Dialing Conference Calls on an iPhone


Brandon Whichard
7 min readJul 12, 2018

Save yourself the time an hassle of dialing conference calls by either entering them into your iPhone address book in this format: 1–555–555–555,,123456# or use the Quick Concall iPhone App that I built to automatically dial all your conference calls with a single tap from one screen.

Anatomy of a Conference Call

Conference calls are a way of life in Corporate America. Whether it’s the daily scrum, the weekly sales pipeline review or the monthly marketing sync, everyone has a set of conference calls they must attend.

Of course, it’s never been easier to dial into a conference call from anywhere using your iPhone or Android device. While smartphones have revolutionized almost everything, they have done very little to change the modern teleconference.

Virtually every teleconference service requires you to dial a call-in number followed by instructions to “enter your participant code.” It’s not an especially elegant solution but it works and it’s been the universally accepted practice for decades. The problem with conference call is human beings are bad at remembering and entering long arbitrary phone numbers.

The Conference Call Penalty Box

While dialing a call is not hard, it’s very easy to mess up when entering all these numbers. To make matters worse, if you don’t wait for the voice prompt instructing you to “enter your participant code” to end, then often the teleconference will miss the first digit of your code. You will soon find yourself into what I like to call the “conference call penalty box.”

Being in the conference call penalty box means you will be subjected to more voice prompts telling you that “the code you entered was incorrect and to enter the correct code.” This usually happens right as your coworkers are assigning you action items in the meeting you are missing.

Dialing the conference participant code is especially challenging on a mobile device. If you don’t have the code memorized then you have to write it down somewhere. When you make a phone call on an iPhone, the “Phone App” takes over the whole screen. This prevents you from seeing the participant code that is usually found in an email message or calendar invite. Of course, you will discover you needed to write down the code just as your are getting the kids off to school or worse driving them to school.

There are a few options to avoid this whole mess. Apple lets you enter special characters in a phone number that will automatically “pause” or “wait” as the iPhone dials your call. You can use these pauses to automatically dial both the phone number and code and eliminate human error. To insert a pause, simply put a comma (“,”) in the phone number. On the iPhone each comma in a phone number will insert a two-second pause, so if you add two commas, then you will get a four second pause. Simple enough.

Inserting a “wait” in a phone number follows a similar pattern but instead of a comma you enter the good old semicolon (“;”). When you enter a wait nothing happens until the person darling the call does something. Inserting a wait is good idea when you are unsure how long the voice prompt will last or you need to hear the voice prompt before continuing.

Dialing from the Keypad

You can insert a pause or wait from the iPhone dial pad. To insert a pause, hold down the the asterisk key (“*”). You will need to press and hold the asterisk button for at least a second and then you will see the asterisk (“*”) turn into a comma (“,”) in the phone number field. To insert a “wait” you follow a similar pattern and hold down the pound key for a full second and it will turn into the the pound sign into a semicolon. Here‘s’ what it looks like:

Insert a pause and wait from keypad

By using the dial pad, you can dial everything once, ensure it’s right and then just call into the meeting. The only caveat is you will need to know what dial tone the teleconference requires to enter the participant code. Most of the time this will be the pound sign (“#”) but in some cases the teleconferencing service may require something different. In this example, we have inserted a wait (semicolon) since we are not sure what tone to use. When in doubt this is always safe approach.

Using the Address Book

For conference calls that you dial into frequently you can enter these these phone numbers in your address book. The iPhone even has a special keyboard that makes it a bit simpler than the regular dial pad. Here’s an example:

In this case, the iPhone offers a specific keyboard to enter special characters. Selecting the “symbols button” in the bottom left corner of the numeric keyboard gives you the option to enter pauses and waits as well as the ability to enter the asterisk and pound symbols. I would hazard a guess that this keyboard was made just for dialing conference calls!

How to organize and store these conference call numbers in your address book is a matter of personal preference.

One strategy is to add the conference number to the contact who “owns” the number. For example, if Johnny Appleseed has his own conference number, then you can add this number to their contact informaton. Another strategy is to create a special conference call contact and add all the conference call numbers to it. This is often preferred when groups share conference call numbers and there is no obvious owner. There’s no right answer, whatever works best for you.

Calendar Invites and Conference Calls URLs

Most of the time the meeting organizer is responsible for setting up the conference call and including the conference call information in the meeting invite. Many of the teleconference services will provide some boilerplate text that includes the dial-in number and passcode that can be pasted into the meeting invite. Here’s an example of the boilerplate text from Free Conference Call pasted into a Google Calendar invite:

The boilerplate includes all the necessary info but as discussed before the attendees will need to memorize or write down the passcode when they dial into the call. Luckily, there is a way to add one touch dialing to every invite.

As the meeting organizer, you can add a direct dial link by creating a telephone link in your invite. To do this you would add a telephone hyperlink like this tel:15555555555,,12345# to the invite. Now, when you open the invite in the Google Calendar App on the iPhone you will see the number hyperlinked. Here is what it looks like:

Selecting the hyperlink will give the attendee the option to direct dial the number and it will look like this on an iPhone.

Automatic Dialing from a hyperlink

The team at Apple is pretty smart and iOS now includes the ability to automatically scan text and hyperlink anything that looks like a link. Apple can sometimes detect the dial-in number and participant code without the need to add the telephone hyperlink. It’s great when this works but in practice it’s always best to explicitly add a telephone link. As a calendar invite or email message gets forwarded around to different people using different calendar and mail apps the ability to automatically hyperlink a telephone number often gets lost in translation.

An App for Conference Call Dialing

Throughout my career, I have probably been on hundreds if not thousands of conference calls. Some of the calls were very productive, others were a waste of time but I’ve always been annoyed by having to enter participant codes. I’ve personally found myself in the conference call penalty box far too often. It doesn’t have to be this way and so I built the Quick Concall iPhone App to (hopefully) solve this problem.

Quick Concall Screeshot

Quick Concall is an address book for conference calls. It lets you automatically dial conference calls. Simply enter the dial-in number and the participant code and Quick Concall will figure out how to automatically dial your conference call for you.

Quick Concall also includes the international dial-in numbers for Webex, AT&T TeleConference and Zoom making it even simpler to connect using those services.

Most importantly you can now dial conference calls on your iPhone from a single screen with a single tap. You will never be late to another conference call and never be sent to the conference call penalty box again.

Good luck on your next conference call and happy dialing!