8+ Ways to Tell if They Are On Their Phone Without Calling

Here’s how to tell someone is on their phone without calling:

If you’re avoiding calling someone, the easiest way to check if they are on their phone is to look at any apps you both use and see if there is an online status. 

Aside from that, you can message them and look at receipts or even call them from an unknown number. 

With a little creativity, there are options.

So if you want to learn all about ways to tell someone is on their phone without calling them, then this article is for you.

Keep reading!

8+ Ways to Tell If They Are On Their Phone Without Calling

What Are Ways to Check if Their Phone Is Active? (2 Ways)

The most direct way to find out if someone is on their phone is to call them. 

But, if you don’t want to do that, you still have a lot of other options. 

You can message them. 

You can use apps that check their phone activity. 

You can look at apps you both use to see if they’re online. 

You can even have someone else call them for you.

I’ll take you through all of the viable options in detail but remember one thing. 

The other person always has the option to remain anonymous or hidden if they want to. 

So, while all of these ideas are useful, none of them are perfect.

#1 Message Them

Maybe this isn’t in the spirit of the question, but I’m going to cover it anyway. 

You can message someone who has read receipts turned on, and it will give you a pretty good idea as to whether or not they are actively using the phone.

For anyone unfamiliar, here’s how read receipts work. 

You send a message. 

When the other person opens the message, it creates a timestamp for when they actually saw it. 

Usually, it will say “read” with the timestamp, but some apps do things their own way.

The real point here is that if you get a read receipt, you know they’re using the phone.

Also, this isn’t limited to text messaging. Any messaging app that has read receipts will do.

#2 Use Apps That Check for You

If the goal is to avoid direct communication, then you might want to explore apps that can tell you when someone is using their phone. 

I’m going to use Truecaller as an example, but you might be able to find comparable apps that do the same thing.

Truecaller is an app that does several things, but I’m going to skip all of that. 

If it happens to be installed on your phone and the phone in question, then it can see if that phone is in active use. 

It’s one of the features, and it makes solving this mystery quite easy.

But, if it isn’t installed on both phones, it can’t tell you. 

That’s likely true for any comparable apps.

Can You Use Your Apps to See Whether They Are on the Phone? (4+ App Types)

It would be nice if an app could directly tell you whether they’re on the phone or not, but that’s not always a viable option. 

The good news is that there are a lot of common, popular apps that can give you a good idea of when someone else is on their phone.

Pretty much any social media or messaging app has a feature that lets you see the activity status of other users. 

I’ll explain this in more detail in a moment, but you can use any app with this feature.

#1 Social Media

Social media apps have a lot of ways to help you figure out if the other person is using their phone. 

You can message them (as discussed earlier). 

You can also look at their status. 

Most social media apps allow users to put up a status that lets friends know when they are actively online. 

If the other person shows an online status, they’re probably using their phone.

But, we should talk about the few reasons why this isn’t perfectly reliable.

First, you can use social media apps with devices that aren’t your phone. 

A laptop, tablet, or any number of other devices can all connect to social media. 

So, the status might tell you that they are online, but they aren’t using their phone. They might not even have their phone nearby.

A second issue is the invisible status. 

Most apps that allow you to show friends when you are online also allow you to lie about when you are online. 

Ok, “lie” might be a strong word here. 

The point is that you can adjust your status to show you as offline even when you aren’t. 

So, this hurts the reliability of this message by a little.

Lastly, online statuses aren’t the most reliable in the best circumstances. They can update slowly, suggesting that someone is online or offline when that is no longer the case. 

Also, because multiple devices can connect to the same social media account, it’s possible to leave your desktop signed in when you leave the house. So, you might appear online when you definitely aren’t.

#2 Messaging Apps

Messaging apps, like WhatsApp, Skype, and many others, can also help you solve this mystery. They mostly do it in the same way as social media. 

First, you can send a direct message and see if they respond. You can also check read receipts.

On top of that, a lot of messaging apps provide online statuses. 

So, you can just check the app and see if they’re online. That’s pretty easy.

Naturally, the online status on a messaging app has the same problems as with social media, but there’s another way to think about this.

If you check multiple apps, and they all agree that the other person is online, it’s a lot more likely that the apps are correct. 

So, cross-referencing apps is a good way to see if a phone is in use.

#3 Location Apps

This one is pretty simple. Location apps allow you to see where a phone is located. They also allow for active pinging. 

So, if you look up a phone on Find My Friends, for example, then you can see if the phone is actively communicating with the app. It’s a good sign that the phone is on and connected.

But, like anything else, this isn’t a perfect solution. 

Location services work passively, so you can see that the phone is connected even if the other person isn’t actively using it.

Really, location apps are better as one piece of a process of elimination. 

If you can’t load up the phone at all on a location app, then you know that it is either out of service or turned off. 

In either case, the other person isn’t on a call or actively using the phone.

If the device shows up, then you only know that they can be on the phone, not that they certainly are.

#4 Any Other Apps That Link You

To summarize this whole methodology, there are a lot of apps that provide online statuses and similar ways to know if the other person is on their phone. 

Gaming apps often do this, such as Steam

Any app that allows you to directly communicate with other users can potentially inform you as to whether or not the other person is on their phone. 

Keep them all in mind, and you can probably get a good answer to your question.

Are There Other Ways to Check Whether They Are on Their Phone? (2 Options)

Really, the best way to know if someone is on their phone is to call them. If they answer, then you know. It’s that easy.

Assuming you have a good reason not to do that, then there are two other things you can try. 

One of them is to still call them, but not from your number. The other is to ask mutual contacts.

In either case, you’re getting more information, and you might be able to answer your question. 

But, after these steps, combined with everything else above, you’re pretty much at the limit of legal, ethical ways to find out if someone is on their phone.

#1 Call From Another Number

If you want to check, but you don’t want the other person to know you are checking, you can call from another number. 

You can use Google Voice or any comparable app. It lets you call from a number they won’t recognize. 

If the call connects, you know they’re on the phone. 

If you get a busy signal, then you know they’re using a landline without call waiting, which is uncommon but technically still possible.

If the phone rings or goes to voicemail, then you know that they at least aren’t answering strange numbers. 

Ultimately, calling allows you to know for sure that their phone can connect, and if they answer, that really tells you everything.

Instead of using Google Voice, you can also ask a friend or family member to place the call. 

Or, you can borrow a phone. 

In any of these cases, you’re testing the phone connection directly, and you’re doing it without putting your number on the other person’s caller ID.

#2 Ask Around

This is the final method, and it’s as limited as any other. But, you can ask the person’s roommate if they’re on the phone. 

Or, if you know any of their close friends or family members, you can ask them. 

Third-hand information like this can sometimes inform you as to whether or not the other person is using a phone.

If they live alone or aren’t around anyone else, then obviously this method doesn’t work. But it’s kind of a last resort when nothing else works.

Well, the real last resort is to just ask the other person. But, assuming you’re avoiding that option, then asking around is your best last chance.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

    View all posts