The term burner phone is not new. You've probably heard it before. TV shows like "The Wire" or "Breaking Bad" have shown these on one or more occasions. They've even been mentioned in some rap songs and usually are associated with activities that are either criminal or at the very least - in the gray area. Often overlooked are the true and genuine benefits of such an item and the risks or drawbacks of using one. To give you more perspective, we're going to dedicate this article to burner phones and the goods and bads of using one. So, let's get into it!
Burner phone - a short overview
A burner phone is a prepaid cell phone. The term "prepaid'' means that it has a SIM card with a sufficient balance or is activated to be open for communications in other ways. Prepaid burner phones allow you to call and/or text someone, or even browse the internet. Yet it isn't a regular phone because with your personal smartphone, you likely have a purchase history and an account with your carrier. So every one of your calls and texts is recorded and logged. It's associated with your personal and/or business identification.
A burner phone is not. It provides total anonymity when contacting other phone numbers, thus, you can do things privately and in confidence.
Burner phones have a negative rating for being featured in many Hollywood adaptations and mentioned in literature as something that criminals use, but they do actually have a lot of amazing purposes for anyone's personal security as well. When used by regular people for privacy reasons, such as to avoid telemarketers, persecution for political reasons in authoritarian countries or to have a second phone number for business reasons, burner phones are very beneficial.
They're not expensive and are quite commonly available in most department or electronic stores. You can purchase a burner phone on eBay, online, or from your local stores, etc.
With all of that being said, if you really care about private communications, getting a burner phone can be slightly overkill or not as convenient as some other options. But more on that - later on.
Advantages of a burner phone
The primary benefit of using a burner phone is anonymity. If you want to keep your location and identity secret from someone, then a burner phone will definitely help you do that. With a regular phone, your location can be tracked using GPS. Even if you turn off the GPS feature, your carrier will still have a log of the cell phone towers that your phone connected to as you moved around. And they have to do it. Such tracking and logging are required from them by law and made mandatory by regulators. So even if you turn off your tracking services and other features, your SIM card will still prevent you from being totally invisible.
Furthermore, if you lose your burner phone, it's not the end of the world. You can just buy another one and nobody will be able to track you down using that phone number.
As you can see, most of the apps on your regular smartphone can track you and do so, willingly. So, a carrier who has access to your cell connectivity will also exercise their capabilities to track you.
Burner phones are usually quite cheap. You can buy a burner phone for as little as $10 and it will usually come with some minutes already included. Of courses, prices can vary and do depend on your location and market conditions, it's much cheaper than a regular smartphone.
And lastly, if you're going on vacation or traveling to a foreign country, you can buy a local prepaid SIM card for your burner phone or get a new device entirely. This way, you won't have to worry about expensive roaming charges. As a welcome addition, you can still be in touch with your contacts.
Disadvantages of a burner phone
Now that we've looked at some of the benefits of using a burner phone, it's time to consider some of the drawbacks. It wouldn't do this justice if we were to claim that a burner phone is perfect and that there aren't areas for improvement.
The first thing to consider is that burner phones are not as secure as you might think. While it's true that they offer a certain degree of anonymity, they're not entirely untraceable. The fact is, if someone really wanted to track you down, they could. They'd just have to be willing to put in the time and effort to do so. And government agencies or businesses are willing to put in resources and time to find things out. So, it's common practice to switch burners every month, week or after one call, text message exchange even. It does pile up to be quite costly after a while.
Another downside of burner phones is that they're not very user-friendly. They don't have all the bells and whistles that regular smartphones do, such as access to the internet, email, social media, etc. Whilst there are models that can do it, if you need to use your phone for anything other than making calls and sending texts, a burner phone might not be the best option for you.
Lastly, if you lose your burner phone or it gets stolen, you will lose all of your contacts and data. So, if you're going to use a burner phone, be sure to back up your contacts and data regularly.
Since losing your phone or having it stolen is fairly common, it is in your best interest to back your data up on a cold storage, on a computer, or on a physical piece of paper, etc.
Alternatives to a burner phone
If you're looking for an alternative to a burner phone, there are a few options available.
One option is to use a VoIP or Voice over IP service (What is VoIP?
). These services allow you to make calls and send texts without revealing your real phone number. However, in terms of privacy and security, most of them are far from perfect. For example, Skype requires you to sign up with a username and password. So, if someone were to get hold of your login information, they could easily see who you've been talking to.
Another option is to use a disposable phone number online. This is a service that allows you to sign up for a temporary phone number that you can use for a short period of time. These numbers are usually only active for a few days or weeks. And like VoIP services, they're not entirely secure or private. They can be buggy, crash, not receive or send the messages and/or calls like you want them to. It's like a mini digital version of a burner phone. Yet, your payment info for the service can be traceable.
Finally, you have E2E (end-to-end) encrypted messenger apps that have zero storage infrastructure like Kraden. In this case, they seem to be the best alternative to a burner phone. They're secure, private, and work just like any other messaging app, with the added bonus of making all of your messages private and encrypted with high-end cryptography. Even the most talented hackers just can't crack them open, and since there is no storage happening in the background - there are no worries that they will be opened by others. If you want to know more about how Kraden negates possible hack attacks, you can read our blog on one of the core elements of our security - AES-256 cryptography (Click here
Kraden combines end-to-end encryption with WebRTC communications protocol over P2P connections to make sure that everything you send, say or share, remains private, even from the service administrators. No 3rd party and/or your providers can know what is being said. Kraden enforces a zero-knowledge architecture, so it's as secure as possible.
If you're looking for a way to make calls and send texts without revealing your real personal identity, a burner phone is a good option. They're relatively cheap and easy to use. However, they have their downsides too. Burner phones are not entirely untraceable or 100% secure. And if you lose your burner phone, you will lose all of your contacts and data.
A more secure and private alternative to a burner phone is any VoIP service or a disposable phone number online. However, these services are not perfect and still lack the general capabilities to protect your personal data. In addition, they can be buggy and unreliable.
The best alternative to a burner phone seems to be E2E (end-to-end) encrypted messenger apps like Kraden. As one of the world's leading private messengers, Kraden is secure, private, and works just like any other messaging app. Plus, it uses high-end cryptography to encrypt all of your messages. So, no one else can physically hack or steal your information. It will still be unreadable to them.