If books, television shows and movies are any indication, there’s only one reason why anyone needs to get a disposable phone: they’re hiding their identity.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Jason Bourne on the run from a secretive governmental syndicate or Walter White trying to hide your empire from your wife, if you’ve got a disposable phone, you’re doing something shady. There’s even an entire TV Tropes page dedicated to the subject of Burner Phones.
Thing is, in today’s constantly connected world, there are tons of reasons why someone would want a disposable phone — or, in the case of the Burner app, a disposable phone number.
You can use the Burner app to place phone calls and send text messages directly within the app. When people call you, you can accept or reject the call like you normally would.Burner was founded by Greg Cohn and Will Carter. Cohn’s a former Yahoo man, while Carter has worked on user interface design and development for Samsung, Google and Sony. Carter was also user interface researcher at Nokia. Suffice it to say, they’re not exactly number one on the FBI’s most-wanted list.
The idea behind Burner is remarkably simple. Whether they’re online dating, online shopping or just looking to buy a couch off Craigslist, people want to protect their identities. Most of us don’t give out our email addresses when we’re shopping at Best Buy, so why would we give out our phone numbers to someone we’ve just met online?
The app works by taking advantage of the now-digital telephony systems in Canada, Australia and the U.S. Those countries aren’t random — they’re currently the only nations where Burner is available.
To create a number, you simply type in an area code, and the app automatically generates a phone number based on that area.So if you’re looking to call the Butterball Hotline to find out how long you need to cook stuffing in turkey to avoid poisoning your dinner-guests, you can very well pretend to be from Fargo, North Dakota, by typing in 701 as the area code.
You’ll also find that the zip codes for Fargo fall within the 58000 range — and are not 50504.
The West Wing references aside, you also don’t have to worry about carriers or network restrictions, because the app works on your existing SIM. The call quality is also whatever quality you get through your phone and your carrier. You can even connect your Burner number to Dropbox, Google, Facebook and other networks for two-factor authentication. After all, your Burner number works like a real phone number.
As for those individuals looking to use Burner for nefarious purposes, co-founder Greg Cohn has some bad news: “We’re not a top-secret encrypted, evil villain tool. They tend to avoid us and we like that.”
That is to say, as per Burner’s terms of service, if law enforcement approaches the company claiming that a Burner customer is using the app for illegal purposes, the company will absolutely work with law enforcement and provide the information they need.Cohn emphasizes that this app is for people looking a little extra security, but it’s definitely not the app you want to use if you plan on being on the lam. One last thing, you can’t use Burner to call 911 — you’ll need to use your actual phone number for that.
Burner is free-to-download on Android and iOS. You get seven free days of use; afterwards, you’ll have to subscribe to the premium service which starts at $6.46 CAD for a one-line monthly subscription.