We’ve all seen criminal types using burner phones on shows like The Wire and Breaking Bad, and most of us have secretly wanted to throw a phone away or break it in half at the end of a conversation.
But unless you have reason to believe the NSA or FBI are interested in you, it’s probably not something you need.
However, there are all sorts of good — non-criminal — reasons why you may want to have a second phone number. While you may want to get a second physical phone, for most purposes, you can just get an app on your existing phone.
Why Use a Burner App?
- Online dating is more popular than ever, but it does carry certain risks, particularly for women. Using a temporary number provides a valuable extra layer of privacy.
- If you’re buying or selling something on Craigslist, or placing an ad anywhere, a disposable number means you don’t have to deal with calls once your business is done.
- If you’re job hunting, you may be expecting a lot of calls from unknown numbers. It’s good to know that these are related to your job search before you answer.
- If you’re moving to a different area, or even a different country, you might want to pick up a local number before you move.
- If your job requires you to be on call or you’re running your own business, you’ll want a dedicated number that you know to answer professionally and can ignore when you’re off the clock, without having to carry two phones.
- If someone is monitoring your calls and texts (like an abusive parent or partner), you can reach out for help using a number they don’t have access to.
Whatever the reason for why you need a second number, there are plenty of apps that can help. Here are some of the best.
Burner certainly has the best name, and it’s one of the best and most straightforward apps out there — as long as you live in the U.S. or Canada.
You can get a real phone number (not VoIP) with a local area code that you can use for calls, text messages and voicemail. The app gives you control over who can call you, and when you’re done with a number, you can just “burn” it at the press of a button.
You can connect Burner to apps like Dropbox, Evernote, Slack, and SoundCloud to share or store items. Though this app might appeal largely to online daters thanks to it’s GhostBot feature that can give automatic non-committal replies to certain contacts.
Burner is free, and it gives you a seven-day trial with 20 minutes of talk time and 40 text messages. After that, you can pay for what you need or sign up for a $4.99 per month premium subscription that gives you a permanent number with unlimited usage.
Download — Burner (Free) for Android
Download — Burner (Free) for iPhone and iPad
Hushed is very much like Burner, but it has numbers for 40 countries and can be used from many more.
Unlike Burner, it uses VoIP, so it won’t eat into your minutes, but it will use up your data allowance if you’re not on a Wi-Fi connection. If needed, you can set it up to route calls through your own carrier.
It’s free to use for three days but only with American numbers. After that it costs $4.99 per month for one number with unlimited calls and texts within North America. There are a variety of other payment options depending on your needs.
Numbers from countries other than the U.S. and Canada are charged at different rates from $2.99 to $12.99 per month, and calls and texts are extra.
Download — Hushed (Free) for Android
Download — Hushed (Free) for iPhone and iPad
CoverMe puts an emphasis on privacy. As well as hiding your number, it allows you to make what it calls “military-grade encrypted phone calls” and store sensitive documents in its “impenetrable” private vault.
Many of its features, such as encryption of calls and texts and self-destructing messages, will only work if the other party also has the app, but the app can still be useful for anyone wanting an extra layer of privacy. It has phone numbers from the U.S., Canada, U.K., China, and Mexico.
The app is free, with call packages starting at $4.99 for 130 texts and 130 minutes, and a $5.99 charge for premium features.
Download — CoverMe (Free) for Android
Download — CoverMe (Free) for iPhone and iPad
Line2 is a business-oriented app that offers a second number on your existing phone and a host of other features such as conference calls, auto-attendant, and even toll-free numbers. You can add multiple lines for different departments as your business grows. It’s also suitable for individuals who want to keep their work and personal numbers separate.
It can be used for a temporary number but is really geared towards professionals who want a permanent second number. Line2 has a desktop app so you can make calls and send texts from a Mac or Windows PC as well.
There’s a seven-day free trial, after which it costs $8.30 per month for a personal account or $12.45 for a business account.
Download — Line2 (Free) for Android
Download — Line2 (Free) for iPhone and iPad
Download — Line2 (Free) for Amazon Fire devices
Sideline‘s big selling point is that it’s free. The basic app is ad-supported but still allows unlimited text messages and porting numbers to and from other services. You can choose to use your own carrier or Wi-Fi for calls.
A subscription of $2.99 per month will remove the ads, and there are additional premium features such as international calling and team accounts that you can buy with in-app purchases.
Download — Sideline (Free) for Android
Download — Sideline (Free) for iPhone and iPad
Your Favorite Burner App?
All of the apps in this list will give you a second number, but they’re each tweaked for a slightly different market. Which you use is largely up to personal preference. So we’d like to hear from you: what’s your favorite app for having a second or temporary number?
Do you use a burner number? If so, why? Have you used any of these apps? Are there any we’ve missed that you’d recommend? Please let us know in the comments section below.