What is a burner phone, and when to use it

Anton P. | January 16, 2023

A burner phone is a prepaid mobile phone in no way associated with your identity. Typically, it is a feature phone from the early 2000s, limited to calls and texts. 

A common misconception is that burner phones are mainly for sketchy people involved in criminal activities. However, buying a burner phone can relate to many issues we see in the modern age. 

People might purchase a burner phone for more anonymous communication, to avoid spam calls, or a cheaper second number. Thus, learn how burner phones can assist you today and the options for burner phone apps. 

What is a burner phone? 

A burner phone is a disposable prepaid phone you can likely purchase at convenience or department stores. It follows the pay-as-you-go principle, and you do not enter any contact with mobile carriers.

  • If you use anonymous payments to buy burner phones instead of credit cards, purchases won’t get associated with your identity. 
  • Burner phones help avoid many monitoring and tracing strategies while you use it to go online or text. 
  • It is unlikely that anyone will trace you via the burner phone’s GPS. 

Burner phones also come with a prepaid SIM card, meaning you can use it right away. 

There might be a mandatory SIM registration, but you should not need to enter a legal commitment to providers. When you exceed the initial SIM credit, you can toss it or load more credit. 

How do burner phones work

As soon as you purchase a burner phone, you can start using it. The box will likely contain instructions on phone setup. Furthermore, most phones come with a prepaid SIM card. As long as you have credit in the SIM, you can use the phone. 

Generally, burner phones are like any other feature phone you can use for calls and text messaging. Users can go for a classic flip phone or choose more modern burner phones with many smart features. 

So, burner phone prices can range from $20 to a few hundred dollars, depending on your needs. 

When you might want to use a burner phone

Users might associate burner phones with illegal activities, law enforcement, or international spies. However, there are more mundane reasons to get a burner phone. 

  1. More anonymous communications 

A burner phone can grant you more anonymous and private communications with anyone, family or Facebook Marketplace sellers

  • Usually, people own their phone numbers for a very long period of time. It is likely that many of their accounts get linked to that number. Having a burner phone lets you link non-essential services to its number. 
  • A burner phone has no relation to your identity and lets you communicate more freely. 
  • You do not need to enter into contracts with mobile carriers that might monitor your activities. 
  1. When contacting suspicious individuals 

A burner phone can be a lifesaver when you purchase something from Craigslit or Facebook Marketplace. You won’t need to reveal your real number to people you meet online. The same might apply to people you meet through online dating platforms. 

  1. Fewer spam calls to your real number

A burner phone reduces the chances of getting targeted with Spam Risk calls or other smishing attempts. It works if you reveal your burner SIM phone number instead of your primary number. Then, if your burner number get targeted by scammers repeatedly, you can dispose of it. 

  1. Going off the grid 

Current smartphones open endless venues for entertainment and communication. However, it also has negative effects, like doomscrolling, misinformation, or phone addiction. 

A burner phone can be the cell phone you use strictly for calling and texting. Furthermore, you can only pay for how much you use it instead of sticking to a postpaid plan. 

  1. Affordable cell phone

Burner phones can be highly budget-friendly. You can recharge it whenever you want. Furthermore, you won’t need to go into contract with mobile carriers. Depending on various factors, such providers can overcharge or offer unfavorable conditions. 

  1. Option for children 

Parents might consider getting their children cell phones strictly for emergency phone calls. Burner phones are affordable and safe options for them. Since they can be feature phones, you won’t risk children increasing their screen time. 

Burner apps grant secret phone numbers

Instead of getting a burner phone, you can consider getting burner numbers. 

  • Burner apps let you create disposable phone numbers on your current smartphone. 
  • Essentially, burner apps grant you a phone number you can provide to people and companies. 
  • When someone calls your burner number, the app redirects the call to your primary number. As a result, your real number remains hidden. 
  • Such apps are like middle people, forwarding calls while retaining your actual information secret. 

So, you can get the benefits of a burner phone without getting another gadget. The key factor is picking a reliable burner app provider. You should read privacy policies about the data related to your calls. 

Call metadata can still reveal a lot about your contacts and communications. But if the app seems to suit your requirements, it can be a long or short-term alternative to burner phones.

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Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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