Call reason feature on the Truecaller app. Image: Supplied

  • South African cellphone users receive a lot of spam - and more than 1.7 million use Truecaller to help filter this out
  • The app has now included three new features that aim to help reduce spam and unwanted calls
  • By setting a reason for a call before making it, that appears as an SMS, they hope it will give people more reason to pick up or reject a call, and might help make decisions around whether to pickup that seemingly personal call during your workday.
  • But the feature is also a move to take on some of the bigger messaging giants who have market share around the world, and in SA.
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Anti-spam smartphone app Truecaller has launched several new features in South Africa that the company says will help to aid communication and cut down on unnecessary calls.

Although the app initially focused around its anti-spam features, it has since broadened its offering to offer various calling and messaging tools - a move that’s been further solidified with the launch of three features called Call Reason, Schedule SMS and SMS Translate.

According to Truecaller, “call reason” was the most requested new feature from users in 2020. It’s a tool that will enable users making a call through the app to state a reason for the call, which will show up in text format on the receiver’s end as his or her phone rings to give them pause on whether to pick up the call or not.

READ | There’s a new way you can block SMS spam – it takes about 5 seconds and costs up to 50 cents

This, the company says, will allow outgoing callers to set an agenda for a call - and avoid situations where someone might not pick up because they are unsure of the reason behind the call.

Image: Supplied

They also argue that this feature will help increase pickup rates from people with new or unsaved numbers - and increase the efficiency and pickup rates of business calls. Businesses can use the feature to automatically send a customised text message to precede every call to their customers so they know what to expect.

According to Truecaller, this “call reason” feature was one of the most requested from users this year. It rolled out to all Android users this week, and they expect to add iPhone functionality at the beginning of 2021.

At the same time, the company has added SMS scheduling and translation features for their built-in platform. 

The new “Schedule SMS” option allows users to schedule a specific time and date for an SMS to be sent - and it can also be used to set up a reminder of meetings or events. 

true caller
Image: Supplied

And the new built-in translation feature can translate SMSes and instant messages without the user having to leave the app. 

Both of these features are, however, only available on Android phones.

More than 20% of Truecaller’s users are based in Africa, and the app identifies more than half a billion spam calls monthly across the region.

Given the high number of spam calls and SMSes in South Africa, Truecaller also has a large user base in the country.

In 2019 South Africa was also second-worst place in the world for spam SMSes - South Africans receive an average of four spam messages every day, equating to more than 100 every month, and the app now has some 1.7-million daily active users in South Africa as a result.

But the new features by the Truecaller are also an attempt to further branch out from passive call and message filtering. By offering built-in messaging, calling, and integrating advanced spam filtering features, they are also making a direct move on some of the more dominant messaging platforms currently available like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat.

When it comes to direct messaging, however, Truecaller still has a long way to go before it can compete with the giants in South Africa. 

WhatsApp is comfortably the most popular app in the country - according to Statista, 58% of mobile phone owners here use it as their primary messaging app.

Facebook Messenger (30%) and Skype and Telegram (both at 5%) are the next most popular messaging apps in the country - with Truecaller not featuring for its purpose-built messaging features.

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