Permalink
Switch branches/tags
Find file Copy path
539 lines (412 sloc) 26.8 KB

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Parsing

Why wasn't the country code removed when parsing?

In some cases, the library cannot tell if the leading digits of a phone number are intended to be the country calling code, or the start of the national significant number.

This affects primarily German phone numbers, where 49 is both a country calling code and an area code, and numbers of variable lengths are valid. The leading digits will only be interpreted as a country calling code if the number is not already considered a possible number for the region provided when parsing.

If you know that your numbers are always in the form <country calling code><national significant number>, it is safe to put a "+" in front to indicate this to the library.

Why does the library treat some non-digit characters as digits?

When parsing, the library does its best to extract a phone number out of the given input string. It looks for the phone number in the provided text; it doesn't aim to verify whether the string is only a phone number.

If the input looks like a vanity number to the library, parse() assumes this is intentional and converts alpha characters to digits. Please read the documentation for PhoneNumber parse(String, String) in PhoneNumberUtil for details. Also see Iterable<PhoneNumberMatch> findNumbers(CharSequence, String).

Some examples:

  • +1 412 535 abcd is parsed the same as +1 412 535 2223.

  • If someone fat-fingers and adds an extra alpha character in the middle, then the library assumes this was a mistake and fixes it. E.g. the extra c in +1 412 535 c0000 is ignored, and this is parsed the same as +1 412 535 0000.

  • If someone fat-fingers and replaces a digit in the middle with an alpha character, and the remaining characters do not make up a valid number, this alpha character is not converted and the resulting number is invalid, e.g. with +1 412 535 c000.

Other examples, in reports:

Why wasn't the national prefix removed when parsing?

Usually, when parsing, we remove a country's national or trunk prefix, so we can store a normalized form of the number. This is usually, but not always, a leading zero. In some situations, we don't remove this, but instead keep it as part of the national number:

  1. If a country does not use a national prefix, or does not use one anymore, we don't remove a leading zero, since then if the user wanted to format the number we would never know to prefix it with this leading zero.
  2. If the leading zero is not a national prefix but is needed for dialling from abroad (e.g. in the case of Italy) it is stored in the proto, not removed as a national prefix.
  3. If the number is too short to be a valid phone number in this country, we do not remove the national prefix. For instance, although 0 is a national prefix in Australia, we do not remove it from the number 000 which is the emergency number; if we did we would not know that it needs a 0 re-added when formatting since other short-codes do not, and we would be irreparably changing the phone number.

Why wasn't 00 parsed the same as +?

00 is not an international prefix (IDD) in every region, so it's not equivalent to +.

For example, if parsing 0015417540000 as if dialled from the US, the national number is 15417540000 because 00 is not an international prefix in the US.

Ascension Island, however, does have 00 as an international prefix, so 00 there works the same as + and 0015417540000 as if dialled from AC gives 5417540000 for the national number.

You can try the demo for more regions. Also see internationalPrefix in resources/PhoneNumberMetadata.xml.

Validation and types of numbers

What is the difference between isPossibleNumber and isValidNumber?

To understand the behavior of functions, please refer to the documentation in the Javadoc/C++ header files. For example, see isPossibleNumberWithReason in PhoneNumberUtil.

Why does PhoneNumberUtil return false for valid short numbers?

Short numbers are out of scope of PhoneNumberUtil. For short numbers, use ShortNumberInfo.

What does it mean for a phone number to be valid?

Our phone number library can tell that a number range is valid when there is sufficient official documentation, with some latency after this fact is brought to our attention via issue reports or notifications (see below for more information on where our metadata comes from). A valid number range is one from which numbers can be freely assigned by carriers to users.

Do not rely on libphonenumber to determine whether numbers are currently assigned to a specific user and reachable. Some products (e.g. Google 2-step verification) do this with a verification step e.g. by sending an SMS or placing an automated phone call with a verification code). This is not technically feasible without such a verification step given the complicated international world we live in, with varying standardization practices in different regions.

But my dialled number connected, so isn't it valid?

Not necessarily.

  • In some countries extra digits at the end are ignored. For example, dialling 1800 MICROSOFT in the US connects to +1 (800) MIC-ROSO.
  • During renumbering transitions, e.g. when all numbers are getting an extra 9 added to the front, some operators will "fix" old numbers long after they're no longer working for the majority.
  • Numbers that are only locally-diallable e.g. a 7-digit number dialled in the US are not valid, because without the rest of the number it is impossible for the library to canonicalize this.

When should I use isValidNumberForRegion?

Rarely! Many people have phone numbers that do not belong to the country they live in. This applies particularly to mobile numbers, but may also be true for VoIP numbers etc. Note also that the regions your application supports may not be the same as the regions we support. For example, the Channel Islands such as "Jersey" have their own region code - JE. If you allow these users to sign up as a British user ("GB"), their phone numbers will not be considered valid for the region "JE".

