Why does my phone say another app is using my microphone?

What Does This Message Mean?

This message means another application on your device is currently using or has access to your microphone. When you see this, it’s an indication that a separate app is actively recording audio via the microphone or has permission to do so at any time.

The “another app is using the microphone” notification prevents more than one application from recording audio at the same time, which can cause conflicts. Having microphone access allows an app to record anything picked up by your phone’s microphone unbeknownst to you.

Common Causes

One of the most common reasons you may see a notification that another app is using your microphone is because an app you recently opened needs access to the microphone for its features to work properly. For example, if you open a messaging app like WhatsApp, it will likely request access to your microphone so you can send voice messages or make calls.1 Granting microphone access allows the app to function as intended.

Additionally, some background apps may periodically check for voice commands even when you are not actively using them. For instance, voice assistant apps like Siri or Google Assistant need the ability to listen for their wake words in order to launch upon request. So you may notice the microphone in use notification due to these types of apps passively checking for voice input in the background.2

Checking Current Microphone Use

One of the easiest ways to see which app is currently using your microphone is to check the list of currently running apps. On iPhone and iPad, you can do this by going to Settings > Privacy & Security > Microphone. This will show you a list of apps that have requested access to the microphone recently.

You can also check the list of apps that have permission to access your microphone at any time. Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Microphone and you’ll see a list of all the apps on your device that can use the microphone. If you see an app on this list that shouldn’t need microphone access, you can tap on it and toggle the switch off to revoke access.

On Android, go to Settings > Apps & Notifications > App Permissions > Microphone to see which apps have permission to access your microphone. You can toggle off access for any suspicious apps. Additionally, on Android 9.0 and above, you can go to Settings > Apps & Notifications > Advanced > App Permissions > Microphone to see recently used apps.

Checking these lists of apps with microphone access will allow you to identify any unusual or unknown apps that may be running in the background and using your microphone without your knowledge. You can then take steps to revoke their permissions or uninstall them if necessary.




Disabling Microphone Access

You can disable microphone access for specific apps within your device’s settings. On an iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > Microphone and toggle off access for any apps you don’t want to use the microphone (1). On Android, go to Settings > Apps & notifications > App permissions > Microphone and disable microphone access for individual apps (2).

You can also disable microphone access when prompted by an app. On iOS, you will get a popup asking if you want to allow the app to access the microphone – select “Don’t Allow.” On Android, go to Settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced > App permissions > Microphone and toggle off access for the specific app.

Disabling microphone access for apps you don’t use will prevent unnecessary background recording. Be sure to enable access again if you want to use microphone features within an app.

(1) https://techwellness.com/blogs/expertise/how-to-turn-off-or-disable-microphone-and-camera-to-stop-apps-apple-microsoft-spying

(2) https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/all/disabling-a-specific-program-from-accessing-my/34ceffcc-ef62-401e-b5e8-8d5c4b3af799

Stopping Background Access

One of the most common reasons an app may be using your microphone in the background without your knowledge is if you’ve enabled certain voice assistant features. Both iOS and Android devices have options to allow “Hey Siri” or “Ok Google” voice activation even when your phone is locked or the app is not open. If you don’t use these features regularly, disabling them can stop apps from running in the background and accessing your microphone.

To disable “Hey Siri” on an iPhone, go to Settings > Siri & Search and toggle off “Listen for ‘Hey Siri.'” For disabling “Ok Google” detection on Android, go to Settings > Google > Account Services > Search, Assistant & Voice > Voice > “Ok Google” detection and turn it off.

You can also restrict background app activity more broadly in your device settings. On iOS, go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh and toggle it off globally or for specific apps. On Android, go to Settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced > App info usage > Background restriction and disable background access for microphone-using apps.

Checking these settings and disabling unnecessary background access can ensure that only apps you want to explicitly permit can use the microphone in the background. This will reduce the chance of seeing the “another app is using the microphone” message unexpectedly.

