Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Show HN: Burner, for temporary phone numbers (burnerapp.com)
323 points by gregcohn on Aug 8, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 180 comments

Am I wrong in guessing this is a Twilio-powered service?

If so, this is a brilliant pricing model for adding value on top of someone else's API. One-time App store pricing of $1.99 gets $1.39 to use on purchasing a short-duration Twilio line and then in-app purchases can be used to refill extra numbers/minutes, all presumably with enough margin to make money on top of the basic "reserve and use a Twilio number" functionality.

Just checked and Twilio phone numbers are $1/mo. and 1-2 cents a minute for calls. There's definitely headroom to make money here.

We proudly work with Twilio -- though there's a lot of work that's gone into managing the user-facing aspects of the service and the UX.

Are you pushing voice through data or using call forwarding?

Grats on the launch Greg!

might be plivo or tropo, but probably twilio.

I love that those are actual apps. We're running out of names, folks!

Pretty soon we'll be down to 'Zitzlers' and 'Popplers'.


Where did you find the pricing model? I don't see prices anywhere on the page. Do I have to play the video or something? I hate having to search for prices. The act of searching for prices starts a feeling of distrust of the company which builds until I find it.

Thanks for pointing that out. We will make pricing more clear on our site -- though it's pretty clear in the iTunes store (we think).

I'm disturbed by some of the "chill effect" responses here, in the crime/law enforcement space. Why does an anonymizing product, one designed to protect the user, get so many questions about use by criminals and ways for law enforcement to get around it?

Frankly, the job of law enforcement is up to people in law enforcement. We're not responsible for them. Their physical inability to do certain kinds of harm is part of the balance between civil rights and law enforcement.

Most people who benefit from Burner won't be criminals. It'll probably end up reducing crime by protecting potential victims. Most people are good, so when this thing is doing it's job, it's mostly going to be protecting good people. The additional safety will encourage people to have a better feeling of safety in their lives, as they'll be taking smaller risks when using their phone and interacting with other people. In single life, this thing is frankly a godsend, and can really make a substantive improvement in many peoples lives... Especially for those who've previously been victims.

Worrying about whether to protect people, versus easing the jobs of the people who protect people, is absurdly myopic.

I conceptually agree with you but this service is called "Burner", they have couldn't have picked a worse name for a 'legit' service. They have metaphorically written "for criminals and wanna be spys" on their back and are carrying around a 10 foot sign saying "Department of Justice, come and get me!".

Everyone looking at this service is completely justified in being skeptical and asking questions.

I don't get the impression anyone here is actually that concerned on an ethical level about the potential for criminal abuse. But it's likely to become an issue if the product is widely used, and it's worthwhile to ask if the developers have a strategy for dealing with the kinds of dilemmas that could arise. It's a business question, not a moral one.

If this is used for anonymity it is completely understandable for potential customers to want to know EXACTLY how anonymous this makes the number.

That's like Sony saying "give us your personal info, CC numbers, etc... don't worry we'll take care of the rest" and they turn around and store it in plaintext or md5 on an insecure database.

Also, if it turns out that this service is somehow unlawful or could get shut down / interrupted by law enforcement then I want to know that before I invest in them as a customer.

TL;DR - It's never wrong to question something; especially something like this. If they can't answer the hard questions now then they don't deserve our trust.

So, the term "Burner" is associated with temporary cell phones used by criminals to avoid wiretaps. Presumably that's the inspiration for the name and the concept.

What happens if your app indeed becomes a salvage for criminals? What's your policy around government requests for information about the person who used the number during a duration? Would you cooperate with subpoenas, or is this really only private on a social but not legal level?

Seems as usage requires a $200 phone on a 2 year contract (or $500+ on an unlocked iPhone), plus an Apple ID, plus a credit card, plus network traffic will still be pushed through a single point it seems too expensive/traceable to be truly disposable and anonymous.

Useful for avoiding telemarketers though.

