Recording iPhone Calls — It’s Trickier Than You Might Think

A few months ago, I switched my main landline phone number to my iPhone. In doing this, I did not consider the issue of recording interviews from incoming and outgoing calls — something that’s easier said than done with an iPhone. This is how I mastered the issue.

Due to legality issues in certain states, Apple has avoided the law altogether by simply leaving the recording feature out. The iOS on iPhones have no built-in recording features. That means hello third party software and hardware.

There may be third party software and hardware, but there is also professional-quality software and hardware. They are not the same. What I am asking here is whether the recording solution is rock solid enough to depend on for professional daily use, as opposed to a fragile, unreliable consumer solution.

For software, TapeACall is widely considered the best iOS app to offer call recording. In it’s best form, this app records both incoming and outgoing calls and has export options to share the recording via SMS, Dropbox and Evernote. But you have to pay for it. TapeACall costs $24.99 a year with additional in-app purchases to unlock more features.

For those who prefer hardware without continuing fees, there are several options at a range of prices. One is a Lightning-connected recorder from Photofast ($115). Reviews for it are problematic at best, while Koolertron phone call recorder earphones ($33) records up to 16 hours of call recording with the built-in 512MB of storage. Recorder Gear makes its PR200 Bluetooth call recording device ($109) which comes with 4GB of storage and a 12 hour battery life.

The problem with all these hardware products is they are consumer grade and can’t be trusted for truly professional use. Also, for interviews, I don’t trust the reliability of Bluetooth either. I’ve used Bluetooth headsets regularly, but am not confident in using Bluetooth enabled devices for recording. Too much to go wrong. I want technology that is bullet-proof reliable.

JK Audio CellTap 4C

JK Audio CellTap 4C

One vendor of top-quality professional phone recording interfaces is JK Audio, based in Sandwich, Illinois. The company’s CellTap 4C ($99.75) is an interview-recording adapter that connects between the headset and cell phone, providing stereo output to a recorder or mixer. Versions of this device have served journalists since 9/11.

CellTap 4C is compatible with most smart phones, tablets and notebooks that use the 3.5 mm four-conductor TRRS headset jack. You can also use the iPhone Lightning to TRRS dongle for phones without a headphone jack. Simply connect the CellTap 4C between the phone and then connect the stereo output to a mic level input on your recorder or mixer. There’s also a headphone jack for monitoring.

JK Audio also makes the Daptor 2 ($171.00) and Daptor 3 with Bluetooth ($356.25) for more advanced recording needs. All work with mobile phones and all JK Audio products work very well for pros.

Koss Porta Pro Headphone

Koss Porta Pro Headphone

I went a different route, one that is cheaper, simpler, portable and reliable. Since I have an iPhone X with no phone jack, I use the Lightning dongle with a pair of collapsable Koss Porta Pro Headphones ($75.62) with microphone, volume control and remote control. These phones, refined over many years, collapse into a small round case but plug-in to an iPhone and allow the user to communicate while the ears are covered on both sides.

Then, using a small Zoom recorder, I connect an Olympus TP-8 Telephone Pick-Up ($14.99) into the mic jack. This tiny earbud combines a telephone pick-up, earphone and microphone in one small unit. It goes into one ear under the headphone pad and is perfect for recording phone calls.

Olympus TP-8 Telephone Pick-Up

Olympus TP-8 Telephone Pick-Up

The TP-8 is a little miracle that just works. I’ve used them for years. They are fragile and it’s best to have a spare, but they are very cheap. For added comfort, small, medium and large size earpiece tips are included.

This set-up works with any kind of phone — mobile or landline — since all it does is pick up the sound of the audio signal. It’s so portable it can be taken anywhere. And it works — every time!

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