chenxiaolong / BCR

A Basic Call Recorder for rooted Android devices

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Basic Call Recorder

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BCR is a simple Android call recording app for rooted devices or devices running custom firmware. Once enabled, it stays out of the way and automatically records incoming and outgoing calls in the background.

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Features

  • Supports Android 9 and newer
  • Supports output in various formats:
    • OGG/Opus - Lossy, smallest files, default on Android 10+
    • M4A/AAC - Lossy, smaller files, default on Android 9
    • FLAC - Lossless, larger files
    • WAV/PCM - Lossless, largest files, least CPU usage
  • Supports Android's Storage Access Framework (can record to SD cards, USB devices, etc.)
  • Per-contact auto-record rules
  • Quick settings toggle
  • Material You dynamic theming
  • No persistent notification unless a recording is in progress
  • No network access permission
  • Works with call screening on Pixel devices (records the caller, but not the automated system)
  • Supports both Magisk and KernelSU

Non-features

As the name alludes, BCR intends to be a basic as possible. The project will have succeeded at its goal if the only updates it ever needs are for compatibility with new Android versions. Thus, many potentially useful features will never be implemented, such as:

  • Support for old Android versions (support is dropped as soon as maintenance becomes cumbersome)
  • Workarounds for OEM-specific battery optimization and app killing behavior
  • Workarounds for devices that don't support the VOICE_CALL audio source (eg. using microphone + speakerphone)
  • Support for direct boot mode (the state before the device is initially unlocked after reboot)
  • Support for stock, unrooted firmware

Usage

  1. Download the latest version from the releases page. To verify the digital signature, see the verifying digital signatures section.

  2. Install BCR as a system app.

    • For devices rooted with Magisk/KernelSU, simply flash the zip as a Magisk/KernelSU module from within the respective application.

      • For OnePlus and Realme devices running the stock firmware (or custom firmware based on the stock firmware), also extract the .apk from the zip and install it manually before rebooting. This is necessary to work around a bug in the firmware where the app data directory does not get created, causing BCR to open up to a blank screen.
    • For unrooted custom firmware, flash the zip while booted into recovery.

      • NOTE: The READ_CALL_LOG permission is hard restricted in Android 10+, which prevents it from being granted, even via Android's settings. To remove this restriction, run via adb:
        # If rooted, run inside of `su`:
        CLASSPATH=/system/priv-app/com.chiller3.bcr/app-release.apk app_process / com.chiller3.bcr.standalone.RemoveHardRestrictionsKt
        
        # If unrooted, install BCR as both a user app and a system app:
        pm install /system/priv-app/com.chiller3.bcr/app-release.apk
      • NOTE: If the custom firmware's system partition is formatted with erofs, then the filesystem is read-only and it is not possible to use this method.
      • Manually extracting the files from the system/ folder in the zip will also work as long as the files have 644 permissions and the u:object_r:system_file:s0 SELinux label.
  3. Reboot and open BCR.

  4. Enable call recording and pick an output directory.

    If no output directory is selected or if the output directory is no longer accessible, then recordings will be saved to /sdcard/Android/data/com.chiller3.bcr/files. Note that on Android 12+, /sdcard/Android/data/ is only accessible via USB or DocumentsUI (AOSP's built in file manager).

    When enabling call recording the first time, BCR will prompt for microphone, notification (Android 13+), call log, contacts, and phone permissions. Only microphone and notification permissions are required basic call recording functionality. If additional permissions are granted, more information is added to the output filename. For example, the contacts permission will allow the contact name to be added to the filename.

    See the permissions section below for more details about the permissions.

  5. To install future updates, there are a couple methods:

    • If installed via Magisk, the module can be updated right from Magisk Manager's modules tab. Flashing the new version in Magisk manually also works just as well.
    • The .apk can also be extracted from the zip and be directly installed. With this method, the old version exists as a system app and the new version exists as a user-installed update to the system app. This method is more convenient if BCR is baked into the Android firmware image.