Can't Burner collect money from users for temporary numbers and then delete all records of number assignments when the numbers are "burned" by users? Twilio's recordkeeping might be more persistent though. Are there laws which effectively require Burner to maintain records? If not, Burner would keep a persistent record that User123 paid $2 for a number but could conveniently delete other identifying information.

iPhone's can be had for ~$100 ok Craigslist and prepaid sims work just as well.

In my home country, you can buy prepaid SIM cards in supermarkets just like everything else, you just pick up them from shelves and pay at check out. Everything is completely anonymous, nothing is registered all. I never heard anyone express concerns about it. It seems so obvious, that when I came to the US, I couldn't understand amazement in eyes of a clerk at a gas station, when I asked if they had any SIM cards I could buy.

The phone service in the US is also ridiculous expensive but it's a different matter.

Actually, burner comes from the spy business, not specifically criminals.

On the West coast, they are frequently called wasters. Presumably because Burner means you carry a camelbak anywhere, anytime.

This app probably isn't useful for avoiding wiretaps unless they've gone through the hassle of building an encrypted VOIP client (not likely?).

Also this is the same moralizing question asked about everything ever that could possibly be used for nefarious reasons on this site.

Aren't you bored seeing the same questions over and over about mostly interchangeable subjects?

to be fair, I don't think the parent comment was trying to moralize anything. I think it is a legitimate question to ask about their policy regarding handing info over to law enforcement and what not. A question worthy of an answer.

It is certainly a fair question, one that deserves a clear answer. Our first principle in thinking about privacy is to be clear to our users in what we are and are not doing with their information.

We designed Burner explicitly and thoughtfully around user-to-user privacy and anonymity. Burner enables users to communicate by voice and text without exchanging their "real" (ie permanent, or even semi-permanent a la Google Voice) numbers, while still using the familiar form factors of phone calls and SMS, and without requiring their counterparties to download apps or join a network.

Burner can be used for anything from dating and craigslist transactions to posting publicly on twitter, to pure entertainment and other things we haven't thought of yet.

The way Burner works, very explicitly, is as a bridge between your phone and others. In other words, calls run over your mobile carrier and your counterparty's carrier, via a bridge that we manage, so that your counterparty doesn't see your callerID endpoint. SMS messages are slightly different technically, but effectively similar. Presuming your counterparty is not on Burner, on their end it's just like a regular phone call or SMS -- ie on their mobile or wireline carrier, on their phone hardware, etc.

It should be obvious given the above that we have no control over these 3rd-party carriers, and we certainly aren't in a position to direct their policies and procedures. We also work with 3rd parties like Twilio for other parts of the number issuance and telelphony process, rackspace for hosting, and so on. It should also be obvious that we have no control over hardware, software, or 3rd-party apps (or malware) on your counterparties' phones.

Given all of the above, Burner was explicitly not designed as a product that's for or meant to be marketed for encrypted or otherwise absolute, leakproof anonymous communication channels. (There are other services available for this, like Tor and Silentcircle, and many very legitimate uses for them, as I'm sure many HN members know.)

We've tried to be thoughtful and clear in our communications, terms of service, and privacy policies about our service, both in terms of what we don't say, and what we do say (various specific uses, for example, are very explicitly against our TOS). We would also be happy post more clearly about our processes (at least to the degree we can), if that would help users make more informed decisions about whether to use Burner.

We are a U.S. corporation operating in the U.S -- in case it's not obvious, we are obliged to and intend to comply with U.S. laws and valid court orders that apply to us. That said, as a company value and personally, we strongly respect the principles of free speech and have lots of concerns about the current state of affairs with respect to wiretapping and the laws that apply to it. We will do everything we can to ensure that any laws or law enforcement requests are indeed applicable and valid, to take as "pro-user" a privacy position as possible within our legal and privacy framework, and to continue to communicate clearly with our users about what we are and aren't doing.

