Landlines are not as ordinary as they used to be, and cell phones have ushered out Caller ID. However, since cell phones are supposed to be the more advanced form of landline, you might wonder why these devices don’t always display the name, location, and phone number of incoming callers.
Cell phones do not have caller IDs because they are wireless. Caller ID requires a full channel connection, as the call information flows from the caller to your phone carrier. Wireless connections rarely take up a full transmission wavelength, making Caller ID inefficient for cell phone carriers.
This article will discuss how caller ID works, the types of caller ID available, and some options available for people who want caller ID on their cell phones. It will also address why most cellular service providers don’t automatically include caller ID in their service plans.
Is There a Caller ID Option for Cell Phones?
Although cell phones should be able to do everything a landline can and more, they still do not regularly use actual caller IDs to identify incoming callers. Instead, cell phones only recognize the caller’s number and approximate location by area code.
There are some caller ID options for cell phones, but they differ from traditional caller IDs. You may be able to pay your phone carrier to provide caller ID, use a VoIP application to get information about callers or use a free CNAM database.
So, let’s talk a bit about these options and how they work:
Ask Your Phone Carrier for Caller ID for Cell Phone
These services are sometimes limited to other callers who use the same carrier as you, as most cellular phone data is kept private, and carriers rarely share their customer information.
So, if you want caller ID, talk to your phone service provider about the options. Each network works differently.
Use a VoIP Application (App) for Caller ID
These apps are often targeted toward businesses that make frequent outbound calls and allow users to set their Caller ID profiles.
Using these profiles, additional information from your IP address, and other online resources lets the apps intuitively provide a caller’s name, phone number, and original location.
These profiles use a VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol to integrate with your wireless network and send call recipients your information.
These apps can also use the same protocol to identify potential scammers, block calls, and harvest information about the caller.
These apps represent the future of smartphone caller ID, using the internet instead of physical analog lines to find CNAMs or caller names.
Use a Free CNAM Database
Using a free CNAM option won’t give you caller ID on your phone before you pick up the call; it will allow you to identify callers and learn more about why they are reaching out to you on a website.
Free CNAM databases like Caller ID Test allow you to enter a phone number on a web browser, then read about the name associated with the number.
These search tools generally look for results in a centralized CNAM listing. Still, they may check for other internet accounts associated with the number, including Facebook pages, Google Business Pages, and Online Phone Books. They may also be able to access information about the caller’s service provider.
Types of Caller Identification
When referring to caller ID, there are several pieces of information that you can refer to:
- Number Only: Number-only, or CLID, caller ID is the most common form of caller ID. It is a single message transmission that displays the caller’s phone number. Most smartphones, cell phones, and landlines receive this information automatically with one single incoming message.
- Name and Number: Name and number, or CNAM, caller ID requires two messages: one CLID message and one CNAM message containing the caller’s name. Phone service providers can send this message via an analog or internet connection.
In this article, we will refer to the name and number type as “Caller ID” since it’s the type of caller ID uncommon in cellular phones.
How Does Caller ID Work?
Caller ID works by running a phone number from an incoming caller through a database of zip codes, names, and phone numbers to find a match. This process occurs at a phone carrier’s central office, where an automated system sends a second message about the caller’s ID to your landline.
So, caller ID information is entirely different from the one your phone gets when it rings. Let’s take a look at how a phone carrier initiates and uses caller ID:
- Someone makes a call to you. When someone calls you, and you have a landline with Caller ID, the call will ring once, pause for a second, then ring the second time. The following steps happen in that brief moment between the first and second ring.
- Your phone carrier generates a calling line identification (CLID). During call transmission, calling line identification (CLID), the caller’s phone number becomes a message, which the carrier transmits to your phone. This message allows you to see the caller’s phone number, regardless of whether you use a cell phone or landline.
- Your phone carrier identifies the caller’s name. As soon as the caller initiates the call, their phone number will run through a database of CNAMs (caller names) at your carrier’s central operations office. Once the computer identifies the phone number and the person who owns it, they convert it into an encoded message on your cell phone’s caller ID receiver.
So, in two or three seconds, the call moves many miles from the caller to the carrier to you, delivering two separate messages to your phone. This transmission requires an analog wavelength, and service providers only have so many of these.
To learn more about how cell phones work and how they receive messages, you might want to watch this fascinating YouTube video from Wendover Productions:
Reasons Cell Phones Do Not Often Come With Caller ID
So, now that you know how caller ID works let’s discuss why it’s not often available for cell phones.
Cell Phones Are Mobile
Since cell phones are mobile, you will use many cellular service sites to make calls. These sites, often called towers, are everywhere, so you will have service anywhere you go.
However, tracing your information becomes tricky without a stationary, set place where you make calls. As you travel, carriers that attempt to access your name and other data may get faulty results if you’re not at home.
On the other hand, landlines are always in one place and use your home’s phone service, allowing the service provider to use your zip code and location coordinates to verify your identity.
We discuss cell phone mobility in our article “Do Smartphones Have Built-In Antennas?”
Providing Caller ID Is Expensive for Phone Companies
Cell phone service providers all have paying customers. Still, to access the entire network, they have to team up and pool together their customer’s information to provide accurate caller IDs.
In most cases, phone service providers pay other companies every time they “dip into” a caller name database, which could get very expensive if everyone used caller ID.
For example, AT&T generally pays $0.004 every time they provide call recipients with a caller name.
For that reason, supplying all cell phones with caller ID is inefficient for most phone carriers, especially considering the number of people who make calls every day.
Mobile data is relatively expensive in the United States for several reasons. Check out our comprehensive guide to learn more about it and “Why Is Mobile Data So Expensive in the US?”
Caller ID Discloses Your Information
Knowing that people who subscribe to caller ID may have access to your name, number, and location just by making a phone call may not bother some, but it’s not always ideal for everyone.
Customers who want to protect their information from companies, debt collectors, and any other caller may choose to remain unlisted in the CNAM database. So, these people may not even have an ID to display when they make a call.
Service Provider Caller ID Is Usually Analog
Cell service carriers generally transmit Caller ID via analog transmission, which requires a wired connection. These wired connections are expensive to install and maintain, and fewer people can use them simultaneously than when using a wireless connection.
Thus, service providers are not usually prepared to offer traditional caller ID to all customers and may charge extra if you want to use it.
Final Thoughts – Why Do Cell Phones Not Have Caller ID?
While some workarounds help you get caller ID on a cell phone, they generally don’t come with Caller ID enabled.
In most cases, caller ID requires a stable analog connection, which isn’t possible with a cell phone. Improving the network to accommodate the millions of cell phones in use would also be costly, and online options, such as VoIP, seems to be the future of cell phone caller ID.