Check for Spyware

Malware or spyware could be secretly recording without your knowledge. These malicious programs are designed to infect devices and can activate your microphone to spy on you. According to Komando.com, “New iterations of Android malware can force your phone’s mic on and record you covertly.”

To check if your device has been infected, run complete security scans using reputable anti-virus and anti-malware apps like Malwarebytes or Lookout. You can also use built-in security scanning features on iOS and Android to check for suspicious programs. Go through your list of installed apps and remove anything that looks unknown or suspicious. It’s important to keep your device’s operating system and security apps up-to-date to protect against the latest threats.

If signs of spyware are discovered, you may need to factory reset your device to eliminate the malware. Be very cautious of unknown links and downloads that could infect your device. Use trusted security apps to continually monitor for spyware activity.

Updating Apps and OS

Outdated software and operating systems can have vulnerabilities that allow exploits or unauthorized access to device microphones. Apps or OS versions that have not been recently updated may contain bugs, security flaws, or weaknesses that hackers can take advantage of to gain microphone access without your knowledge or consent.

Regularly updating your apps and operating system is one of the best ways to protect against exploits. Software developers frequently release patches and updates to fix known flaws and improve security. Running the latest OS and app versions helps ensure you have all the latest protections and fixes in place.

Be sure to enable automatic updates for both your device’s operating system and apps like WhatsApp or Zoom. Manual updates can be easy to forget or put off, leaving you exposed. Automatic updates ensure you get each fix as soon as it becomes available, keeping your device secure.

Keeping your software up to date denies attackers the vulnerabilities often needed to improperly access your microphone. Using fully updated apps and an updated OS significantly reduces the risks.

As noted in research from CyberNews (https://cybernews.com/news/android-whatsapp-microphone-access-bug/), updating WhatsApp after a recent vulnerability was found helped protect users against unauthorized microphone access. Regular updates are key to staying secure.

Factory Resetting Your Device

One way to attempt to remove any potential spyware from your device is to do a factory reset, which will wipe the device back to its original settings. This will remove any files or software that may have been installed without your knowledge.

According to an article on Aura’s website, “Performing a factory reset on your mobile device can help combat viruses by removing infected files and curing malware infections.” [1]

However, it’s important to note that a factory reset may not remove all traces of spyware. As one article on I See Password points out, “No, a factory reset does not remove spyware from an Android device. To properly remove spyware from your Android device, you will need to use a spyware removal tool in addition to a factory reset.” [2]

After resetting your device, be very careful about which apps you reinstall, as downloading the same apps again could lead to reinfection. Only download apps from trusted sources like the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.

While a factory reset can help wipe malicious software, it may not be a complete solution on its own. You may need to use anti-spyware or anti-virus tools as well to fully remove spyware from a mobile device.

Adjusting Microphone Settings

One way to potentially improve battery life is by adjusting your microphone settings. For example, on an iPhone you can go to Settings > Accessibility and toggle off options like “Noise Cancellation” which uses extra processing power. This can help reduce battery drain from the microphone.[1]

You’ll also want to check that your microphone settings are not set to remain on indefinitely in the background. Go to Settings > Privacy > Microphone and ensure any apps that have permission to use the mic show “Ask” or “Never”, not “Always”. Turning off background access can help optimize battery performance.[2]

When to Be Concerned

Occasional microphone access by legitimate apps is normal, especially for apps that utilize voice commands, recording, or calling features. However, consistent background access to your microphone could indicate a problem.

If you notice an unknown app repeatedly accessing the microphone in the background, it may signify malware, spyware, or a hacking attempt. Monitoring apps in particular are known to run in the background and silently record audio or phone calls.

Be especially cautious of any app that lacks clear privacy policies or a reputation for protecting user data. Check reviews and do research before downloading lesser known apps. Also watch for unexpected battery drainage as a possible sign of constant background recording.

While most microphone access prompts are harmless, consistent and unexplained background usage merits further investigation. Adjust app permissions or uninstall suspicious apps to stop unwanted recording.

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