Why can't you record a phone call

Why can’t you record a phone call using your iPhone?

A little while ago, I was preparing for an important phone call and I thought to myself – I might record this so I can review it later and be sure I missed nothing.

I’ve not needed to do this before, but since my iPhone is capable of recording and storing videos, I assumed that there would be some functionality that would enable me to record calls.

Nope. Nup. Nada.

There is no built-in functionality to enable this (even though clearly, the technology is quite capable of it).

If you jump on the App Store, you’ll find dozens of 3rd Party apps that offer this functionality. But none of them uses the phone to record the call. They all involve setting up a 3rd party app to do this. When you want to record a call, you have to dial the 3rd Party phone line, enable the recording and then run a conference call with the person you actually want to speak to.

What a clunky and unnecessary process.

So why don’t Apple enable this functionality?

It seems we’re all deprived of this functionality because of a silly law in California. In the USA, it is legal to record phone calls as long as you are a party to that call. It’s called ‘one-party consent. But for around 12 States, require ‘two-party consent.’ In other words, both people on the call need to consent.

California is one of these 12 States where this is a requirement. And because Apple is headquartered in California – everyone in the world misses out.

I find this an odd position to take. Essentially banning the equipment because it might be used unlawfully is ridiculous. Especially in the USA. By that reasoning, they’d never sell a gun because it might be used to kill someone. (Clearly, this is not an obstacle in the US.)

Here in the UK, it makes even less sense. It’s completely legal to record personal phone calls here (provided it’s for your own use). For businesses, it is also legal to record calls so long as the reason is one defined by the regulations. The top 3 reasons a business is legally allowed to record calls are:

  1. to provide evidence of a business transaction
  2. to ensure that a business complies with regulatory procedures
  3. to see that quality standards or targets are being met in the interests of national security

It makes me think about the things we do in business that prevent people from being able to easily use our products or engage in our services. Sometimes our actions are driven from fear of non-compliance when clearly a more pragmatic approach would work.

It’s a shame that a product as excellent as the iPhone actively prevents perfectly usable tech on the basis that a few states in the USA have a problem with it.