One use-case where this method may be useful is if you want to see if a FIXED_LINE number for a business matches the country it is in, to try and spot data errors.

What types of phone numbers can SMSs be sent to?

SMSs can be sent to MOBILE or FIXED_LINE_OR_MOBILE numbers. However, in some countries it is possible to configure other types, such as normal land-lines, to receive SMSs.

Why did I get FIXED_LINE_OR_MOBILE as the type of my phone number?

Some number ranges are explicitly defined as being for fixed-line or mobile phones. We even represent ranges defined as being "Mostly land-line" in this way.

What is mobile number portability?

The ability to keep your mobile phone number when changing carriers. To see whether a region supports mobile number portability use isMobileNumberPortableRegion.

Since it's possible to change the carrier for a phone number, how is the data kept up-to-date?

Not all regions support mobile number portability. For those that don't, we return the carrier when available. For those that do, we return the original carrier for the supplied number.

What about M2M (machine to machine) numbers?

libphonenumber does not support M2M numbers at the moment, but might in the future.

One of the reasons libphonenumber doesn't support M2M so far is because no one could explain their use to us sufficiently.

We don't require that a number to be supported by the library has a human at the other end since we already accept premium rate services and they might go to an automated system instead. But to date we only accept ranges that a human might call or send an SMS to.

M2M numbers would violate this assumption and we'd have to evaluate the consequences for existing APIs and clients if M2M numbers would be considered valid by the library. Clients of libphonenumber expect mobile and fixed-line numbers to have certain affordances, such as: Reachable for voice calls (and for mobile also SMS) as well as assuming standard cost. This expectation is broken by the lack of M2M standardization today.

Many people use this library for formatting the numbers of their contacts, for allowing people to sign up for services, for working out how to dial someone in a different country, for working out what kind of cost might be associated with a number in an advert, etc. We don't think the lack of M2M support hinders any of those use-case, but we might be wrong.

If you would like libphonenumber to support M2M numbers, please engage with the developer community at Support M2M numbers with further information to address our questions and concerns such as:

  • How to implement support? e.g. new category, new library or method to call - along with pros and cons, and impact on existing APIs
  • Authoritative and specific documentation such as government sources since we currently have less than a dozen sources, which have varied definitions

More information and collabortation on this issue would be very welcomed!

What about numbers that are only valid for a set of subscribers?

There are some numbers that only work for the subcribers of certain operators for special operator-specific services. These differ from carrierSpecific since they're not shortcodes. We don't support these numbers due to their limited use scope, few examples (only the area code 700 in the US), and lack of authoritative evidence.

Until there are more examples with authoritative evidence and a proposal on how the library should handle these numbers, we won't be able to support these similar to our prerequisites for supporting M2M.

Please see this issue for more context, and file a new issue if you're able to provide more information than this.

Representation

What is the maximum and minimum length of a phone number?

We support parsing and storing numbers from a minimum length of two digits to a maximum length of 17 digits currently (excluding country calling code). The ITU standard says the national significant number should not be longer than fifteen digits, but empirically this has been proven not to be followed by all countries.

Formatting

Can / should we format phone numbers in a language-specific way?

No, phone number formatting is country-specific and language-independent. E.g. formatting a US number in a French way (e.g. the way a France number is formatted) for a French user is undefined and wrong.

It is true that in some countries phone numbers are typically written using native, not ASCII, digits; our phone number library supports parsing these but doesn't support it at formatting time at the moment.

When does formatting in a country change?

The formatting within a country changes sparingly, but may be announced explicitly or noted implicitly in a national numbering plan update that introduces a new number length, number type, or other significant change. This may include the grouping and punctuation used (e.g. parentheses versus hyphens).

In the event of lack of evidence and/or enforcement by a central government regulatory or telecommunication authority, we'll stick with the status quo since the community prefers to bias towards stability and avoid flip-flopping between formats over time. If the silent majority becomes vocal to support new formatting with authoritative evidence, then we'll collaborate with community stakeholders on a transition.

An example of this is the shift from using parentheses to hyphens to separate area codes within North America. Hyphens may indicate that the area code is optional in local circumstances, but this is shifting to become mandatory in areas that have had more area code splits. However, the usage of parentheses persists and both methods are acceptable.

See issue #1996 for some additional discussion.

Why does formatNumberForMobileDialing return an empty string for my number?

If we don't think we can guarantee that the number is diallable from the user's mobile phone, we won't return anything. This means that for numbers that we don't think are internationally diallable, if the user is outside the country we will return an empty string. Similarly, in Brazil a carrier code is essential for dialling long-distance domestically. If none has been provided at parsing time then we will return an empty string. If you get an empty string and are okay providing a number that may not be diallable, you can call another of our formatting numbers instead.