Permissions

  • CAPTURE_AUDIO_OUTPUT (automatically granted by system app permissions)
    • Needed to capture the call audio stream.
  • CONTROL_INCALL_EXPERIENCE (automatically granted by system app permissions)
    • Needed to monitor the phone call state for starting and stopping the recording and gathering call information for the output filename.
  • RECORD_AUDIO (must be granted by the user)
    • Needed to capture the call audio stream.
  • FOREGROUND_SERVICE, FOREGROUND_SERVICE_MICROPHONE (automatically granted at install time)
    • Needed to run the call recording service.
  • POST_NOTIFICATIONS (must be granted by the user on Android 13+)
    • Needed to show notifications.
    • A notification is required for running the call recording service in foreground mode or else Android will not allow access to the call audio stream.
  • READ_CALL_LOG (optional)
    • If allowed, the name as shown in the call log can be added to the output filename.
    • This is also required to show the correct phone number when using call redirection apps.
  • READ_CONTACTS (optional)
    • If allowed, the contact name can be added to the output filename. It also allows auto-record rules to be set per contact.
  • READ_PHONE_STATE (optional)
    • If allowed, the SIM slot for devices with multiple active SIMs is added to the output filename.
  • REQUEST_IGNORE_BATTERY_OPTIMIZATIONS (optional)
    • If allowed, request Android to disable battery optimizations (app killing) for BCR.
    • This is usually not needed. The way BCR hooks into the telephony system makes it unlikely to be killed.
    • OEM Android builds that stray further from AOSP may ignore this.
  • VIBRATE (automatically granted at install time)
    • If vibration is enabled for BCR's notifications in Android's settings, BCR will perform the vibration. Android itself does not respect the vibration option when a phone call is active.

Note that INTERNET is not in the list. BCR does not and will never access the network. BCR will never communicate with other apps either, except if the user explicitly taps on the Open or Share buttons in the notification shown when a recording completes. In that scenario, the target app is granted access to that single recording only.

Call redirection

BCR has limited support for call redirection apps, like Google Voice. Redirected calls can be recorded only if the call redirection service uses standard telephone calls behind the scenes (instead of VOIP).

There are several limitations when recording redirected calls compared to regular calls:

  • The call must not be a conference call. Otherwise, the filename will only show the call redirection service's proxy phone number.
  • Auto-record rules will not work properly. Redirected calls will never match any rules for specified contacts and will only match the All other calls rule.
  • During the call, BCR's notification will only show the call redirection service's proxy phone number.
  • BCR must be granted the call logs permission.
  • The dialer app must put the original phone number into the system call log. The AOSP and Google dialer apps do, but other OEM dialer apps might not.

These limitations exist because when a call is redirected, only the dialer app itself is aware of the original phone number. The Android telephony system is not aware of it. BCR can only find the original phone number by searching the system call log when the dialer adds the entry at the end of the call.

Filename template

BCR supports customizing the template used for determining the output filenames of recordings. The default template is:

{date}[_{direction}|][_sim{sim_slot}|][_{phone_number}|][_[{contact_name}|{caller_name}|{call_log_name}]|]

Template syntax

  • Curly braces ({var}) are used to refer to variables. Variables are replaced by the value they represent. For example, {phone_number} is replaced by the actual phone number of the call.
  • Square brackets ([{var}|default]) are used for specifying fallbacks. For example, [{contact_name}|{caller_name}|Unknown] will insert the contact name if the number is in the contacts. Otherwise, it'll fall back to the caller ID or Unknown if neither the contact name nor caller ID exist. Falling back to an empty string is perfectly valid too. For example, [{contact_name}|] evaluates to either the contact name or nothing.

Template variables

  • {date}: The timestamp of the call. The default timestamp format tries to be as unambiguous as possible and is in the form: 20230414_215701.088-0400. A custom timestamp format can be specified with {date:<format string>}. For example, {date:yyyy-MM-dd @ h.mm.ss a} would produce 2023-04-14 @ 9.57.01 PM. A full list of timestamp formatting characters can be found at: https://developer.android.com/reference/java/time/format/DateTimeFormatterBuilder#appendPattern(java.lang.String).
    • For the file retention feature to work, the date must not immediately follow another variable. For example, {phone_number}{date} will cause file retention to be disabled, but {phone_number} ({date}) works because there's some text ( between the two variables.
    • If the date format is changed, the old recordings should be manually renamed or moved to another directory to ensure that they won't inadvertently be deleted. For example, if yyMMdd_HHmmss was changed to HHmmss_yyMMdd, the timestamps from the old recording's filenames would be parsed incorrectly and may get deleted.
  • {direction}: [Android 10+ only] For 1-on-1 calls, either in or out depending on if the call is an incoming or outgoing call. If the call is a conference call, then conference is used instead.
  • {sim_slot}: [Android 11+ only] The SIM slot number for the call (counting from 1). This is only defined for multi-SIM devices that have multiple SIMs active and if BCR is granted the Phone permission.
    • To include the SIM slot even if there's only one active SIM, use {sim_slot:always}.
  • {phone_number}: The phone number for the call. This is undefined for private calls. Available formatting options:
    • {phone_number:E.164}: Default (same as just {phone_number}). Phone number formatted in the international E.164 format (+<country code><subscriber>).
    • {phone_number:digits_only}: Phone number with digits only (no + or separators).
    • {phone_number:formatted}: Phone number formatted using the country-specific style.
  • {caller_name}: The caller ID as provided by CNAP from the carrier.
  • {contact_name} The name of the (first) contact associated with the phone number. This is only defined if BCR is granted the Contacts permission.
  • {call_log_name}: The name shown in the call log. This may include more information, like the name of the business, if the system dialer performs reverse lookups. This is only defined if BCR is granted the Read Call Logs permission.

