Recording a phone call used to require an external gadget that connected a digital recorder to a desk phone’s base and handset. It’s still one of the most reliable ways to capture a conversation, but it’s not exactly convenient. These days, smartphone apps and cloud services make recording phone calls easy and convenient—whether you want to save a conversation with grandma, or a particularly candid conversation with a White House official.
There are a couple of ways you can do it. But first, one major disclaimer: State laws vary considerably when it comes to recording phone calls. Some require both parties to consent to having the conversation recorded, so check your state’s laws to see if you need permission before you hit Record. A good resource for learning about consent laws state by state can be found here. With consent covered, you can try these ways to record your next conversation.
Use an App
Neither the iPhone nor Android devices come with a built-in call recorder, but their respective app stores are full of options to download.
TapeACall Pro has long been a favorite among journalists. Why? The app, available on both iOS and Android, makes recording as simple as setting up a three-way call. Dial the TapeACall line, then dial the person you want to talk to, and merge the two calls into a conference. Boom, you’re done. Recordings are saved inside the app, and you can share them via Dropbox, Google Drive, or Evernote. TapeACall puts out a free version, but you can only access the first 60 seconds of your recording. If you plan on talking for more than a minute, it’s worth splurging for the Pro version. It costs $20 for a year of unlimited use. Since the app uses three-way calling to capture the conversation, you need to have a service plan that supports three-way calls.
For cheapskates, plenty of apps will let you record for free—like Another Call Recorder for Android. Google Voice also offers free recording, though the process is a little fussy: You have to first enable call recording on your Google Voice account, and you can only record during incoming calls to your Google Voice number. The service also announces when the recording has begun, so don’t plan on tricking anyone here. When you hang up, Google saves the recording directly to your inbox.
Want to go all old school with your call recording? Get yourself some cheap hardware, like this $14 Olympus Telephone Recording Device. Plug it into the microphone jack on a digital recorder and the earpiece picks up both sides of the conversation.
Other gadgets plug directly into your headphone jack to record audio, but they cost more. If, for some reason, you’re still using a landline, an old-fashioned telephone tap like this one will connect your handset to your recorder.
Update on May 15, 2018: This article was updated to include new information on state laws and the latest call-recording apps.