Disposable phone numbers from your smartphone

(MoneyWatch) Why aren't there temporary, disposable e-mail addresses for phone numbers? They exist for e-mail.

After all, there are all sorts of situations in which it would be great to have a temporary phone number that you use just once, or perhaps only for a few days. You might not want to give someone on Craigslist your real phone number, for example. Or perhaps you urgently need to talk to a client from home and don't want to give away your personal phone number. Whatever the reason, you can now do it on both iPhone and Android.

Burner is an innovative app that lets you create a disposable phone number with a single click from your smartphone. Though it's been available for the iPhone for a while, the big news is that now there's an Android version as well.

Here's how it works: Once you configure Burner so that it knows your smartphone's phone number (which it won't ever reveal to people you're talking to), you can choose what kind of disposable number you need. These numbers are differentiated by how long they persist. The cheapest number, for example, expires after 7 days, and can be used for 20 minutes of talk time or 60 SMS text messages. Need more time? There are four options available, scaling all the way up to a number that expires after 60 days, with 75 minutes of talk time or 225 texts.

Not only can you request a specific area code for your Burner number, but you can give the number a nickname -- great for managing several active disposable numbers at once.

Burner is inexpensive. The app is free, and you get one sample Burner number for free as well (it expires in one day and provides 5 minutes of talk time or 15 text messages). From there, you can buy numbers that range in price from $2 for the 7-day number to $5 for the 60-day variety. Unless you're using Burner to manage a hundred fake numbers to smuggle diamonds across the Atlantic, it's a very fair pricing model.

And speaking of smuggling, it's worth noting that Burner probably isn't a great choice for illegal activities; the company hasyour real smartphone number, and it's available for subpoena if the Feds come calling.

Assuming that you occasionally need a disposable number for more mundane uses, though, Burner is an awesome app that complements your disposable e-mails quite nicely.

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