“Hello” Is Facebook’s New Android-Only Social Caller ID App
Say goodbye to calls from unknown numbers. Facebook’s newest app Hello instantly matches phone numbers of incoming and outgoing calls to Facebook profiles to show you info about who you’re talking to, block calls from commonly blocked numbers, and search for businesses to call. Today, Hello is rolling out for public testing in the US, Brazil, and Nigeria, but the catch is that it’s Android-only since iOS won’t let apps interact with phone calls.
Hello’s caller ID feature could clue you in to whether you want to pick up a call from a number you don’t have saved by showing their name and profile picture — as long as they haven’t changed the default privacy setting that lets people search from using their phone number. You’ll then see whatever info they share publicly or with you, like city, employer, website, and more.
Technically, nothing is changing about Facebook privacy, though it does make personal info more readily visible. Hello essentially just runs an immediate Facebook graph search on any number you call or that calls you.
Hello works and looks quite similar to caller ID app TrueCaller. Last month, Android Police spotted Facebook experimenting with an employees-only version off Hello codenamed “Phone”.
Facebook’s now officially testing the app publicly, as Hello Product Manager Andrea Vaccari says there’s a big problem to solve. “More than 1 billion phone calls are made in the US ever day” he tells me. But “the experience of the phone call hasn’t evolved in a long time.”
Here’s a short video from Facebook showing Hello in action:
Hello was built over the last year by a lean team connected to Facebook Messenger, and led by Vaccari. He came to Facebook with the acquisition of his social location startup Glancee, and was the lead on one of the company’s smartest recent product launches, Nearby Friends. “This started as a small group of people
Vaccari also laments that “Anyone with your number can ring you day or night and interrupt you”. While other forms of communication often require our consent, a telemarketer can buy your number and call you incessantly without permission. Hello’s blocking feature could return control to a number’s owner.
“Calling is really big. It’s core to how people connect with each other, including family and close friends, but also businesses and colleagues” Vaccari exclaims.
The New Facebook Phone
Here are Hello’s features:
Synced Phone Book
With permission, Hello will add profile pictures and other info to the contacts in your address book. It can also serve as an enhanced version of your phone book, with extra info about friends and others shown inline as you scroll through contacts.
When a Hello user receives a call, Facebook will reference the phone number against its database. If the caller has left their “Who can look you up using the phone number you provided?” privacy setting to the default of “Everyone” or a more private category like “Friends Of Friends” that you’re part of, it will show their name and profile picture.
If they share other bio info with you, including current city, home town, employer, job title, education, website, or it’s their birthday today, you’ll see that too. All the information appears in a card overlaid on your screen while the phone is ringing, and you can swipe it away.
If you use Hello as an address book or dialer app, you’ll also get info about people you’re calling. While their phone is ringing, you could get a heads up if they have a new job or moved to a new city.
Free VOIP Calls
Call BlockingHello can tell you if an incoming call comes from a commonly blocked number. And if enough people have blocked it, Hello can just automatically send the call to voicemail to save your sanity.
Hello features a smart search bar at the top of its screen. From there you can easily search for your Facebook friends and contacts, but also anyone else, or businesses too. Facebook imports information like phone number, address, and open hours into the info card about businesses, and lets you call them with a single tap.
In general, I don’t find the Hello privacy defaults to be problematic, but there isn’t a simple way to just opt out of having your info appear in the app.
The best method is to go to your Who Can Find Me settings on Facebook, and narrow the group of people “Who can look you up using the phone number you provided”. This way your basic info won’t appear to strangers you call. You can then go to your About section and reduce the visibility of who can see your phone number, so Facebook can’t match it to friends you call either.
To stay private without cutting off Hello entirely, consider switching who can you find you by phone number to Friends Of Friends, and limiting the extra bio info you share publicly. This way only friends of friends will be able to see who you are when you call, and they’ll only get your name, and profile picture.
Hello isn’t Facebook’s first swing at Android-only software, but the first was certainly a miss. Facebook launched its Android launcher Home two years ago, and watched it promptly flop. The main problem was that it tried to totally redefine how you used your phone, altering your lockscreen, app navigation, chat, and more.
Luckily, Vaccari tells me his team learned from Home’s mistakes. He says Hello isn’t trying to completely change the way you make and receive calls. It’s just trying to make it a little better. “Hello is more of a targeted experience. Home was more integrated with your phone. This is much more of a standalone app.”