3-Way Conference Calling on iPhone

Everything You Need to Know
Anna Anders


Need to record a 3-way conference call on your iPhone?

Recostar has you covered.
In this post, we will cover the following:
  • What are the various names for 3-way conference calling?
  • How can you make a 3-way conference call on iPhone?
  • How to merge calls on the iPhone
  • What is the difference between CDMA and GSM mobile carriers?
  • Can you have a 3-way conference call with international carriers?

The key feature on your iPhone that makes Recostar's clever call recording method possible is a feature many people may have never heard of or used. It's called "three-way calling." You may also see or hear it called "conference calling", "three-way conference calling," or simply "a 3-way call". The simplest way to think of three-way calling is that you are creating a call with two or more participants so that it can be thought of as a "conference." When you use Recostar to record a call, you make a three-way call, and Recostar's recording line is one of the participants. The good news is that Apple did a great job making three-way conference calling easy and intuitive on the iPhone. Additionally, most (but only some) mobile service providers worldwide support this built-in iPhone feature and turn it on by default on your account. Unfortunately, some service providers only enable this feature on their customer's phones if a user calls in and asks for it. This is not typical in the United States, as most users in the US all have this feature on by default–for free. However, outside the US, it's the policy of some carriers where the user has to call and ask for this feature to be turned on — most commonly when users are on "pre-paid" plans with their carrier. Additionally, a three-way conference call does not usually cost any money when it needs to be added to a plan (the exception we've encountered in Japan).

How to Record a 3-Way Call on iPhone using Recostar?

Making a three-way call starts by placing a call to the first person you would want to talk to. In this example, let's say you want to call Recostar's recording number first. You dial the number and wait to be connected to our system (you can do this automatically by tapping the sizeable red recording button on the Recostar home screen). Within a few seconds of your connection, an icon will appear on your iPhone's screen that says "Add Call" underneath it. The "Add Call" icon is used consistently on every iPhone's exact location, regardless of the language or carrier. In other countries, the "add call" text is adapted to the native language of that region.

Once you press the "Add Call" icon on your iPhone, the system will bring up the Phone application and your dialer/list of contacts. From there, you can dial the number you want to call or select the person you want to start a three-way call with. Once you choose/dial that number, the iPhone will place a call to that number and put the person on your first call on hold. Once on hold, they'll hear silence. When the person at the other end of the call answers, you have two separate calls connected to the iPhone and are ready for the most critical step — merging the calls. Once the two separate calls are connected to the iPhone, the "Add Call" icon and text will be automatically replaced with a "Merge Calls" icon. The "Merge Calls" option replaces "Add Call" because the iPhone detects that you now have two separate calls connected to your iPhone, so it gives you the option to "merge" them together to create the 3-way conference call. If you do not have two separate calls going at one time on your iPhone, the iPhone will always read "Add Call" and not "Merge Calls".

Once you press the "Merge Calls" icon, the two separate calls on your iPhone are merged in a three-way conference call. Now, both parties can hear and talk to each other. This is how Recostar works; you, the person you are speaking with, and Recostar's recording line are joined in a three-way call.

Recostar records the conversation as one of the three parties on the call. The screen on your iPhone will also always reflect that you now have a conference call in progress, and it will even say "CONFERENCE" and scroll down the two numbers you have connected. Additionally, the iPhone will have an arrow next to the name that you can press to show the participants on the call and mute or drop either of the parties from the call.

Let's quickly summarize, so you can see just how easy this is. It can be broken down into this:
  • Place a call.
  • Press the "Add Call" button.
  • Select a contact or number to call for your second call.

Once that call is answered, your iPhone will now have a "Merge Calls" button that you press to merge the two calls together. It's that simple! Call + add another call + merge the two calls.

3-Way Call Recording on iPhones Can be Challenging.

Because this is an in-depth post on three-way calling, we have some other bits of information we've learned from around the world that we'd like to share here. While Apple has standardized the three-way calling process on the iPhone, only some carriers and phone networks are created equal worldwide. For example, in the US, two leading technologies are used for cell phone networks: GSM and CDMA. GSM rarely has any issues around the world as it's the gold standard of cell phone network technology and is used in most countries. CDMA is a lesser-used technology that is superior in some ways but also has some drawbacks. On iPhones on CDMA carriers, the "Merge Calls" button may not become available as quickly as on GSM networks. This mostly depends on your local network and the connection there, but in some cases, it may take up to 45 seconds for the "Merge Calls" button to become active and available for use to merge calls together. Unfortunately, this can lead to much confusion the first few times you use an app like Recostar. It may look like the feature is not available. If you've waited one minute and the "Merge Calls" button still does not been activated, then it is likely that your carrier does not support three-way conference calling. The most common GSM carriers in the US are AT&T and T-Mobile. The most common CDMA carriers in the US are Verizon, Sprint, and US Cellular. There are also some important things to remember when using three-way calling on your phone. Most carriers still keep track of your minute usage on your phone, and using three-way calling means having two separate calls connected to your phone simultaneously. This means you will use double minutes when on a conference call with your iPhone. We have also noticed that some carriers have taken it upon themselves to insert beeps at random intervals into a conference call in a few places outside of the US. This is to help everyone remember that a conference call is in place. However, this cannot be very pleasant and means that the person will know another party is on the line. In the case of Recostar, we have even heard stories that a few carriers will insert hold music for the other party to listen to while you call the second person and wait to merge the calls. This brings us to our last point on conference calls: when using three-way calling to record calls with Recostar, we recommend always calling into Recostar first and then adding the person you want to record to the call. This way, you do not have to ask the caller to hold while the line goes silent, and you call Recostar to merge calls. When you call Recostar first, you have Recostar on hold, and then you can join when you are ready to begin recording. This always ensures the best experience as it does not lead to awkward holding or waiting for the other person in the line. Take your time, and our recording line will be ready to record whenever you decide to merge the calls! However, we realize this is only sometimes possible, for example, if you receive an incoming call that you would like to record.

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