I’m not saying it’s the worst thing that can happen to you, but if you’ve ever had to juggle two mobile phones, you know it’s a special form of torture. Two phones to keep charged. Two phones to carry around. Two phones to answer!
Unfortunately, that’s the reality for so many folks who need a second number. It might be one phone for work, another for personal. Or maybe you’re active on Craigslist, Etsy or a dating site and keep a second phone so you don’t have to give out your personal number.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could have two phone lines on one phone? Turns out you can, and it won’t even cost you anything. (Or, at least, it won’t cost you much.) Below I’ve rounded up four apps/services that add a second line without needing a second phone. Most are just plain free, while others charge you a nominal fee depending on your usage.
Call on Line 2
Before I delve into them, let me clarify one thing: If you’re just looking to make calls without using any of your plan’s allotted monthly minutes, or you’re traveling internationally and want to leverage a Wi-Fi hotspot for free calling, apps like Facebook’s Messenger, WhatsApp and Microsoft’s Skype let you call other users (of those same apps) at no charge.
With the following four apps, though, you’re actually getting a second phone number that anyone can call (or you can call from). It might be disposable or semi-permanent, but in the end, it really is the equivalent of a second line.
Although the focus here is on free options, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Burner, one of the most popular and versatile disposable-number apps. It works on a credit system, allowing you to purchase anything from a “mini burner” (good for 20 voice minutes, 60 text messages and 14 days of operation) to a full-blown premium subscription ($4.99 per month) that gives you unlimited everything.
First, though, see if one of these freebie solutions will satisfy your needs. Unless otherwise noted, all are available for both Android and iOS.
Newcomer Flyp aims to give you not just one extra number, but multiple numbers. It’s a potentially excellent option for freelancers or folks who manage multiple businesses. The first line is free, and it includes unlimited calls and text messages, plus custom voicemail along with your choice of area code for that number.
Need more lines? Flyp charges $2.99 per month (or $29.99 annually) for each additional number. You can operate up to four lines total.
Sounds great, right? One red flag: In recent weeks, the app has received a rash of negative reviews in both the Android and iOS app stores. According to a Flyp rep, that’s because of a sudden and unexpected outage that “impacted a handful of our early users.” The rep added that most of the dysfunctional numbers have now been ported to a new, more reliable provider.
This is a good time to mention that if you’re planning to rely on a second line for business purposes or anything else mission-critical, it might make sense to look at a commercial solution like Grasshopper or Line2.
The old standby, Google Voice lets anyone with a Google account choose a phone number and then gives you plentiful options for managing calls made to that number.
Most likely, you’ll want them to ring your mobile phone. But let’s say you’re going on vacation for a week; you can easily set GV to send inbound calls to, say, your assistant manager’s phone instead. Or it can ring both your phones simultaneously. And an office line while you’re at it.
You can use the Google Voice app to place outbound calls, send and receive text messages (although MMS support is limited), toggle do-not-disturb mode and play voicemail messages (which are also transcribed to text, though frequently with laughably poor accuracy).
It’s a great service as well as totally free, but the app is clunky and certain aspects of the web interface (which is required for modifying most settings) can be confusing.
Hushed offers a little something for everyone, starting with a free disposable phone number that’s good for three days. If you need it a little longer, the 7-day plan costs just $1.99 and includes 20 voice minutes and 60 text messages (including SMS).
If your goal is something a bit more permanent, Hushed charges $29.99 for a one-year plan. (Interestingly, StackSocial currently has a deal running that gives you a lifetime Hushed subscription for $25.) Whatever you choose, options include a custom voicemail message and support for call-forwarding.
If I had to pick a personal favorite in this group, it would likely be Sideline. It offers all the important features for free, such as choice of area code, custom voicemail, automated replies via text and optional number porting. It also includes some nice options for users who want an even more robust experience.
For example, if you don’t use your second number very often, Sideline will reclaim it after 30 days of inactivity, unless you pay $0.99 per month for a Pro subscription. Similarly, you can remove ads from the app for $2.99 per month and add voicemail-to-text transcription, also $2.99/month.
Sideline will soon add auto-attendant and international-calling options as well. (Both features are already available on the Team plans, which cost $9.99 per month per user.) But if you just need a simple, reliable second line that doesn’t cost a dime, Sideline should be your first stop.
Have you found another second-line solution you like better than any of these? Or have you tried one of these already and found it good, bad or another reaction? Share your thoughts in the comments!