I hope this helps answer the question.

Perfectly clear. Thank you. I think in a case like this having it explicitly stated that you'll protect our user-to-user privacy AND fully comply with applicable laws and LEO requests removes most of the doubt. And that makes it pretty obvious that if we are the 1% that uses this service for evil doing, we are not to expect much in the way of privacy. I think that actually makes things better for the other 99% that have no plans to do evil. I don't think your average Craigslist seller or online dater is going to be that concerned over it. A drug dealer might be... should be. And that makes things better for everyone. I can think of a few uses cases I could apply to this service. The rates seem reasonable to me (having done zero comparison shopping). Unfortunately, I don't do iOS... so I'm unable to be a customer at this time. But best of luck to you.

FWIW, I have seen mentions in some of the coverage that they plan an Android version (if that indeed would help you). Given the deep integration with the phone dialer and other device hooks as well as the in-app purchasing model, I can understand why they wanted to start with a single mobile platform (whatever it may be).

Not to be overly recursive, but here's an Ars Technica writeup that digs into some of these issues wrt Burner (and points to this thread): http://arstechnica.com/business/2012/08/burner-wants-to-help...

Unfortunately NSLs make this very difficult:(

Done and done:


We'd be overjoyed if some other folks deployed these ...

It will be interesting if these ever get legally tested.

Be pessimistic, start from there. Assume that they could and would hand you over to the authorities for a donut.

This is true of any information system you don't control yourself to any realistic degree. Solved. Next?

Sure, assume that. But is it too much to ask they state it either way? Why be so dismissive about it?

Not taking it personally. heretohelp's comment history suggests a proclivity to unnecessary confrontation and aggressive tone.

It's obviously a question you could ask about any service ("Google, are you concerned about criminals using Gmail to conduct criminal business?"), but it seems particularly worth addressing when the name of your product evokes usage by drug dealers and mobsters to evade law enforcement.

Most web email providers stamp outbound messages with the source IP address used when sending the message as a way of discouraging illegal activity.

Wiretaps have little to do with actual phone numbers.

I had the same instinct, but I mean... OP called his app Burner. Haven't you seen The Wire?

I don't base my thoughts on the intersection of politics and technology on a TV show.

The Wire was created by a journalist with deep first-hand knowledge of the subject matter. It's a work of fiction, but nonetheless contains many nuggets of truth.

The show dramatized and moralized specific subjects, such as burners, for the sake of creating a narrative. Further, it's details built on anecdote. Which is why it's such a great show, but it's not appropriate fodder for discussing politics and technology unless you're a clown like Falkvinge.

Sorry, I forgot that Hacker News is serious business.

This was the first idea I came up with when I thought about the Twilio API, so I'm glad someone has done it.

I just projected so far down the line that I would have requests from the FBI every day for who was behind particular phone numbers due to nefarious use of temporary phone numbers.

Government information requests are a huge potential revenue stream, up to $1000 a pop:


I would expect that too, but presumably they have already set up a law enforcement liason to handle those requests.

This got a chilly reception when I proposed it almost a decade ago: ;)


Good ideas come in cycles. At that time, though, 50% of the world wasn't mobile-only, and there were no smartphones. We think this is really relevant right now.

The phrase I've heard is that being early is the same as being wrong. Trying to make Burner in 2003 would be like trying to make YouTube in 1996.

Any conjecture as to why?

Assuming you mean why it's relevant now, not why mobile adoption is up, the mobile number travels with you at all times and also is more heavily used for SMS, which is becoming an increasingly standard way to interact with people. By definition this means a greater and greater percentage of the people you interact with are running through your mobile phone, meaning more carrier minutes, more annoyance, and more stalker risk if people have the number that you don't want to.

So I'm wondering how you don't eventually run out of numbers if they're burnt and then go to an out of service message.

Do they get reused eventually with the hope that the time since burning is long enough for the old usage of the number to have died off?

