Those who have watched Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, or The Wire know the term Burner phone. Just break the screen or stomp it with your feet, and it is disposed off. However, have you wondered what they are and if a burner phone is of any use to you?
What is a Burner Phone?
As the name suggests, a Burner phone is a phone that can be easily burned/destroyed. Such phones were called “Feature” phones and were the means of communication back in the day. These are extremely cheap (starting from $20) and have very basic features. Burner phones are small in size, especially the flip-designed ones. As they are mostly used for making, receiving, and sending messages, they are viewed as the anti-smartphone.
Burner SIMs is another co-related service often used alongside a Burner phone. Like the latter, this can also be easily ditched and, if handled properly, has no connection to your identity. Often in movies, we see someone getting a call from an anonymous source, which, when traced, has no links with anyone; that is, a Burner SIM number.
Functionalities of Burner Phones
Privacy and anonymity are greatly compromised using a smartphone. No matter how cautious you are, some of your data still ends up with companies like Google. On the contrary, Burner phones are incapable of doing this. They do not have an internet connection or wireless transmission capabilities, keeping info such as your location, contacts, and images safe. This also means that you cannot be traced by authorities and be bothered by marketing calls etc.
This is only possible if you use the Burner phones and Burner SIM combo. Your carrier network still has all info, such as call logs and IMEI of your device. If you place your original SIM in your burner phone and make calls, the carrier will identify this as your device, and that anonymity is compromised. Also, if you only use a Burner SIM on your original smartphone, then again you are further traceable through your Google/Apply account and multiple other things.
Uses of Burner Services
Although from the functionalities of these services, you may feel like only criminals use these. Still, an ordinary person can also benefit from these as Burner phones, and SIMs make a great secondary device. Some of such beneficial uses are listed below:
- If you are uncomfortable sharing your personal number with someone, give them your secondary number and dispose of it if you feel it has been compromised.
- While signing up for unimportant online services, use your Burner number so your personal number won’t be compromised in case of a data breach.
- Informing someone about something through messaging that you won’t be comfortable doing in person.
- Burner phones have great battery backup; if turned off, their battery can last a very long time. Hence, it can be used in emergency kits to make calls.
- A balanced work and private life can be very challenging if you do both on a single number. In this case, use a Burner SIM to activate it during your work hours, and outside your work hours, turn it off so that you get no work-related calls. This, however, might only work if you are a freelancer and do not have to work under someone.
- For privacy reasons, your workspace might not allow smartphones, so Burner phones are also a good option.
- If you are into dating apps like Tinder, use a burner number. There are many fake ids over there, and you do not want to give your personal number to someone you have not met before.
- A secondary Burner phone and SIM will be very helpful if you work in difficult conditions or live in a neighborhood where mobile theft is widespread; if it is damaged or stolen, you won’t lose anything because your primary phone will be secure. Just take your Burner phone when you go to work or go outside.
Purchasing Burner Phones
Here are some tips you should keep in mind while buying a Burner phone or SIM:
- Purchase these items from a physical shop rather than ordering from online stores.
- Use cash to buy these, do not use credit/debit cards, as you can be linked back to the number.
- Buy from a store you do not frequently visit or ask someone else to buy these for you.
- After buying, do not load minutes into the sim from your banking application; rather, do this from a mobile store using cash.
Should You Buy a Burner?
If you are not going to do something that will get you in trouble with authorities or do not fear your mobile getting stolen or damaged, then there is no reason to have a separate phone. You can use VoIP services like Google Voice (currently works in the US only) or paid apps like Burner that provide you with an alternative number; this ensures your basic need for privacy from telemarketers or spam callers without having to carry a separate phone.