Subdirectories

The filename template supports specifying subdirectories using the / character. Slashes are allowed anywhere inside the filename template, including {date} (eg. {date:yyyy/MM/dd}). However, any slashes that appear after expanding other variables will be replaced with underscores. For example, if the caller ID for a call is First/Last, then {caller_name} is expanded to First_Last.

Note that due to Android Storage Access Framework's poor performance, using subdirectories may significantly slow down the saving of the recording on some devices. On Android builds with a good SAF implementation, this may only be a few seconds. On the OEM Android build with the worst known SAF implementation, this could take several minutes. The delay is proportional to the number of files in the output directory.

Metadata file

If the Write metadata file option is enabled, BCR will write a JSON file to the output directory containing all of the details that BCR knows about the call as well as information about the recorded audio. The file has the same name as the audio file, except with a .json extension.

The JSON structure is shown in the following example. Note that only timestamp_unix_ms, timestamp, and output.format.* are guaranteed to exist. If the value for a field can't be determined (eg. when an error occurs or a required permission is denied), then it is set to null.

{
    // The timestamp represented as milliseconds since the Unix epoch in UTC.
    "timestamp_unix_ms": 1689817988931,

    // The timestamp represented as ISO8601 (+ offset) in the local time zone.
    "timestamp": "2023-07-19T21:53:08.931-04:00",

    // The call direction ("in", "out", or "conference").
    // [Android 10+ only]
    "direction": "in",

    // The SIM slot used for the call.
    // [Android 11+ only; requires the Phone permission]
    "sim_slot": 1,

    // The name shown in the dialer's call log. This may include the business'
    // name for dialers that perform reverse lookups.
    // [Requires the Call Log permission]
    "call_log_name": "John Doe",

    // Details about the other party or parties in the call. There will be
    // multiple entries for conference calls.
    "calls": [
        {
            // The raw phone number as reported by Android. For outgoing calls,
            // this is usually what the user typed. For incoming calls, this is
            // usually E.164 formatted. This will be null for private calls.
            "phone_number": "+11234567890",

            // The phone number formatted using the country-specific style. This
            // will be null for private calls or if Android cannot determine the
            // country.
            "phone_number_formatted": "+1 123-456-7890",

            // The caller name/ID as reported by CNAP from the carrier.
            "caller_name": "John Doe",

            // The contact name associated with the phone number.
            // [Requires the Contacts permission]
            "contact_name": "John Doe"
        }
    ],

    // Details about the output file.
    "output": {
        // Details about the output file format.
        "format": {
            // The audio encoding format.
            "type": "OGG/Opus",

            // The MIME type of the container format (eg. OGG).
            "mime_type_container": "audio/ogg",

            // The MIME type of the raw audio stream (eg. Opus).
            "mime_type_audio": "audio/opus",

            // The type of the parameter value below. Either "bitrate",
            // "compression_level", or "none".
            "parameter_type": "bitrate",

            // The encoder quality/size parameter.
            "parameter": 48000,
        },

        // Details about the recording and encoding process. If the recording
        // process fails, this is set to null.
        "recording": {
            // The total number of audio frames that BCR read from the audio
            // device. This includes the periods of time when the recording was
            // paused or on hold.
            // (Number of frames == number of samples * channel count)
            "frames_total": 96000,

            // The number of audio frames that were actually saved to the output
            // file. This excludes the periods of time when the recording was
            // paused or on hold.
            // (Number of frames == number of samples * channel count)
            "frames_encoded": 48000,

            // The number of samples per second of audio.
            "sample_rate": 48000,

            // The number of channels in the audio. This is currently always 1
            // because no device supports stereo call audio.
            "channel_count": 1,

            // The total time in seconds that BCR read from the audio device.
            // (Equal to: frames_total / sample_rate / channel_count)
            "duration_secs_total": 2.0,

            // The time in seconds of audio actually saved to the output file.
            // (Equal to: frames_encoded / sample_rate / channel_count)
            "duration_secs_encoded": 1.0,

            // The size of the recording buffer in frames. This is the maximum
            // number of audio frames read from the audio driver before it is
            // passed to the audio encoder.
            "buffer_frames": 640,

            // The number of buffer overruns. This is the number of times that
            // the CPU or storage couldn't keep up while encoding the raw audio,
            // resulting in skips (loss of audio).
            "buffer_overruns": 0,

            // Whether the call was ever paused by the user.
            "was_ever_paused": false,

            // Whether the call was ever placed on hold (call waiting).
            "was_ever_holding": false
        }
    }
}

Advanced features

This section describes BCR's hidden advanced features.