[edit] Sorry, didn't see PanMan had asked virtually the same question already.

From my personal experience I think some numbers do get reused. When I first got my Google Voice number I kept getting a bunch of calls asking for some other person, so I guess Google just reused someone else's old number.

Numbers do get reused. I live in Paris and last year a friend freshly arrived from my hometown in Portugal was attributed the cellphone number (major French operator) from a german acquaintance of mine that had moved out of Paris a year before. She still gets text messages in German all the time.

I assume this is incoming only? or can a Burner number be used to make calls and send texts? Either way, I see huge value in something like this (too bad you are iOS only). But the value is even greater if the Burner number can be used for out going communication.

in-bound and outbound, calls and texts. and you can turn the ringer and/or message notifications on and off as you like.

So I create a Burner number and then I can make calls against that number and the recipient would see the Burner number in their Caller ID? Nice... that has huge value! Also open for abuse but anything can be abused.

This is a brilliant idea. I had this exact same one myself a few months ago and never moved forward with it because I had no clue how to execute it properly. Without having installed the app, from the way it's described it sounds like Burner nailed it. Well done guys. I really hope this gets ported to Android so I can use it myself.

Great idea: I assume app + backend + twillio API?

The only think that might confuse people is if you start to recycle numbers (because you don't want to keep paying for them), and the call gets connected somewhere totally unrelated.

Definitely an issue we've been mindful of and designed for.

How did you design for this?

I thought you might be using caller ID, so the number is only relevant to people with a specified phone number. (Similar to how Rebtel works.) But it doesn't seem to be the case here, as I think numbers can be shown publicly.

All phone numbers have some ambient activity -- wrong numbers alone account for at least some randomness, though some obviously have more than others, and even very established carriers sometimes distribute numbers with a "legacy". So it's sort of a known problem.

For Burner, each number goes through a quarantine and is monitored for activity before we use it.

EDIT: Also worth noting that SMS seems to be more popular than voice calls, at least initially. "Wrong number SMS" doesn't seem like an actual problem as of yet.

This looks like a great concept- but I have to question the one time purchase price.

Right now, Burner is top of mind for me, but I don't have an immediate need to use the app. If it were free, I would gladly download it right now, and simply pay for a number whenever a use case arises.

As it stands now, I probably won't download the app, and when a potential use case does arise, who knows if I'll remember (and be able to download on the fly) this app.

Great concept, and love the rest of the pricing model built on Twilio. I just think the Burner team might be missing out on potential additional distribution.

Why do people treat buying an app with the same amount of deliberation as buying a new car? The price is less than a large coffee at Dunkin Donuts.

I don't mean to be picking on you quintendf because I do exactly the same thing and your comment made me realize it. I am going to download the app just because of your arguement - I am going to need it sometime in the next few months and not remember the name.

There must be some cognitive bias about buying an app. I will blow $2 on a Diet Coke when I fill-up with gas with barely a second thought. But ask me to download a $2 app - Whoa! this is going to take some thought, research...

Yep, that is exactly me.

Are we hardwired to not spend when we get nothing (physical) in return?

Do movies "hack" this behavior by handing you a ticket?

Will my 6 and 8 year old daughters not have this behavior "tick?" They already see no problem with asking to spend $50 on a chest of gems.

If most apps were $5 and $10 instead of free and $.99, you would probably buy the $5 apps and wish the $10 were $5. For better or worse, people expect mobile apps to be <$1 or free.

Oh strange. I gotta poll my friends about this.

I ended up buying the app for this reason. However, in the past few months, I have also been exploring clutter, tooling, and minimizing the things in my space.

I'm moving from the East Coast to the West Coast. I'm planning on taking one car load worth of possessions. The rest, I am giving away or trashing.

I know someone who has done something similar: http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2011/12/08/acting-dead-trading-up-...

In this month-long process, I have discovered that:

(1) It is emotionally draining to sort through my possessions and let them exit my personal space.

