Friday, August 10, 2012

'Burner' app sets you up for 'Wire'-like behavior

If you watched HBO's "The Wire," or perhaps some other crime show or movie, then you know what a "burner" is. It's a prepaid cell phone which, in a crime show, can then be used for illicit activity.

There are, of course, perfectly valid reasons for a "temporary" cell phone number, such as an online ad where you don't want folks to know your real number, a blind date, or (ugh) a telemarketer who wants to appear local so the recipient of the call will answer.

You can use services like Google Voice for these occasions, but guess what: they've still got a number you might want to keep private (although you can always block phone calls to a Voice number, you can't block texts). The answer "might be" Burner, an iPhone app that debuted on Wednesday.

Burner gives you the ultimate throw-away phone number. While iPhone-only for now, it's coming to Android soon.

The app costs $1.99, and has a number of in-app purchases, necessary to keep your burner live alive. For $1.99 you get a temporary phone number (it defaults to your area code, but can be changed), good for seven days, 60 texts, or 20 minutes of call time.

Here's how it works:
  • Burner comes with enough credits to create 1 mini-burner that will expire after 20 minutes of voice time and/or 60 text messages, or after 7 days, whichever comes first. (Or you can burn it at any time.)
  • Inbound and outbound calls forward to and use your actual phone line (and cellular minutes) but keep the call identity private in both directions.
  • Text messages do not use your SMS allowance.
  • You can buy more credits, starting at 3 for $1.99, with discounts for buying more
  • You can use credits to buy various types of burners and extensions to burners.
  • When you burn a number, we take it out of service and delete it from your phone immediately.
  • Burner numbers do not support MMS (just like Google Voice)
  • Not for 911 or emergency calls.
It's unclear to us, though, that the "burned" numbers don't get used again. In fact, we can't see how it would be possible for any burned numbers to remain "virgin."

Weekly deals on mobile phones with plans.
The prices of the in-app purchases are:
  • 25 Credit Pack - $11.99
  • 3 Credit Pack - $1.99
  • 8 Credit Pack - $4.99
  • 15 Credit Pack - $7.99
  • 30 Day, 100 minute Burner - $3.99
While the possible reasons given above seem useful enough, some folks have created a Tumblr blog that contains what appear to be "NSA, casual encounter-type ads." Whether or not some or all of these are faux is unclear.

What say you readers? Do you have any atypical ideas for Burner uses?

Watch a demo video below.

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