After my tirade about robocallers — during a single week I got 11 calls — I signed up for a trial subscription to a cellphone app that allegedly blocks them.
Bob: How’s the Nomorobo app working out for you? It works great with Time Warner/Spectrum landlines. Wondering if the pay-to-play app [$2 a month for cellphones] is as effective?
Since your article I’ve had 33 unsolicited calls. Thirty-three! Guess how many solicited calls I have had in that time? One. My mom!
My unscientific poll of my officemates tells me robo dialing is way up. It is currently at the “Out of Control” level. ...
Let us know if the Nomorobo app is worth the few bucks a month in a follow-up some day.
Ed: Today is the day.
My robocalls have dropped, but that has nothing to do with Nomorobo.
As of Friday, Nomorobo was hitting .333 — which is great in baseball but not so great if you’re paying for a service that’s failing two times out of three.
On April 26, the app stopped the first bogus call I received, a call that supposedly was coming from Orchard Park, N.Y. (Your phone doesn’t ring, but the number shows up in your “recent calls” list.)
But on May 5, it missed a call from the relentless “Motor Vehicle Service Department,” this time allegedly calling from “Searchlight, Nev.”
And on Tuesday, it allowed a call to sail right through from a “Credit Repair Program” in “San Jose, Calif.”
In addition to the high failure rate, I couldn’t understand why the size of the database kept going up and down.
The evening of May 2, Nomorobo had 47,606 numbers on its “blacklist.” But on the morning of May 8, the database contained only 36,591 numbers. Did some of the numbers get off on good behavior?
The very next day, the blacklist soared to 50,863.
But the day after it shrunk to 36,578.
And that same evening, it went back up to 46,973.
Five days later, its all-time low: 35,338.
Why would the database shrink as often as it expands? If more and more numbers are being identified as bogus, why isn’t the database growing bigger by the day?
I prowled around on www.nomorobo.com and found this:
“Each morning around 2 a.m. Eastern, we update the apps to contain the 30K most recently identified active numbers. Then throughout the day we periodically add the new numbers which suddenly pop up as active, which increases the total numbers on your device as the day unfolds.
“By late evening some of those initial numbers have gone dormant so we build a new active database and push that out.
“So basically it is a strategy to make sure your app has the very latest active numbers throughout the day.”
Well, I’d prefer not only “the very latest” but the older numbers, too, in case some robo bozo trots them out again.
That’s what I told the founder of Nomorobo, Aaron Foss, whose operation is based in Long Island, N.Y.
His answer explains the reason his service works so well on cable landlines — that’s you, Ed — and not nearly as well on cellphones.
With landlines, the entire database is in play, in real time. But the blacklist is so big — almost 450,000 numbers — that connecting the whole list to your cellphone, and updating it hourly, would create a major drain on your battery and chew into your data usage.
If the Nomorobo computers show no activity from a blacklisted number for four days, that number is dropped from the cellphone list.
Foss says he also is fighting “some Apple bugs,” for which he submitted a performance update that was to kick in on Friday.
He also is awaiting Apple’s approval of his Version 1.5.
“So you’re exactly right,” he said Friday about my criticism. “Are we happy with the great performance? No. Are we in the ballpark? Absolutely. And are we working on that every single day, is that the No. 1 piece? Absolutely.”
Foss says his firm also is dealing with a huge increase in customer-service duties because the relatively new app already has gained 40,000 users. “It’s a startup cliche: We just have to keep on throwing more and more service at it.”
The company is not just relying on numbers reported by users. The main line of defense is an automated detection system that analyzes 2 million calls per day.
With the landline version of Nomorobo, the computers can see all of the calls made to your number and every other member’s number. They’re looking for numerous calls of short duration in a short period of time from the same number.
Foss says the update and the introduction of Version 1.5, expected to come out May 29, should solve a lot of the problems.
OK, I’ll give him another month.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31