(2) Among the most common, recurring pattern of emotion/rationalization is that of fear and "I may need this in the future." Looking at it clearly, though, many of those things I bought in which I "might" need, I have never actually used. They end up being security blankets.

(3) Once it is out, this appears to free up a great deal of mental space. I've been finding things easier to get things done and try new things.

(4) This leads to more deliberation and mindfulness on the new things coming into my space.

(5) Apps are no different. There is a certain ruthlessness in deleting the apps you have purchased and the data it stores after it no longer serves.

So it isn't so much, why would you not buy a $2 app when you are willing to blow $2 on a Diet Coke. It's more that, why wasn't the $2 Diet Coke you are shoving into your body given as much due deliberation?

Quintendf wasn't necessarily saying that apps shouldn't cost money. He/she was asking why this one, considering the obvious stream of revenue that it will bring? And why even ask why? The bar has already been set for apps to be mostly free or just 99 cents. It's a basic part of human psychology to be affected by an "anchor price", regardless of rationality.

anchor price, i.e. a suggested price, which in this case is the perceived status quo of free or 99 cents. In a famous experiment, students were told to spin a roulette wheel and then make an estimate about some world fact. Even though the roulette wheel obviously* had nothing to do with the question, students who got a higher number from the roulette spin on average made higher estimates.

Agreed- there definitely seems to be some kind of mental hurdle people have about those $2 purchases. Like you, I'll probably end up purchasing it now that I've thought about it logically and because gregcohn took the time to respond to my post.

That said, my comment was more focused on the business decision of making an app like this paid. If you could effectively A/B test this kind of scenario, I wonder which approach would actually lead to more long term revenue.

So do we :-D

Initial extreme profitability of platform and its relative openness to developers spurred massive competition. The newness (e.g. PS2 Games on release vs 5 years later) no doubt contributed to a bias towards competition by price instead of differentiation.

Now prices are anchored near $1 for the most part.


Thanks for the feedback. We gave this a lot of thought but ultimately didn't want to create an experience that was a "free" download that required additional in-app payment before it had any utility.

Totally fair- always a tough tradeoff to make. thanks for the response!

My perspective:

It's $2.00. I'll probably use it at some near-future unpredictable time. Between now and then I'll probably also spend $50 at Starbucks and $100 at the bar.

$2.00 is not a considered purchase.

"You can use a Burner for dating, Craigslist, short-term projects, side businesses, bands, and other times when you need to be in touch but want to maintain a little privacy." -- Such as when I want to be a royal pain in the ass towards ex-girlfriends, and people that I generally dislike. How have you planned to reduce angst caused by the misuse of your app?

This explains why they are ex girlfriends! Why on earth would the app get involved in how the app is used, that's th responsibility of the user, just like when you buy a kitchen knife, the designer wasn't giving much consideration to reducing angst caused by its misuse.

Please let's stop with the nanny state nonsense. As others have pointed out its no different to pay phones.

You have access to infinite payphones just outside your door?

More seriously: what's wrong with asking developers to think about what their creations are enabling?

Nothing wrong with asking developers to think about what their creations are enabling. Let's not confuse the root cause though. The technology brings our shadow side out into the open. That same shadow side may itself allow for positive changes in society.

I would think that the majority of the overall usage of kitchen knives would be true to the designer's intention. Given that this app is available on the iPhone App Store, which every immoral spur-of-the-moment teenager has access to, and will likely abuse, it is definitely something that the developers should have considered.

Easily faking your phone number has been around long before this app.


-- "Display a different number to protect yourself or pull a prank on a friend. It’s easy to use and works on any phone!"

Just because we can do things, and others do, means we shouldn't discuss the different use-cases and implications? I gather that most people are here to make a quick buck using their technical prowess, but to look away from possible misuse seems very shortsighted.

How did we ever live with payphones?

