Katherine Boehret

Keeping Close Track of Chats, Word for Word

People store their emails, photos and documents online to keep them from being lost or accidentally deleted. But what about the records we never save to begin with, like phone conversations and text messages? These hold a lot of useful data and can sometimes be the only point of reference for important conversations.

I’ve been testing Calltrunk, a service that records, stores and transcribes calls initiated by its app or website; a manual feature on iPhones and Skype also enables recording incoming calls. It uses landlines, mobile phones or Skype accounts to place calls, and these calls are stored in a password-protected account for $5 to $50 monthly. I also tested Uppidy, a free service that, once installed on an Android phone or BlackBerry, automatically logs all text messages sent to or from that phone in a Web-based account for reading or sorting later.

The services worked, though neither notifies the person on the other end of the call or text that their words are being saved, which feels creepy. The exception to this rule is calls initiated on the Calltrunk iPhone app, which (by default) play a faint beep throughout. But this beep can easily be turned off in Settings. No such beep plays when calls are made via Calltrunk.com or Android phone.

Calltrunk co-founder Angela Clarke said federal law only requires single-party consent for recorded calls, though some states require all-party consent. Representatives from Calltrunk and Uppidy said they leave it up to users to notify people if they are being recorded.

DSOLUTION

Uppidy stores all text messages made on Android phones or BlackBerrys in a Web-accessible account.

On Tuesday, Calltrunk launched a search feature called ArgoSearch, and I got an exclusive first look at it. This search engine combs through specific words or phrases that were spoken in phone calls. For example, if someone talks on the phone with his mechanic about his squeaky car brakes and wants to remember how much the mechanic said they would cost to repair, he can type “car,” “brakes” and “repair” into a search box and find the exact place in the conversation where all three words were mentioned.

ArgoSearch worked well in certain cases, but wasn’t truly reliable. In one conversation with my husband, I ate lunch as we spoke and said “responsible” with a bite of bread in my mouth. The ArgoSearch engine still figured out what I was saying and found the word in our conversation. It also found the words “Facebook” and “Twitter.” But it failed to find simple words like “pounds” and proper nouns like car brands.

When words are found, they’re clearly marked in the timeline of the conversation with a different color for each word. A key to these words and their corresponding colors appears on the top right of the screen.

While the regular Calltrunk service charges a monthly fee, ArgoSearch is currently free, though a Calltrunk spokesman said the company would eventually charge for it. It works in Web browsers and on the iPhone, and by July it will work on Android phones.

DSOLUTION2

Calltrunk’s ArgoSearch enables word-searching in calls, indexing words with colors.

Calltrunk is a bit confusing to use the first time because it rings your own phone back before calling the other person. I tested it using Calltrunk apps on the iPhone and an Android phone, as well as via Calltrunk.com. I told people on calls that they were being recorded, and in one instance, my friend reacted by refraining from saying more about one subject.

All calls are neatly sorted in a list on Calltrunk’s website and can be labeled with brief descriptions. Each call can be sent to Dropbox, Evernote or Box; downloaded (as an MP3 file); or transcribed by humans for $1.50 or $3 a minute, depending on quality.

Uppidy saves all text messages to its cloud-based site, even if you lose a phone, switch carriers or get a new phone. It works on Android phones and Research In Motion’s BlackBerrys, though not on the iPhone without a clumsy desktop workaround. I installed it on a Samsung Android phone and on a BlackBerry Bold 9930, and it ran in the background unnoticed.

I didn’t feel as obligated to tell people that their texts were being saved compared with how I felt the need to tell people their calls were being recorded when I used Calltrunk. I figured if they were writing a message, they knew there was some record of it, however temporary.

On the Android phone, a notice from Uppidy gave me the option to back up my phone’s entire text-messaging history. RIM doesn’t allow for such a deep dive into a user’s archives.

Settings on each phone’s app let me decide how often I wanted texts to be synchronized with Uppidy’s cloud service, which is accessible in a password-protected account on Uppidy.com. I opted for a 10-minute interval on the BlackBerry and manual syncing on the Android device. On Uppidy.com, I sorted texts by date, entering a start date and end date within which texts would appear. I could also narrow my list of texts to the people who sent them or to the phone I used for sending them, which is helpful for people with more than one phone.

Many people may think that since they haven’t recorded phone calls or text messages until now, they don’t need to start. But if these are of exceptional importance in your professional or social life, Calltrunk with ArgoSearch and Uppidy will be worth a try.

Watch a video of Katherine Boehret on Calltrunk and Uppidy at WSJ.com/PersonalTech. Email katie.boehret@wsj.com


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