Metadata

What do we mean by "metadata"?

We use the word "metadata" to refer to all information about phone numbering in a particular country - what the country code, international and national dialling prefixes are, what carrier codes are operational, which phone numbers are possible or valid for a particular country, how to optimally format them, which prefixes represent a particular geographical area, etc.

Where do we get information from to determine if a number range is valid?

In theory, phone numbering plans are all supposed to be administered through the ITU. Many countries' phone numbering plans may be found on the ITU website.

We receive automatic notifications when a new ITU plan has been filed, which may or may not be before it comes into effect.

Not every country files their numbering plans with the ITU nor are the plans filed with ITU always up to date. In some countries, the numbering plans are directly handled by a government authority, while in others, most of the work is done by telecom companies (the government's role being only to distribute ranges at the prefix level, with the actual partitioning within the prefix done by the telecom).

A large part of the data in PhoneNumberMetadata.xml comes from the ITU documents, but because they're sometimes insufficient, we also include data from other sources, including user bug reports, telecom company home pages and government telecommunication authorities.

There is no RFC indicating where the data comes from, or what format they're in.

We'd love to consume machine-readable numbering plan data (assigned ranges, carrier & geo mappings). If you can connect us with partners in the industry to achieve this, please do so. Thanks!

Why is this number from Argentina (AR) or Mexico (MX) not identified as the right number type?

Certain countries' mobile and/or fixed line ranges may overlap, which may make accurate identification impossible without additional and explicit context such as a mobile prefix. We rely on this prefix being present to correctly identify the phone number type (rather than returning FIXED_LINE_OR_MOBILE in ambiguous cases) until our metadata can be fine-grained enough to detect when a user has omitted it.

For example, when calling a mobile line from a fixed line in Argentina, you need to dial 15 before the subscriber number, or 9 if you're calling from another country. Without these additional digits, your call may not connect at all!

Similarly, Mexico has different mobile prefixes needed when calling from a fixed line such as 044 when calling locally, 045 when calling from another state, and 1 when dialing from another country.

Moreover, these countries have different possible lengths for area codes and subscriber numbers depending on the city, which further complicate matters (e.g. Buenos Aires is 11 followed by eight digits, but Río Gallegos is 2966 followed by six digits).

Despite all the aforementioned complexity, users may not provide their phone number with all the additional context unless explicitly asked. For instance, since SMS messages can be sent in Argentina from a mobile phone without a prefix, the user may not supply the mobile prefix.

We are aware of these issues but fixing them is not trivial. In the meantime, we recommend the following workarounds to support affected users.

  • If you know an Argentina or Mexico number is mobile (e.g. if you're doing signups with device numbers or will send them an SMS verification code), follow these steps:
    • For raw input strings:
      • Parse a raw input string into a PhoneNumber and follow the next instructions for PhoneNumber objects.
    • For PhoneNumber objects:
      • Check that the library validates a PhoneNumber as mobile, by calling getNumberType;
      • If not, format it in national format and prepend a 9 for Argentina or a 1 for Mexico;
      • Parse the modified string and if the library validates it as mobile, accept the resulting PhoneNumber as canonical.
  • Consider prompting for type (mobile or not) in the phone number input UI.

IMPORTANT: Do not add a leading 1 or 9 for displaying or formatting the numbers. Depending on the use case, other tokens may be needed. The library will do the right thing if the phone number object is as intended.

Why are Bouvet Island (BV), Pitcairn Island (PN), Antarctica (AQ) etc. not supported?

We only support a country if:

  • The country has a single country calling code. For instance, Kosovo (XK) has been using three different country codes until 2017 - those of Serbia, Monaco and Slovenia. The relevant numbers will be marked as valid, but as belonging to Serbia, Monaco or Slovenia respectively. When Kosovo starts using its own country calling code of 383 it will be added to the metadata by itself. Similarly, Antarctica doesn't use its assigned country calling code of 672 - instead the bases belonging to different countries have different solutions. For example, Scott Base, belonging to New Zealand, has an area code that is part of the New Zealand phone number plan, and we support those numbers as valid numbers for NZ.
  • The country still exists. For example, Yugoslavia (YU), Serbia and Montenegro (CS) and Netherlands Antilles (AN) have been dissolved and no longer exist as political entities so we do not support them.
  • The country has some phone numbers in use that can be ascribed to it. For instance, Pitcairn Island has only around thirty inhabitants and they use satellite phones, so there is no numbering plan for Pitcairn Island. Similarly, Bouvet Island is an uninhabited Antarctic volcanic island with no telephone country code and no telephone connection, so we will not support it.
  • It has an assigned region code. For instance, previously Kosovo did not have a region code assigned to it, so we could not support it until it was assigned XK by CLDR.

