Adjust text size:

Purple Launches Real-Time Phone Captions Service

January 13 2011 | by

closed captions for work and play with clear captions

Don’t you hate it when you can’t hear people on the phone? Purple Communications has just launched a great solution for deaf and hard of hearing people. Purple has launched ClearCaptions, an online and real-time telephone captioning service that takes all the guesswork out of phone conversations.

While still in beta, the new service utilizes a relay operator, known as a Communications Assistant, who lives behind the scenes of your call, and silently translates the conversation — in real time — onto your computer screen, smartphone, iPhone, iTouch or iPad — basically any device with an Internet connection. The person on the other end of the line never knows that you’re getting much-needed assistance, but you’ll be able to carry on a chat better than ever before.

Because the calls are secure and considered confidential — the Federal Communications Commission ensures that relay calls are treated the same as regular voice calls — you can make telephone calls that are both personal and professional.

After signing up for an account (takes two minutes max), you plug in the number you want to call at the website: call input box

I put in a relative’s number using my iPhone, and immediately my phone rang and connected me.  My relative never suspected someone was on the line with us, and said the call was crystal clear, with no echo.


This isn’t the first service to offer real-time captions. Sprint’s WebCapTel came out with their online version a couple of years ago.

Both services work well, though both made a few mistakes, but only minor ones. Both services are free, funded by a telecommunications tax levied by the FCC, and available 24/7. The ClearCaptions interface is easier to use, as the conversation flows vertically — more like an Instant Messaging service on your screen — as opposed to Sprint’s left-to-right format. Plus ClearCaptions has a free iPhone app to make calls easier.

Of course, the best invention will be integration of either of these services with Skype or Apple’s Facetime, allowing deaf and hard of hearing people to lipread and/or use sign language while viewing a transcript. With all the progress being made, this wish can’t be far behind.


  • Jane Brink

    This appears to be yet another service (I know of several at least one of which also works with a BlackBerry or Android cell phone) that REQUIRES AT&T as your cell provider in order to have voice and data simultaneously. That also means the you MUST be in an area where AT&T has 3G service (which definately does NOT exist everywhere and is just now expanding very slowly. Besides that the iPhone is one of the most expensive cell phones on the market!

  • Bob Nicol

    Questions… So I do need an I-phone to make this work? I am with Verizon so they will have this phone soon. Next, the caller will need to hear my voice? So online computer will require an mike? I have Vonage for phone service.. does that fit in?
    More questions later.. thanks Bob

  • george whitmore

    What are the steps for me to use your service using an Android Cellular a Verizon Mobile phone to make a phone call to someone and to have CC on my mobile phone? This is not clear on the web…

    Thanks, george

  • Johnny Jts

    How do you capture incoming calls.

Related posts:

  1. ‘Snap and Translate’ on a Cell Phone
  2. Time Warner Pricing Rules May Hurt Deaf Callers
  3. Time: A Q&A with Jenny McCarthy
  4. Disney Rolls Out Audio Service for the Blind
  5. Nuance and WGBH Team Up on Captions Accuracy Project