While seedy criminals and spies may prefer disposable phones, the rest of us can make do with disposable numbers, which are much cheaper and less wasteful. There are plenty of apps out there that let you disguise your phone number for a minimal fee. A handful of these apps also have some really useful extras, including self-destructing messages and the ability to handle multiple numbers.
We dug around to see which smartphone apps are the best for throwaway phone numbers, and here's what we've come up with—for Android and iPhone—in no particular order.
Hushed, developed by AffinityClick, is currently one of my favorite apps. The app has a beautiful, intuitive design and lets you select area codes from more than 40 different countries. It uses your data or Wi-Fi network to place the calls, so there are no expensive service charges for long-distance calls. There's also a voicemail box that's separate from your main one.
The app works for both Android and iOS, and offers a free 3-day trial. You can pay for a private number with relatively cheap ingoing/outgoing per minute rates, or join an actual plan. In my opinion, the best deal is the $4.99/month per new number for unlimited use, which makes it an excellent deal if you use it a lot. If you decide to delete the number, you'll have to start over with a new one and new plan.
Hushed also allows texting, though the feature is only available for the US, Canada, and the UK for now. If you prefer messages to self-destruct once they're opened, then Hushed has you covered there as well; simply turn on the included Private Messaging feature (which requires both parties to use Hushed) and you're all set.
Burner, created by Ad Hoc Labs, has been around for some time. The app has a relatively clean layout, and allows you to call and text from a new private number that you select—but it's only available in the US and Canada. Unlike Hushed above, Burner numbers will use minutes from your normal carrier plan, but Burner does also have a separate voicemail inbox.
The best part about Burner is that they let you "burn" your number, so you can toss it out and get a new one in seconds. You can try out Burner with a limited 7-day trial. There's no standard plans available; instead, you purchase credit packs starting at $1.99, which can be used to buy a burner number for a week, two weeks, a month, etc. with different calling/texting allotments. These can be extended with more credits, and you can also pay $4.99/month per new number for unlimited use.
Burner also allows you to connect your number to apps like Evernote, Slack, Dropbox, and SoundCloud, which opens up all kinds of creative and organizational possibilities. Note that Burner is not a way to remain anonymous; It's only for creating a layer of privacy between you and others. They do keep backups of data and corporate with law enforcement when subpoenaed.
Sideline is a budget-friendly calling app. Like Burner, it's US and Canada only, and it uses your carrier network, so calls made or received with Sideline will show up on your carrier bill. There's also a few ways to make the voicemail separate from your real number. As a bonus, you can even port phone numbers over to Sideline, in case you don't want to let one go from another service.
The best part about Sideline is that it's totally free, for the most part, and supported by ads. However, you can get rid of advertisements by paying for the Pro subscription for $2.99/month, and it will also let you toggle between Wi-Fi and cellular calls. Overall, it's a bit basic, but much cheaper, so definitely check it out if you don't need the enhancements of other apps.
Line2 offers you personal and business features, at comparatively affordable prices. You can select a US or Canadian phone number, granting you 5,000 calling minutes per month and unlimited messaging—that don't count against your cellular plan—with low international call and texting rates. There's also call forwarding, group calls and messaging, and voicemail-to-email notifications.
The app grants you a 7-day free trial, and prices start at around $9.95/month. It's definitely pricier than the others, though the flexibility of the app's calling features may justify the higher price for some. You can also subscribe annually for a small discount. The business plans, starting at $14.95/month, add simultaneous call forwarding, multiple lines, toll-free numbers, and other features.
TextMe Up by TextMe Inc. is a pretty promising app for Android and iOS. You can select a US, Canadian, or foreign country number, and allows you to text for free in the US and Canada. You can also make calls to over 200 countries.
You can call other TextMe Up, FreeTone, or TextMe users for free, but in order to make phone calls to anyone else, you will need to either subscribe or purchase or "earn" credits by watching videos or completing offers. To get unlimited calling to your TextMe Up number, it's an affordable $2.99/month per line. Also, the first number you create is free, but you'll have to pay for additional numbers.
The app is relatively new, and in my experience, it was a bit buggy. However, I think the app has a lot of potential and is definitely worth checking out.
Each of these apps has its own benefits, so it all depends on how you want to use your throwaway number or numbers. If you just need a quick number you never plan on using again, Burner might be the way to go. Want lots of numbers for different reasons, TextMe Up may be a good choice. Don't want to use your cellular plan's minutes up? Hushed, Line2, or TextMe Up are your options.