Running around in public, repeatedly using different payphones is a little different to sitting in your bedroom creating "temporary phone numbers at the touch of a button."

True enough. I can see this becoming something to do at college / teenager parties. Create a temp number and start crank calling. If you had to take an entire group of people out to a payphone to do the same thing, it's a bit of a barrier to doing it.

If phone numbers are as easy to create as email addresses, won't they be used for spam - and become useless for "are you human?" authentication?

They're already used for spam. For a while there I was getting two spam calls a day inviting me to lower my credit card bill or something.

I'm thinking Craigslist scams will be one of the major use cases. You've got my cellphone number, I'm legit! Wanna buy a bicycle? Pay no attention to this snipped chain hanging off the handlebars.

do you honestly think people view cellphone number ownership as a sign of trustworthiness? cellphones are cheap.

That's perhaps not the name/positioning you want when you get the (inevitable) abuse complaint.

When we tested out other names, people kept saying, "you mean like a burner?"

Is it any worse than Hashable?

Craigslist is able to block all google-voice numbers, I am sure they will be able to block these based on some routing identifier.

What do you mean "block all google-voice numbers"?

As in automatically removing them from posts? That would be very stupid because some people use their Google Voice number exclusively, and it shouldn't be up to them to decide how I should be contacted.

Sorry to clarify I mean for posting verification.

It's very annoying, they do it to combat spammers but as an innocent user I get hit all the time with the phone verification.

Craigslist requires that your number be identified as "Fixed Line" or "Mobile" (not "Non-Fixed VoIP" or "Prepaid Mobile") by their provider, ReduceFraud.com, in order for you to be able to complete phone number verification and post in certain sections on CraigsList.

How does craigslist block numbers? I don't understand.

Does craigslist do this???

If it's Twilio, then numbers will only cost 50 cents in volume pricing so this could be a nice model. I'm skeptical about handling dead numbers though. Either the service hangs on to them which will cost them $.5/month in perpetuity or they release them to Twilio in which case other apps can use them.

I recommend checking out Plivo btw. They're cheaper in every way and I've heard the voice quality is better.

My company uses Twilio now and just made up my mind to switch to Plivo as soon as I have some free time.

Hey Jonas,

Thanks for the observation on the "burnt" phone numbers from Burner. Just a quick point of clarification - phone numbers released to Twilio sit unused for two months before they are accessible by any other Twilio customer.

Obviously would love to find why Twilio's not working out for you. Hit me up at rspectre@twilio.com or reply - whichever you feel works best.

Always great to hear from you.

Oh, I'm curious to here about Plivo. I've seen quite a bit of Twilio (they promote a lot at our events) but I've never heard of Plivo before. Are there any downsides to Plivo vs Twilio? If not, I may use Plivo more often.

Hey Leland, This is Venky, One of the cofounders of Plivo. Would love to have a chat to explain what we do. Mail me up at venky@plivo.com and we can catch up :)

We've been happy all around with Twilio -- specifically to this point on the quality of the numbers, but also the general ease of use and the responsiveness of their team.

It'd be interesting if this was VOIP. Then you'd be able to get a temporary (or pseudo-permanent) U.S. number from outside the U.S.

Not sure if they're charging for incoming/outgoing but you could use this to set up a Google Voice number from outside the U.S.A.

You can do that with Google Voice and several other VOIP services already.

I had to do it to be able to post from Twitter to Google+ automatically through SMS (Google+ lacks a proper API).

HeyWire lets you get a U.S number for SMS for free.


Even better: if you would be able to choose the country the number should be from… :)

Wow!! We hacked up something similar few months back as a side project. Nice validation :). You have some real nice UX and figured out the pricing as well. Best wishes.



nice! what happened with it?

We have been getting some consistent traffic, but need more push to market ourselves. Got real good feedback from both users, friends and HN, but getting the real consumer to use it is the key I guess. You guys figured out the pricing, which is great and being an iphone app you can use the in-app purchasing. We were more web focussed. Also, not generating real phone numbers as you did.

