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Woman with smartphone: Calls started by mistake are quite unpleasant

Photo: Westend61 / Getty Images

Some online posts about this phenomenon are serious, but have amusing titles: “How many times a week do you accidentally call someone on your iPhone?” asked a Reddit user in mid-October. He told other visitors to the r/iPhone forum that he accidentally calls someone maybe once a year with his privately used Android smartphone - but with his work iPhone several times a week. His reasoning: In the iPhone's call list, which shows the most recently incoming and outgoing calls, all you have to do is briefly tap on a contact and an attempt will be made to establish a connection to them.

If you are distracted in the call list and type somewhere in the overview, only comparatively small i symbols on the right edge of the screen do not lead directly to making a phone call. “It drives me crazy when I accidentally call an important customer in the middle of the evening because I was scrolling through my most recent contacts,” complains the user.

There are various such articles on the Internet. While people like the Reddit user quoted can still be accused of being clumsy with their iPhone, there is another much-complained scenario surrounding accidental iPhone calls where the responsibility lies more clearly with Apple. There are no serious surveys on this, but it could well be that it leads to thousands of unpleasant moments around the world every day.

Specifically, it concerns unnecessary outgoing calls immediately after intended calls. If the first call was started via the call list, you will end up in this list again after the phone call. This is particularly dangerous if you want to end your call using the hang up symbol on the display, but the other party was a little quicker to hang up. Then the supposed finger tap on the hang-up button, which has already disappeared, can immediately trigger the next call - to the person whose contact details happen to appear in the call list at the level of the hang-up symbol. Calls are often initiated so quickly by the iPhone that it is no longer possible to manually prevent the person being called from at least seeing a missed call.

All the online criticism raises two main questions: Is there a simple way to avoid accidental calls? And if not, isn't it time for Apple to do something about it?

Things work differently on Android

I, the author, will come out at this point: I have also unintentionally called people from my call list several times with my iPhone. Since then, I have approached this menu with extreme caution; it feels like a digital minefield. At least I didn't disturb my boss shortly before midnight, as allegedly happened to a user of Apfeltalk.de.

It seems to me that the problem with accidental calls is particularly serious for users who use both iOS and Android - because both mobile operating systems keep call lists. I also use a Google smartphone alongside my iPhone, on which the list is completely harmless. To call a contact there, I have to tap a small phone icon. When you tap on the remaining part of the contacts shown on Android, a menu simply opens, but a call does not start immediately. You could say: It's exactly the opposite of iOS, where the majority of the call list interface is designed to make a phone call possible as quickly as possible.

There is another difference between Android and iOS: If a call is ended by the other party, the call menu on Android phones remains active for a short time. This has the advantage that no action is triggered even if you are the second person to tap the hang up button.

Complaints don't seem to help

The question remains what frustrated iPhone users can do now. Apple apparently does not view the issue as an urgent construction site; a SPIEGEL query about it remained unanswered. The company probably doesn't even share the impression of many users that this is even a problem. Otherwise it would be at a loss to explain why it has not done anything to improve the situation for almost two and a half years. In any case, there is still no official way on iPhones to configure your own call list, for example, so that it requires confirmation with another finger tap before outgoing calls. It is also not possible to set how long the call menu remains active when the other party hangs up.

Apple is probably aware of the suffering of some of its users by now. In one of several longer complaint threads in the company's support community alone, since the end of 2021, more than 3,650 users have stated that they also have the problem of the thread creator - the accidental hang-up button calls. One of the users even speaks of the “most annoying thing in the world”: “I’ve gotten to the point where I let the other person hang up because I’m too afraid that I’ll call someone else.” Other users are experimenting meanwhile with the settings of their touchscreens or fictitious contacts.

For those affected, Apple's ignorance means that there is no remedy in sight. If you use the call list, you really have to do it carefully - or use workarounds. If you want to call back someone who is already in your address book, you can also start the call via the “Contacts” menu item. When the conversation ends, you end up back in the contact entry and not in the call list.

The problem with the other side hanging up very shortly beforehand can be avoided by consciously being the first to hang up or letting the other side hang up. However, it is more suitable for everyday use to train yourself not to end conversations with the hang up button, but rather by pressing the side button on the iPhone. So no tap on the display is necessary. The call list is then also open, but you can now make it disappear from the screen by swiping up. To be on the safe side, I've gotten into the habit of tapping "Contacts" again so that this overview is displayed the next time I open the phone app.

When it comes to accidental calls, the “Favorites” menu in the phone app is just as dangerous as the call list: but with this overview you have the advantage that you don’t use it to call strangers, but tend to call friends and acquaintances. And: You can also save contacts in the favorites list so that they only appear there as contacts for messages. If you accidentally tap on these entries, a call doesn't start straight away, but the message app opens. The phone numbers of your favorite contacts can then be accessed using the small i symbols.