Google Will Kill Call Recording Apps in the Play Store Next Month

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Android apps used to be the wild west—Google would allow almost anything into the store, even apps that could root your phone with a single tap. The company has clamped down on such excesses, usually to the benefit of users. However, one upcoming change has people rankled. Next month, Google plans to enforce restrictions on the Accessibility API, which means all the best call recording apps will be banned or forced to downgrade to a more primitive method of recording. 

Google made the announcement in an off-handed fashion earlier this month during an hour-long seminar on developer policy changes. At just shy of 19 minutes into the video below, a Googler notes that the Accessibility API is not designed for, and cannot be used, to record phone calls. That’s a problem for some very popular apps, which have leveraged this feature to do just that. The presentation glosses over the change in barely a minute, and the only justification is that it’s better for user security. 

The Accessibility API is there to help developers create apps for people with disabilities. For example, you could create an app that reads text on the screen or a voice-based input system that helps those with motor impairments. None of that is changing, but apps that use Accessibility to capture and save phone call audio will be banned as of May 11th. Google has been moving toward a more restrictive set of Accessibility APIs for several years, so this change doesn’t come as a shock. 

ACR is one of the most popular call recording apps on Android, and it uses Accessibility for its core functionality.

Recording call audio is a touchy subject in some places. While it’s almost assumed that calls will be recorded in India, there are plenty of states in the US where you can only record calls with the consent of all parties. Pixel phones even support call recording in many countries, but not in the US, Canada, or most of Europe. 

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While this will make call recording apps harder to find, they could still exist. Google allows users to install apps from outside the Play Store—you just have to jump through a few hoops in settings and bypass a scary warning. Without access to the Play Store, though, developers would have a hard time making a business out of call recording apps. Apps in the Play Store will most likely resort to recording from the speakerphone, which is a much less effective way to do it, but Google isn’t giving developers any other options.

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