I might still add some more features to it, but thinking about the direction right now :)

We didn't market enough and had some more features in mind to build. But this is a tough market given the fact that people have to remember your app when they actually need it.

I wonder if they keep track of who had what number and when?

Just thinking about whether law enforcement or the courts can get details.

I'm hoping they do, but it would actually get tricky.

Law enforcement wants info on a phone number -> it goes to Twilio -> Twilio links this number at that time to Burner -> Burner links this number at that time to a user account. At this point, I'm not sure how they can link it to a real person. I'm guessing the credits are from in-app purchases, which means Burner itself might not have any real personal info on you and the buck then passes to Apple.

That means three different privacy policies involved and most likely a pretty long delay.

I'm sure Twilio can link calls to IP addresses and the phone companies can do the rest.

The IP address would be the Burner servers, not the end user.

Only if Burner is handling the outgoing phone calls (to your real phone number) themselves. Seems like you could bridge a phone call to a Twilio phone number to the end user's real phone with the <Dial> element pretty simply: http://www.twilio.com/docs/api/twiml/dial

You don't have to connect a call to your phone, you can just use Voicemail.

Greg, Wouldn't it be a better idea to release the app for free and then use in-app purchases for the numbers? That way you would not scare away the people who just want to download and see what it does. People may argue that $1.49 is nothing, but why lose potential customers.

Per above, we considered that but didn't want to create bad will with a "free" app that didn't do anything until you added more money. (It's also against Apple TOS, though widely flouted.)

In the future we may consider something more along the lines of a free sample.

Neat idea. A couple of thoughts:

1- They better have a very large pool of unused numbers - otherwise it's likely my phone will be randomly ringing due to the many past users of the number I just bought... who knows where and how many times they would have posted the number at.

2- Personally, I don't immediately see how I'd go away from Google Voice, which is free, to a paid service. Because of the above, I prefer to have one or two fixed private numbers which I can always remember. If the number becomes a problem, I can always block the annoying caller or switch to a new number - for free. (I still haven't had to replace my year-old private number, btw).

That being said, it'd be neat to see what people end up doing with true throw-away numbers.

I like that the video on your homepage shows most of the functionality pretty quickly, but I realized that I spent the whole demo with my head tilted to the right. There's no need for that tilt.

(somehow, it now says "this video does not exist" right now)

you could always tilt the screen? ;-)

(there was a brief outage as we switched video hosts)

RingCentral, a more established player in this space, has been providing a similar service since last year


Been gone from the app store for months. RingCentral, along with lots of other players, are focused on small business IVR types of service. Quite different.

I don't know about iPhones, but can't you just set your phone to appear as 'unknown caller' (so, no phone number is transmitted)? Or is this not really invisible?

This app gives you a new number for incoming calls and messages.

Their iTunes page says you can make outbound calls and messages: http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/burner-disposable-phone-numbe...

You're right. You can see it in the video, as well.

A lot of people won't take blocked calls -- and if you want to be reached in return, or via SMS, that wouldn't be a solution.

Google search for "disposable phone number" turns up a number of offers, sOme already out of business. What makes you think you have a business here?

Please open up an API or provide a webpage to allow non-smartphone users the opportunity to use it. I'm not sure how the internals work with your app, and I hope they are not too coupled to iOS.

I have a very basic cell phone, since I prefer using a laptop to do my browsing/email/development. I like to disconnect at least half my day, and not be at the beck and call (excuse the pun) of a smartphone.

Hey, give this a try. Let us know if your feedback. Its web based and free right now to try.


Any particular reason why the app is only available in the US store, seeing that Twilio has international coverage?

How long does the initial $2 last? Where is the cost to durations credit table? Can't find this info anywhere.

you get one number, good for up to a week or 20 voice minutes / 60 messages, with the initial purchase. after that you can get more burners on a similar basis.

