How to Buy and Use a Burner Phone


Even though monitoring overreach (abortion hunting, police use of facial recognition) doesn’t make you want to ditch your smartphone for something less connected, you can always consider a cell phone, a virtually disposable prepaid mobile device that is not under contract with a wireless carrier.

Yes, the prepaid cell phones that were popularized by brands like Boost Mobile and Cricket in the mid-2000s, and in pop culture by their frequent use on television Thread, are still there. In fact, tens of millions of customers still opt for burner phones, whether flip phones or smartphones running Android or iOS from providers like TracFone, Simple Mobile or Verizon-owned Total Wireless.

What’s the attraction? The idea is that a cheap phone with prepaid calling minutes and data is disposable, free of contractual obligations and more private. For someone who rarely uses a cell phone or data plan, this could be a lot cheaper than a typical cell phone plan.

Prabhat Agarwal, senior director of research and trends at the Consumer Electronics Association, said while wireless companies steer customers toward postpaid plans with higher-margin 5G data plans and longer commitments, phones prepaid “are not going away anytime soon. There are a lot of groups where prepayment makes a lot of sense,” he explains.

If you pay cash for hardware and service, you are theoretically not tied to the phone with your bank account, credit card, or home address. Of course, that anonymity disappears the moment you start using a burn phone to log into your Facebook account or commit a crime serious enough to warrant authorities investigating who used a burn phone for, say , schedule a Ocean 11style casino heist.

However, being off-net isn’t the only reason to get a prepaid phone. Maybe you want a dedicated second phone for a side hustle like Lyft driving that isn’t in use all the time, because it won’t incur monthly usage or loss fees. Maybe you’re someone who wants your online dating or personal email to be completely separate from the high-end smartphone you use for work. Or you can use a cheap, locked phone that lets your kids call friends and grandparents and play games. A cheap prepaid device won’t cause as much stress if the screen gets cracked or the handset ends up in the toilet.

In all these cases, a burner phone can allow you to be reachable by phone but with a phone number different from your main number. If you want to keep your primary mobile number private, but still need to be reachable by a lot of people, a prepaid phone may be easier than getting a second line or using a service like Google Voice. .

How to choose a burner phone

If this sounds interesting, the first thing you need to decide is How? ‘Or’ What a lot phone burner you actually need. If it’s just for phone calls and light data communication, you can go retro with a flip phone and hope you remember how to use T9 SMS.

Especially for smartphones, depending on the model, the built-in memory may be limited for applications, video and other data. You may also need to provide your own SIM and SD cards to use the mobile network and expand phone memory. Make sure to remove these two cards before disposing of the phone, or at least clear the SD card memory first.


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