The prepaid mobile phone. Even more ominously, the burner phone. They’re all just nicknames for a disposable phone. What exactly is a disposable phone and why would you want another number at all?

A disposable phone number is a secondary number on a phone that’s often prepaid. You can use a burner phone for several reasons, including:

  • As a cheaper alternative to your current phone
  • As a backup
  • If you’re in an emergency
  • For privacy

If you’re thinking of getting a disposable phone and thus a new number for the reasons above or any others, you’re not going to want to miss this article. In it, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about burner phones, including how to get your own or use an app to mimic one.

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What Is a Disposable Phone?

First, let’s talk more about disposable phones. These devices, called prepaid or pay-as-you-talk phones, are secondary in nature. Most people who use a disposable or burner phone also have a main smartphone they rely on as well.

When you buy one of these phones, you should get a credit for it as well. This lets you make and receive calls and even exchange texts. You pay for what you need and nothing further. If, at any point, you decide you don’t want or need your disposable phone anymore, you can drop it without circumstance. You’re not tied into any contract with a prepaid phone.

Still, the same cell service carriers you might already use for your primary phone also offer burner phone services. These include Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. You can expect quality service just like you would with any other phone then. Instead of a certain amount of data you use, though, with a disposable phone, it’s minutes.

If you run out of minutes, then you have to replenish your limit. You can do this with prepaid cards that contain X amount of minutes.

According to How Stuff Works, as of 2007, United States residents with a prepaid or disposable phone amount to 10 percent of the population. That number may be even higher today. Women tend to use these phones more than men.

Does a Disposable Phone Always Have a Different Number from Your Main Phone?

When you buy a disposable phone, what kind of phone number do you get? Is it the same number as your primary phone?

Considering your primary phone and your disposable phone are two different devices, no, you won’t have the same number. Instead, you’ll have a brand-new phone number. It should still have your local zip code, but if you want to change even that, you can. The rest is its own separate number as well.

That’s actually one of the perks of owning a disposable phone, which we’ll get into now.

Why Use a Disposable Phone?

While burner phones may be associated with adulterers and other shady characters, not everyone who owns one uses it for nefarious reasons. In the intro, we touched on why you might have a disposable phone, so let’s expand on those points now.

Disposable Phones Are Cheaper

A burner phone certainly has one clear advantage over your standard Samsung Galaxy or Apple iPhone. They’re bucketloads cheaper.

Let’s look at the latest iPhone (as of this writing) to compare prices. It’s the iPhone X. Okay, so the 11 is on the horizon, but we don’t know its cost yet, so we’ll focus on the X. This device is $999 before you add any bells and whistles.

If you’re a fan of Samsung, their Galaxy S10 also has the same starting price as the iPhone X. In short then, you probably won’t find a new brand name smartphone for under $1,000.

With a prepaid or disposable phone, you don’t need to shell out nearly as much money. If you got the Kyocera Coast Prepaid Phone, you’d spend $35 on it. That’s it. You can still get a Samsung with a prepaid phone, the Entro. This costs $20. You’d have to pay as much for an EX431G Tracfone from Motorola. 

Now, that’s just the cost of the phone itself. The minutes may come separate, but not always. Even if you do get built-in minutes, you also have to consider that you’ll buy more minutes every few weeks or months. Still, you could buy minutes nearly every week and you wouldn’t pay even half the cost of a new smartphone by going the prepaid route.

They Serve as a Good Backup

While you never hope you’ll misplace or lose your smartphone, sometimes the worst happens. Your phone could also be stolen, an unfortunate fate, but a possibility nonetheless. Having your disposable phone would make your life a little more manageable as you try to find or replace your lost smartphone.

Burner phones boast a lengthy battery life, especially compared to a smartphone. For one, you don’t often use them every day, which keeps the battery running longer. Also, these phones can’t use tech like GPS and even LTE or 4G Internet, which again preserves battery. Since you don’t have to charge them as much either, their battery doesn’t degrade as quickly from recharging and recharging like what happens with a smartphone.

In all, you get an inexpensive, dependable device that you can trust in a pinch.

They Come in Handy in an Emergency

Your prepaid phone maybe can’t do much, but you can certainly use it for calling 911 if you ever have to. Even those disposable phones that don’t have a SIM card include this capability. You could always stash your burner phone in your purse, in your glove compartment, or somewhere else accessible so if the worst happens, you’re ready.

You Can Enjoy More Privacy

Do you ever wish your smartphone would stop buzzing for just a second so you can enjoy some peace and quiet? It’s always notification after notification mixed with texts and social media pop-ups. You’re sick of it. You don’t want to tell all your friends to buzz off, but you wish you could just leave all the tech havoc behind for a little while.

With a burner phone, you can. Since you have a new number, the only people who will know it are those you give the number to. Yes, okay, telemarketers will get their hands on your disposable phone number somehow, but otherwise, if it rings or dings, you know it’s only from people you want to hear from.

How Do You Get a Disposable Phone Number?

You can buy a disposable phone the same way you would any other. You may shop around online at your favorite retailer like Walmart or Best Buy. Also, you can go directly to the service provider, such as Verizon, Kyocera, or AT&T. Both online and at bricks and mortar stores, you pick up an inexpensive new burner phone.

Need minutes? You can even get these online! Otherwise, you can likely buy them at any of the abovementioned retailers.

Apps That Mimic Disposable Phones

What if you just can’t get past the thought of a disposable phone being kind of skeevy? You like the concept of these phones just fine, but you couldn’t imagine owning one yourself.

You’re in luck. Through the power of apps, you can make your primary smartphone operate like a burner phone. There’s no need to buy a secondary phone or top off your minutes anymore.

Here are five such apps to get you started.

Sideline

With Sideline, you can get a second phone number on your primary phone. You get to choose the number rather than have one randomly generated for you. If you want, you can even adjust the area code of your new number to something you like.

This second number can make and receive calls, take advantage of an unlimited amount of texts, and do voicemails. The minutes come from those provided to you from your service carrier, making Sideline very convenient. You’d pay a monthly fee of $9.99 to use it.

Line2

A cloud-based service, Line2 also lets you select a desired secondary phone number. This includes vanity and toll-free numbers as well. With Wi-Fi connectivity, cellular data use, and cellular voice features, Line2 is no slouch. You can even get your whole business team set up on this app and then use the outbound and inbound call routing features.

Line2 supports use on Mac and PC computers, tablets, and of course, your phone. It costs $9.95 a month.

CoverMe

The CoverMe app is intended more for those who want private communications. Available on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, CoverMe has such features as Disguise mode, where the app changes instantly to a newsreader so no one knows what you were doing.

You also get a Private Vault for stashing your documents, notes, passwords, videos, and photos you want to keep safeguarded. You do get a secondary phone number as well, as you’d expect. Other features include private messages that self-destruct after a period, private calling with encryption (military grade, too), and private texting that’s also encrypted.

Hushed

Speaking of encryption, Hushed offers it as well. You can also get this app on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. With Hushed, you may add a second, third, fourth, or fifth number if you feel like it. You can customize this number as you wish and then start using the app to make and receive calls and texts. You can even reach more than 45 countries via your secondary burner number.  

Hushed has a free trial. You’d then pay $1.99 for the service after that. The app charges 1.5 cents a minute for voice calls.

Burner

Arguably the most popular app for a faux disposable phone is Burner, as it’s been around the longest. When you make or get a call through Burner, it reroutes it. Your primary phone then receives the call so no one has to know your secondary phone number unless you want them to.

You can send pictures and texts and even generate a Canadian area code if you want. Do you like voicemail greetings? You can customize these with Burner as well. More feature are spam and Robocall blocking, text and call forwarding, auto-reply texts, do not disturb, contact muting and blocking, and a caller ID.

FAQs

Can a burner phone be traced?

Although it’s not as easy, through triangulation, someone could trace your disposable phone. Compared to the methods used for finding smartphone users (reviewing Wi-Fi and GPS), triangulation is more inaccurate. It’s enough so that the NSA can’t find every last burner phone. Do with that information what you will.

When would you want to use a disposable phone number?

There are plenty of wholesome reasons you might want a secondary phone number through a disposable phone or app. For instance, perhaps you wish for a vanity number for your business. An app can give you that. If you’re using a dating app and you don’t want to give out your real phone number, with a burner phone, you don’t have to.