Is this coming to Android at any time?

So this presumably should allow registering anonymous Gmail accounts?

Yes, so if law enforcement (for example) were trying to find out the phone number for a Gmail account, they would then have to go to Burner or Twilio to get records for the Burner phone number account. I guess it depend on what level of anonymity or privacy you're going for.

Wait, does Gmail ask for a phone number when signing up these days?

It did sometimes. I think a cookie/IP limit kicked after it detected "you" had created a few accounts.

It is extremely easy to create an anonymous number already, let alone a gmail account. A friend of a friend daisy chains anonymous numbers with physical burners for a "proxy" effect.

Really wonderful job on this app. Just tested it out (ios6b4 on a 4s) and all worked really well and very fast. Would love to see some usage data as you grow. Congrats on shipping!

thanks -- so glad u like it!

Awesome idea. You don't seem to be listed in non-US app stores (Canada, in my case). Any plans to be available internationally, or at least in the same countries served by Twilio?

The app is available in Canada. If you have trouble finding it in the iOS app store there, let me know.

I eventually found it by searching "burner phone". Fyi, your iTunes link on the site is broken for me, giving a generic "can't connect to iTunes Store". Thanks :)

LOVE this idea. actually thought of something like this a few months back, but never got around to doing anything on this. you should post what the costs are for numbers etc.

That would be too much to ask, isn't it :). But you can figure out some pricing from the twilio's website

Very clever idea. Any plans on an Android version?

Nothing to announce yet, but we are looking at this.

Did the founders watch The Wire - love the name!

Does anyone know if they plan to launch the same service in Europe soon? Or does a similar service exist?

We are definitely looking at expanding our international coverage as soon as we practically can. Nothing to announce formally yet though.

Abso-f*cking brilliant. (downloading)


Pricing seems a bit steep for what you get, especially since it is not obvious before you buy the app.

Thanks for sharing that feedback. We can work on making it more obvious, at least. (It's meant to be and our SKU's are also made visible by apple in the app store, but I'm sure there's more we could do.)

How is this not obvious? It's right there on the iTunes page.

You, sir, win the award for best product name. And shame, HN, for not complimenting him sooner.

Shouldn’t it be called “Burnr”?


Bravo, man. This is so brilliant.

does burner support short codes for sms? and is there an android version planned?

why would you want to use a shortcode with this?

Currently making one right now.... At least I have some nice competition.

Technology + freedom. The opposite of GoogleWorld

Please bring this to the UK app store. Please.

You should get Wendell Pierce as a spokesman

Looks great, but why is it an iphone app? Seems like managing and configuring a bunch of numbers would be easier in a web interface.

Making outbound calls via a Burner number requires knowing where the call is originating.

So you could jump right into the talking part- with a web interface you'll have to get a phone afterwards.

Is there any good use of this app that is not basically to annoy people?

Because I can't really come up with any.

Well if I wasn't in the UK I'd probably use it to save carting the "recruiter" phone around with me as well. Of course, that would probably annoy recruiters but I think I can live with that (I don't mind them calling me in connection to a role I'd asked them about but 2 or 3 years on out of the blue?).

I am more sinned against than sinning, when it comes to respect for privacy.

Watch "The Wire."

Seriously though there are lots of licit uses:

-girl goes out to to pull. Gives her number freely knowing that it's only good for a few days.

- enter online competitions that might be spam. Advertise a job without getting onto a HR spam list

- Sell a used monkey online without fear of monkey spam

- Put up an MVP for a salsa lesson in Denmark. Get a local number using the app you already know about from the monkey business

- Set up sales meeting with your competitors (define licit..)

- Inform on your boss

- Call your uncle in Iran

I'm sure there are lots more. Who doesn't have some temporary/secondary email addresses?

A drug dealers dream...

Is there a reason you chose to do this as an app instead of a webapp?

does this service work with MMS ?

No, since it's not supported by Twilio at this time.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact