The great thing about the modern era of smartphones and excellent cellular service is that you can always be in touch, all the time, almost everywhere. The terrible thing about the modern era of smartphones and excellent cellular service is, well…the very same thing. The difference often boils down to whether you actually want to receive that incoming call or text.
Whether your issue is robocalls, spammy and scammy text messages or unwelcome attention from stalkers and exes, knowing how to block someone is an essential 21st-century skill. Here’s how it works.
How to Block a Number on an iPhone
There are a couple of different ways to block calls and texts on an iPhone, depending on what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re in your Phone app, tap to see your recent calls and then tap the info button — the one that looks like a lowercase letter “i” in a circle — next to the number you want to block. Scroll through the menu that pops up and tap Block This Caller. The same method works from within FaceTime as well.
You can also open your phone’s Settings menu, choose Phone, then Blocked Contacts, and Add New. Choose the contact you want to block from your Contacts list, tap Block This Caller, and you’re done.
If you’re in Messages, the process to block someone from texting you is equally simple. Open your last conversation with the person you want to block, tap the Contact for them at the bottom of your conversation and then tap the info button. Once again, you can scroll down and tap Block This Caller. The steps for FaceTime and Messages will work on an iPad or iPod Touch as well as an actual iPhone.
How to Block a Number on an Android Device
Android devices aren’t as uniform as Apple devices, because Google gives its phone vendors the latitude to customize the OS in many ways. Google’s own Android instructions will work with most phones, but in some cases you might need to look up how to block someone on your specific device.
To block a phone number on most Android phones, open your Phone app. Tap the More menu (the three dots at the top), then Call History, then tap a call from the number you want to block. Tap Block/Report Spam on the menu that pops up, then — if you want to block the caller but it isn’t necessarily spam — you can tap to uncheck the Report Spam box.
Blocking a text is very similar. Open the Messages app, then touch and hold the conversation (or conversations) you want to block. The menu that pops up will give you the option of blocking that contact. Tap it, and you’re done.
What About Callers You Don’t Know?
The thing about blocking callers individually is that it’s best suited to controlling any issues you have with specific people (or businesses). It doesn’t do a lot to protect you from nuisance calls from everyone else, and for that matter a stalker or threatening ex can do an end run around your block through the simple expedient of changing phones.
You can close that loophole by restricting calls from people who aren’t on your contacts list. In iOS, you do this by going to Settings, then Phone, and scrolling down. When you see Silence Unknown Callers, tap it and then tap the toggle to turn it on. That blocks anyone from calling or messaging you unless they’re in your contacts or you’ve previously had texts or phone calls from them. Calls from people or companies who have previously sent you their phone number in a text or email will also come through.
In Android, use the phone’s Do Not Disturb feature, which is functional, if less elegant. Open Settings, then tap Sound & Vibration, and Do Not Disturb. Look for the What Can Interrupt Do Not Disturb option on the menu, and tap the Apps and Alarms & Other Interruptions options to allow all of your usual notifications to get through (or not; it might make you more productive). Now tap the People option. From here, you can choose to allow only contacts — or even just starred contacts — to call or text you.
Can You See If a Blocked Number Has Tried to Contact You?
Blocking someone can be satisfying in its own right, but it doesn’t necessarily give you the whole picture. It would also be handy to know whether that one-off Tinder date finally realizes you’re ghosting them deliberately, or whether that stalker is still trying to reach you in spite of the restraining order (to pick a high-stakes example).
On an iPhone, blocked callers will still be able to leave a voicemail, and they’ll show up on your recent calls list, so you’ll know who has called (and whether you want to hear that voice message, or just ignore it). The same holds true if you have filtered unknown callers.
If you’re using Android, the situation is similar. You won’t be notified that the call is incoming, and it will go straight to your voicemail, where you can review it if you choose. If you’ve used Do Not Disturb to filter your incoming calls and messages, they’ll still arrive on your phone (you just won’t be notified) and you can review them at your leisure. Or not.
Getting Some Help
Aside from the features built into your phone and its operating system, there are some outside resources that can help you limit unwanted calls and texts. Most cellular carriers offer some form of anti-spam or anti-robocall option, sometimes free but more often paid or included in premium plans. You can also download any number of free or paid call-blocking apps from the App Store or Play Store, though as always you should read plenty of reviews before making your choice.
You can also register your phone number with the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry, which will (slowly) reduce the number of calls you receive from legitimate sources. Scammers and shady operators will still call you anyway, despite the improved consumer protections in the recent Pallone–Thune TRACED Act, but app blockers will help thwart those.
Finally, if your concern is with one or more individual callers rather than commercial calls or robocalls, don’t overlook Spokeo’s people search tools. It takes just seconds to search the phone number that’s calling or texting you and find out who it really is. If it’s a troll, a stranger or a friend of your toxic ex, you can simply add it to your list of blocked numbers.
The Bottom Line
Depending how you communicate with your friends, family and colleagues, you may still need to take a few more steps to protect your peace of mind. For example, if you routinely use a messaging app other than your phone’s default — WhatsApp, Telegram or Signal, perhaps — you’ll need to look up the instructions for blocking your contacts on those apps.
Your phone carrier’s call-blocking services, and stand-alone call-blocking apps, may also have additional features you can call upon to improve your security and reduce the level of annoyance you have to cope with.
At the end of the day, your phone is an integral part of your life. Don’t let things get to the point where you dread hearing it ring or chime for an incoming message. This relatively short list of simple steps will help keep you in control of who reaches you and why.
- Apple Support: Block Phone Numbers, Contacts and Emails on Your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch
- Google Help: Block or Unblock a Phone Number
- Google Help: Block Messages from Someone in Messages
- Apple Support: Detect and Block Spam Phone Calls
- Android Help: Limit Interruptions With Do Not Disturb on Android
- US Federal Trade Commission: National Do Not Call Registry