some work to do, but it's better to have some enhanced caller ID features than none at all.

[Android KitKat]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Jimmy Beans

    The one thing that I really wish Android would do is what iOS does. When you get a call from an unknown number, it will at least give you the Town/City and State of where that number is coming from. I wonder if this change will have something similar if it doesn't find a business.

    • Adam Truelove

      It does that, and has for a while.

      EDIT: It gives the state, not the city.

      • Jimmy Beans

        My mistake, then. It must be something that HTC removes in Sense. Not sure why?

        • Adam Truelove

          Because HTC likes to "improve the user experience" by taking useful Android features and get rid of them while adding their own bloat.

          Sorry, I seriously hate when OEMs ruin Android. From now on, I would just go on the assumption that everything you see in Sense is not at all what Android really is.

          The same goes for Touchwiz on Samsung and whatever LG calls the crap they put on their phones. Moto is less guilty than most other OEMs, but they still muck up Android a bit.

          • Jimmy Beans

            I used Vanilla Android for quite a while, and to be honest, I don't remember it having this feature - which is why I made the comment. However, I'm really enjoying Sense 5 so there's that.

        • ddpacino

          Because skins are trash and muck up the stock OS for pennies. Nexus or nothing.

      • itsgonnalast

        Sometimes I see the city; it varies.

    • Brayden Reesor

      My Nexus 4 on 4.3 does this most of the time. If not city, usually at least state.

    • http://kennydude.me/ Joe Simpson

      In the UK, this happens all of the time on my phone? Get a call from "0191..." and it'll say "Tyneside"

  • Ryan Callihan

    If a business is calling you then you probably owe somebody money... and you've probably been avoiding them. I think that's hilarious.

    • itsgonnalast

      lol perhaps, but I get a ton of robocalls and my Congressman even called me a few weeks ago (yuck).

      The Google Voice spam filter is a godsend.

      • Ryan Callihan

        True. Still a cool feature. I just think it'll be funny to see a picture of your Congressman on your phone when he calls.

        • itsgonnalast

          haha yep. They're so predictable. He called during the gov't shutdown, and Election Day is next Tuesday so I'm expecting more before then.

    • xnadax

      "If a business is calling you then you probably owe somebody money"
      That's a very strange assumption. I've gotten lots of calls from different businesses, and I've never owed anybody money.

    • aq

      If a business is calling you then they probably want YOUR money.

      There, fixed it.

  • Jaymoon

    Privacy issues aside... could this be an issue with CDMA? How's it looking up the info if there's an incoming call? (assuming you are away from Wi-Fi)

    • timrcm

      Maybe it keeps a cache of local businesses? A couple hundred business names and phone numbers slapped in to a text file is barely 1kb, so it's feasible.

      • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

        Plausible. Could make use of the same caching as Google Maps.

        But honestly, I suspect it'll probably just use your WiFi or LTE connection.

    • Steve Williamson

      Wait? What... Does CDMA not handle calls and data at same time? (Sorry UK so don't know)

      • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

        Unfortunately no. But if you have LTE it can.

        • O.B.S

          LTE doesn't support voice call, only voip. it will fall back to 2g,3g, during voice calls

          • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

            You can be simultaneously connected to voice via CDMA and data via LTE. That was my point. I didn't say you can talk over LTE. Also, you can with LTE-Advanced, which is the goal for most carriers eventually.

    • silver_arrow

      Well probably all CDMA devices that will get updated to KitKat also have LTE to rely on for a data connection.

    • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

      What privacy issues?

      As for CDMA phones, probably WiFi and LTE will handle that issue. If you're away from both, then yeah, probably no soup for you.

      • Jaymoon

        Privacy issues such as Google knowing which numbers are calling me based on the lookups. ...you know it's going to be stored *somewhere*...

  • Carlos David

    New icon on launcher, old on calling screen. Bravo.

    • Vikram

      The old icon looks like a real phone. The new one with that exaggerated curve and straight lines looks ridiculous - it draws my attention and it irks me.

    • squiddy20

      You do realize the launcher and the phone circle lock images are 2 different icons, right? Even if you took the launcher icon from 4.3 or below and blacked it out like the full screenshot above, it still wouldn't match... because they are different image files.

      • Carlos David

        Who is talking about image files? It is about DESIGN, consistency, homegeinity, just keep calm. I love android, but this love don't transform me in hater or blind.

  • abhisahara
    • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

      And now we won't need the bloat.

  • Tony T.

    Does data need to be enable for this feature, or no?

    • Pierre Gardin

      Of course yes.

  • Matt Alexander

    Hopefully it can identify my college calling me to ask for donations

  • Jesse Cohen

    This should be integrated into hangouts/GVoice and be VOIP powered and carrier independent! Never gonna happen though...

  • dhruva

    Hmm..Google Dialer..i think this is also coming to the play store.

  • flip

    What I don't understand is why they still don't display the whole caller image on the incoming screen. It looks like crap being cut off in half.

  • Abhi Kurve

    Now that most of the apps from Nexus 5 are extracted and working...I wish I could get the Phone APK..also is the leaked phone interface confirmed?

  • Rachel

    Contactive already does this... and SO MUCH MORE. The app IDs personal numbers, and not just business listings. Plus, it let's you know what your friends are up to because it integrates with Facebook/Twitter/G+/LinkedIn.

  • Chris Lear

    Now Google needs to buy one of those 'who called me?' sites and integrate all the numbers that nobody wants calls from, so we either know not to bother answering, or so it just automatically blocks them.

    • Kenny G Banga

      I agree and android needs to have a feature where they can unblock private and unknown callers so when they call we can see who.is. calling us

  • Freak4Dell

    Is there a reason cell phones in general can't do caller ID like landlines can? I mean, I can't think of any cell phone that can do it, so it has to be a technology issue. It works at least one way, though, since if I call a landline from my cell phone, it will show my name.

  • Christian Tolentino


  • YodaRocks

    A very natural progression from here seems to be the following:
    If the caller happens to have his/her phone number updated on his/her G+ profile and made it public, then whenever he/she calls someone, that someone will be able to see the caller's G+ profile photo and name while the phone is ringing.

    • Dan Caseley

      That sounds both reasonable and useful. Public is public, after all.

  • Dan Caseley

    I wonder if Google will begin crowd-sourcing this data? Example scenario: "Google has no number for this phone number, but 1000 Google users have it in their contacts as a similar name. Use that."

  • blake

    Yellow Pages Australia already has this available for all aussies - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=au.com.sensis.mobile.android.yellow

  • Jack Slaughter

    Hi everybody. Has anyone had problems with the caller ID enhancement on Kit Kat? I've got an AT&T G2 and after downloading Kit Kat, I don't see any changes with the incoming caller ID

  • daniel

    Am I missing something here lol I've update but I don't see any changes especially to calling? I had an 0800 number call this morning and it did just as it always did??