Debug mode

BCR has a hidden debug mode that can be enabled or disabled by long pressing the version number.

When debug mode is enabled, BCR will write a log file to the output directory after a call recording completes. It is named the same way as the audio file. The log file contains the same messages as what adb logcat would show, except messages not relevant to BCR are filtered out (BCR does not have permission to access those messages anyway).

Within the log file, BCR aims to never log any sensitive information. Information about the current call, like the phone number, are replaced with placeholders instead, like <phone number>. However, other information can't be easily redacted this way will be truncated instead. For example, when the file retention feature cleans up old files, filenames like 20230101_010203.456+0000_out_1234567890_John_Doe.oga are logged as 20<...>ga.

When reporting bugs, please include the log file as it is extremely helpful for identifying what might be wrong. (But please double check the log file to ensure there's no sensitive information!)

How it works

BCR relies heavily on system app permissions in order to function properly. This is primarily because of two permissions:

  • CONTROL_INCALL_EXPERIENCE

    This permission allows Android's telephony service to bind to BCR's InCallService without BCR being a wearable companion app, a car UI, or the default dialer. Once bound, the service will receive callbacks for call change events (eg. incoming call in the ringing state). This method is much more reliable than using the READ_PHONE_STATE permission and relying on android.intent.action.PHONE_STATE broadcasts.

    This method has a couple additional benefits. Due to the way that the telephony service binds to BCR's InCallService, the service can bring itself in and out of the foreground as needed when a call is in progress and access the audio stream without hitting Android 12+'s background microphone access limitations. It also does not require the service to be manually started from an ACTION_BOOT_COMPLETED broadcast receiver and thus is not affected by that broadcast's delays during initial boot.

  • CAPTURE_AUDIO_OUTPUT

    This permission is used to record from the VOICE_CALL audio stream. This stream, along with some others, like VOICE_DOWNLINK and VOICE_UPLINK, cannot be accessed without this system permission.

With these two permissions, BCR can reliably detect phone calls and record from the call's audio stream. The recording process pulls PCM s16le raw audio and uses Android's built-in encoders to produce the compressed output file.

Verifying digital signatures

Both the zip file and the APK contained within are digitally signed. NOTE: The zip file signing mechanism switched from GPG to SSH as of version 1.31. To verify signatures for old versions, see version 1.30's README.md.

Verifying zip file signature

First save the public key to a file that lists which keys should be trusted.

echo 'bcr ssh-ed25519 AAAAC3NzaC1lZDI1NTE5AAAAIDOe6/tBnO7xZhAWXRj3ApUYgn+XZ0wnQiXM8B7tPgv4' > bcr_trusted_keys

Then, verify the signature of the zip file using the list of trusted keys.

ssh-keygen -Y verify -f bcr_trusted_keys -I bcr -n file -s BCR-<version>-release.zip.sig < BCR-<version>-release.zip

If the file is successfully verified, the output will be:

Good "file" signature for bcr with ED25519 key SHA256:Ct0HoRyrFLrnF9W+A/BKEiJmwx7yWkgaW/JvghKrboA

Verifying apk signature

First, extract the apk from the zip and then run:

apksigner verify --print-certs system/priv-app/com.chiller3.bcr/app-release.apk

Then, check that the SHA-256 digest of the APK signing certificate is:

d16f9b375df668c58ef4bb855eae959713d6d02e45f7f2c05ce2c27ae944f4f9

Building from source

BCR can be built like most other Android apps using Android Studio or the gradle command line.

To build the APK:

./gradlew assembleDebug

To build the Magisk module zip (which automatically runs the assembleDebug task if needed):

./gradlew zipDebug

The output file is written to app/build/distributions/debug/. The APK will be signed with the default autogenerated debug key.

To create a release build with a specific signing key, set up the following environment variables:

export RELEASE_KEYSTORE=/path/to/keystore.jks
export RELEASE_KEY_ALIAS=alias_name

read -r -s RELEASE_KEYSTORE_PASSPHRASE
read -r -s RELEASE_KEY_PASSPHRASE
export RELEASE_KEYSTORE_PASSPHRASE
export RELEASE_KEY_PASSPHRASE

and then build the release zip:

./gradlew zipRelease

Contributing

Bug fix and translation pull requests are welcome and much appreciated!

If you are interested in implementing a new feature and would like to see it included in BCR, please open an issue to discuss it first. I intend for BCR to be as simple and low-maintenance as possible, so I am not too inclined to add any new features, but I could be convinced otherwise.

License

BCR is licensed under GPLv3. Please see LICENSE for the full license text.

About

A Basic Call Recorder for rooted Android devices

License:GNU General Public License v3.0


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