Can I get landline caller ID on a cell phone?
November 25, 2015 12:42 PM   Subscribe

Caller ID on landlines typically shows the name of the person or business calling. Caller ID on cell phones only shows the name if you have it in your cell phone contact list. Otherwise it just shows the number. Why the difference?

Landline caller ID appears to include some sort of reverse number lookup. Why isn't this feature included in caller ID for cell phones? Is there any way to add it?

I use an iPhone with service from Verizon in the US.
posted by alms to Technology (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Caller ID on pots lines was a subscription service back in the day (I don't know about now). And it looks like Verizon offers the same to mobile users. Caller Name ID for $2.99 a month.
posted by zinon at 12:51 PM on November 25, 2015

Many carriers offer this as an add-on service (T-Mobile is almost obnoxious in their attempts to get people to sign up for it). I'm not sure if prepay plans offer caller ID though.
posted by toomanycurls at 1:00 PM on November 25, 2015

The difference is that on cell phones, cellular providers don't retain directory information for their subscribers. Because they aren't tied to a specific subscriber and address, the cellular provider doesn't send that information as part of the call through the Public Switched Telephone Network. This is why if you call 911 from a cell phone, the emergency services folks don't get any good information for locating you and your emergency.

There is also a bunch of stuff about number portability (the fact that you can take a 404 area code cell phone anywhere in the world, versus a land line, which is not portable.)

Land lines cooperate with long distance carriers and other local Bell Operation Companies, so they share the subscriber information for Caller ID. Mobile phone companies don't cooperate in the same way (or any way really) so T-Mobile won't send subscriber information to AT&T or Verizon.

While number portability is a reality throughout North America, local phone companies still restrict telephone numbers for land lines geographically by central office. I live in Atlanta, and we have 3 Area Codes just for our city. That's 300,000 numbers, but in my geography, were I to have a traditional land line, I'd be limited to numbers in the 770-458, 770-457 or 770-456 exchange. Weird, right?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:44 PM on November 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

There are third-party apps that add this. Some of them use supplemental information beyond the phone directory.
posted by kindall at 1:50 PM on November 25, 2015

Land-line caller ID was originally encoded in a short data burst as the phone rings.

My cell has Truecaller built in, which is a crowdsourced caller ID service. While generally useful (you can block calls by ID, and some really persistent spammers are auto-blocked) it's only as wise as its users. You'd be amazed at how many times your cell's voicemail number will get users marking it as spam ...
posted by scruss at 2:00 PM on November 25, 2015

Caller ID on mobile phones, especially iPhone, is a minefield of patents and licensees. Example
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:14 PM on November 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

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