We support non-geographical entities that have been assigned country calling codes by the ITU where a numbering plan is available, e.g. "800" (International Freephone Service) and 870 (Inmarsat SNAC). However we do not support country calling codes that are only "reserved", or that no data is available for (namely 388 - listed as "Group of countries, shared code" and 991 - listed as "Trial of a proposed new international telecommunication public correspondence service, shared code".)

Why are Indonesian toll-free numbers beginning with "00x 803" not supported?

Although some numbers beginning with "001 803" or "007 803" do work in Indonesia to reach toll-free endpoints, these numbers are hard to support because they overlap with the international dialling prefix for Indonesia (IDD). It seems that since 803 is unassigned and not a valid country code, some local tel-companies in Indonesia hijack 803 and redirect it to their own services.

We have also found evidence that reaching some "00x 803" numbers cost local or national tariff, rather than the call being toll-free.

These numbers are not diallable from any other country using their IDD, and it's unclear whether all carriers in Indonesia support them. If we ever supported them, they would have to be added to the noInternationalDialling section, and it is likely some changes in the parsing code would have to be made to interpret the "00x" as something other than an IDD: this could have undesirable side-effects when parsing other numbers.

Misc

What is the metadatalite.js/METADATA_LITE option?

For JavaScript, Java and C++ there is the option to use a stripped-down version of the metadata. Currently this only removes the example number metadata, so the savings are not a lot, but we may revisit this.

Impact:

  • getExampleNumber, getInvalidExampleNumber, getExampleNumberForType, getExampleNumberForNonGeoEntity will return null
  • Binary size (or download size for JS) will be slightly smaller

JS: Simply include metadatalite.js instead of metadata.js in your project.

C++: Set the compiler flag USE_METADATA_LITE to ON using ccmake or similar.

Java: The metadata binary files can be generated using the ant build rules build-phone-metadata and build-short-metadata with lite-build set to true. This can be set in the build file itself.

Which versions of the Maven jars should I use?

When possible, use the latest version of libphonenumber.

For the other Maven artifacts, to find the version corresponding to a given version of libphonenumber, follow these steps:

  • Go to the versioned GitHub tag, e.g. https://github.com/googlei18n/libphonenumber/find/v8.3.3
  • Type pom.xml. This will surface all the pom.xml files as they were released at the chosen tag.
  • Find the version you care about in the corresponding pom.xml file. Look for <version> in the top-level project element. For example, to find the version of the carrier jar corresponding to libphonenumber 8.3.3, open java/carrier/pom.xml at v8.3.3's search results. This is 1.56.
  • If you depend on the carrier or geocoder jar, you also need to depend on the prefixmapper jar.

How do I load libphonenumber resources in my Android app?

System considerations

tl;dr: Do not call PhoneNumberUtil API on the main thread.

If you get surprising exceptions involving metadata loading, e.g. "missing metadata" exceptions when the metadata exists, then it's probably because you're loading resources on the main thread.

Please ensure that you don't call PhoneNumberUtil API on the main thread. Not loading resources in the main thread is the suggested best practice at the Android developer guide, and will prevent the issue reported in #265, #528, and #819.

Optimize loads

You can manage your own resources by supplying your own MetadataLoader implementation to the PhoneNumberUtil instance. It is thus possible for your app to load the resources as Android assets, while libphonenumber loads Java resources by default. The result is that the files are read as native Android assets and so optimized for speed.

Here's the sample code for how to do it:

PhoneNumberUtil util = PhoneNumberUtil.createInstance(new MetadataLoader() {
  @Override
  public InputStream loadMetadata(String metadataFileName) {
    return Application.getContext().getAssets().open("some/asset/path" + metadataFileName);
  }
});

You also need to copy the binary metadata files into your app's asset directory, and automate updating them from upstream. To avoid net increase of app size, remove them from libphonenumber.

What about Windows?

The libphonenumber team's support of the C++ library on Windows is primarily to support Chromium's build environment, and we depend on the community to support other Windows build environments / build chains. We list here some known issues that would benefit from open-source collaboration. If you can contribute a PR or review and test out someone else's PR, please chime in on these links, or email the discussion group:

  • #1000 to provide a Windows DLL.
  • #1010 to require Visual Studio 2015 update 2 or later on Windows
  • PR #1090 / #824 to "Replace POSIX directory operations by Boost Filesystem"
  • #1555 to allow Windows to build cpp library with pthreads for multi-threading

How to remove a specific example number?

We supply example numbers as part of the library API. While we aim to have numbers that are either explicitly allocated by the country as a test number, or look fictitious (e.g. 1234567) we also need these numbers to validate correctly. This means we sometimes have numbers that do connect to a real person.

If we by chance have actually listed your real number and would like it removed, please report this through Google's new Issue Tracker. Only our internal team will have access to your identity (whereas GitHub usernames are public).