New app helps mask your iPhone number

One reason email has become the most popular form of digital communication is that -- government snooping aside -- it is extremely private. Most people have several addresses, some entirely disposable,  and you can use them without revealing your identity or making yourself needlessly accessible.

If you wish you had the same kind of flexibility with your phone number, a new service can get you part of the way there, although the solution is far from perfect.

RingMeMaybe is a new virtual phone number service that lets you create an unlimited number of disposable phone numbers on your iPhone. You can have multiple active numbers at once, which means you can use one number for, say, an online auction while another number is reserved for job-hunting. You might use a third number for online dating sites.

All of these virtual numbers are managed by the RingMeMaybe app, which lets you create a number with a single tap. You can tag each number with a descriptive name, and incoming calls show you both the ID of the caller as well as the disposable number’s tag so you know what to expect when you answer the call.

The app is free, but each disposable number you create in RingMeMaybe costs about $1 and expires after one week. If you want to extend the number, you can do so indefinitely – at the cost of a dollar per week. You get two numbers (or a number and a one week extension) for free by downloading the app, and additional credits can be purchased in-app.

RingMeMaybe has its uses. It’s especially handy for ensuring your privacy when dealing with online services from which you need to accept phone calls. But as a tool it has some significant limitations. RingMeMaybe numbers are inbound only -- you can’t call out using the number, which ultimately limits the app’s ability to ensure privacy. Likewise, it can’t receive text messages, which can make for awkward communication.

RingMeMaybe isn’t the only app out there of this type. Burner, for example, also lets you create disposable numbers, and while it supports calling and texts, it’s somewhat more expensive; you pay for Burner numbers by the minute and by the text. And if you simply want a single phone number to virtualize your phone communication and to mask your real number, Google Voice is a good option as well.

Still, RingMeMaybe is a good option if you simply need a way to receive inbound calls for a short time without revealing your own number.