I don't want nobody nobody sent

I have been known to complain bitterly about Apple’s decline in software quality. Sometimes the complaints have been typed into Twitter; more often they been spit out between clenched teeth as yet another damned thing doesn’t do what it should. But iOS 13 has added one new feature that is both incredibly valuable and works.

It’s Silence Unknown Callers, an option you can find in the Phone section of the Settings app.

Silence unknown callers

In my experience, it does exactly what it says and has already saved me lots of time and frustration. It’s not that I often answered spam calls; I had already trained myself to almost never pick up a call that my phone didn’t associate with a contact. But I still had to stop what I was doing and look at my phone or my watch whenever one came in. Now that’s a thing of the past.

I’ve seen many people say they can’t use Silence Unknown Callers because they often need to take cold calls. I pity those people. I did wonder myself whether it was OK to silence business calls from prospective new clients who aren’t yet in my contacts list, but a little thought led me to the conclusion that those callers always leave messages and aren’t offended by having to do so.

Oddly enough, my first and only bad experience with Silence Unknown Callers was the exact opposite of missing an important call. A day or two after I had turned it on, a spam call rang on my phone. My initial reaction was that Apple had screwed up (yet again), but no. The call rang because the number was in my Contacts. Over several years I had collected spam numbers into a special contact—called AAASpammer to put it at the top of the list—that was blocked. I had apparently mistakenly unblocked him,1 and now because he was in my list of contacts, and the caller was reusing a number associated with that contact, the call rang through. I deleted AAASpammer from Contacts and have not been bothered by a spam call since.

If you have any sense of the history of Chicago machine politics, you will recognize the source of the post’s title. Spam callers are nobodies that nobody sent.

  1. In my experience, when adding a new number to a blocked contact, you had to unblock the caller and then reblock him to get the newly added number to “take” (whether this was a bug or an idiotic design choice by Apple, I never knew). I must have missed a step in this dance the last time I added a number and left the contact unblocked.