Nomorobo: De-bugged, and loving it

Better late: It was a tough call, but entrepreneurial inventor Aaron Foss knows he was right to delay the official mobile launch of his robocall-blocker Nomorobo.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

At times, the fates have appeared aligned against Aaron Foss and his robocall annihilator Nomorobo.

While the developer’s creation has killed it on landlines – literally, to the tune of more than 150 million thwarted robocalls – transitioning to mobile lines has been a long frustration. The robocall blocker has faced challenges both political and technical, and while diligently overcoming them all, it’s repeatedly found its carefully measured progress delayed by outside forces.

That includes the scheduled debut of Nomorobo on Apple devices, which was supposed to coincide with the Sept. 13 release of the iOS 10 operating system.

nomorobo-logo-2Before iOS 10, Apple restricted third-party developer access to user contact lists and call records, forcing Foss to assemble a beta version around limited shared-address-book technologies. But iOS 10 would include a new directory extension feature allowing apps to upload data like robocall-number blacklists – good news for Foss and other competitors in the crowded call-blocking field.

The entrepreneur and his Port Jefferson startup, Telephone Science Corp., worked hard to be ready for iOS 10, but late in the countdown – mere hours from launch – they were forced to abort.

“There was a bug,” Foss told Innovate LI.

The bug was “on Apple’s side,” the developer added, and basically “didn’t allow blocking apps to block calls.” Sensing a potentially ginormous problem for his call-blocker, Foss scrambled with his Apple contacts, but with the iOS launch looming the options were limited.

“They said something like, ‘Yeah, if you cut the call-blocking feature, we can get your app through (in time for the iOS 10 launch),’” Foss recalled. “And I was, like, ‘Well, that’s the whole app.’”

Apple promised the bug would be addressed in iOS 10.1, but it would be about a six-week wait for the operating system patch. So, instead of launching with a bum wheel, Foss quietly hit the pause button again – “Apple asked us not to say anything,” he noted – to wait for the first iOS upgrade.

That turned out to be a wise choice. Despite the anti-blocking bug, several eager call-blocking competitors opted to launch alongside iOS 10 – and most of those were “pummeled with reviews,” noted Foss, who senses “a bullet dodged.”

The iOS upgrade arrived on schedule in the first week of November, and at long last, in all of its call-blocking glory, Nomorobo is available for download through iTunes. The telemarketer terminator – including land lines, now 163 million robocalls stopped and counting – can be downloaded for a no-charge, no-account 30-day trial, after which users are charged a $2 monthly subscription fee ($5 for a combo cellular/landline package) billed directly through the iTunes store.

Foss, who noted an Android version should be available for download “by the end of the year,” said delaying the much-anticipated Nomorobo mobile launch yet again was a tough decision – but there’s no doubt it was the right call.

“All of the comments have been really good – a lot of five-star reviews,” he said Monday. “They let a couple of the other call-blocking apps through and those guys had some really negative comments, but they didn’t approve our app until two weeks ago, so we didn’t have that issue.

“It’s been a long wait,” Foss added. “But it’s out there now, and everything is working great.”


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