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The industry’s magic bullet for robocalls is currently useless on an iPhone

The industry’s magic bullet for robocalls is currently useless on an iPhone

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STIR/SHAKEN comes to iPhones, but not in a useful way

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Robocalls are a scourge, but cellular networks have finally started fighting them with a pair of technologies called STIR and SHAKEN, which work to verify that a call is coming from a real phone number and not a spoofed robocall or spammer.

Apple finally added support for STIR/SHAKEN with iOS 13, which should be great news in theory, adding millions of new devices that will now get this verification technology. But there’s just one problem: Apple’s implementation of the feature is essentially useless for actually identifying incoming robocalls, rendering the whole thing moot.

On Android devices, when you get a call from an unknown number and both you and the caller are on a network that supports STIR/SHAKEN call authentication (which right now is just T-Mobile and AT&T in the US), you’ll get a “Caller Verified” notice if your phone supports the feature. iPhones support this tech in theory with iOS 13, but Apple won’t display that information on the call screen: just the number and the location, as it usually does.

Left, a verified STIR/SHAKEN call on Android. Right, iOS.
Left, a verified STIR/SHAKEN call on Android. Right, iOS.

Now, you can still find out if a call is a verified call on iOS 13, but only after the fact, by going to the call log where a new checkmark icon is now displayed next to any verified calls. It’s certainly better than before, when there was no support at all on iOS — but the main purpose of the verification feature is to help you figure out if a caller is real before you pick up the phone. Showing it in a log that’s only accessible after you’ve gotten (and potentially answered) the spam call renders the STIR/SHAKEN system mostly useless.

A verified call on the iOS 13 call log (highlighted in red).
A verified call on the iOS 13 call log (highlighted in red).

A T-Mobile representative noted to The Verge that they’re “hoping Apple will change this” in the future. We’ve reached out to Apple for comment and will update this piece if we hear back.

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