You see people using burner phones on TV all the time. They allow you to make calls discreetly, and they don’t trace back to you personally (at least that’s the premise).

For those of us looking to take back a little bit of the privacy that has been all too frequently stripped from our daily lives, a privacy/burner phone app might be just what you need (we like Hushed, but more on that app in another piece).

Onoff, an app developed by a French company, essentially turns your cell phone into a burner phone. Don’t want your Tinder dates to have your real number? With the Onoff app, you can buy another number and use it exclusively for social media, or whatever else you’d like.

The app itself is free to download. You pay a small fee for the number. You can talk or message other Onoff app users for free.

You can also purchase multiple numbers. Whether you want a European number for traveling overseas or a dedicated number for business, you can have them all from your cell phone.

So, how does it work?

What is Onoff?

Onoff is a free app available for both iOS and Android-powered smartphones and other mobile devices. Unlike other texting or calling apps, only one party needs to have Onoff to take advantage of its features. If you have Onoff, you can call or text people using the app, even if they don’t also have Onoff downloaded.

Onoff also uses GSM/CDMA networks so you have the best sound quality possible.

Some of the features of Onoff include:

  • The ability to have multiple numbers on one phone
  • All your information is stored in the cloud
  • Customizable voicemail for each number
  • The ability to turn features on and off for each number
  • Call internationally using a local number to get the best rates

Who is Behind the Onoff App?

guy skateboarding in a halfpipe in France, Eiffel tower in the background

Pro skater Taig Khris is behind the Onoff app. He came up with the idea while recovering from an injury. He wanted to reinvent telecom, so he invested $6 million and hired a team of engineers.

With his team, he created Onoff, which acts as a mobile virtual network operator. Onoff is compatible with most major carriers and currently has more than 250,000 subscribers. Not too shabby if you ask us.

Read on to learn more about this innovative app, what it does and how to use it…

Onoff Specs / App Details

Iphone screen

Compatible Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android phones, Android Tablets

Price: The app is free; subscription plans for numbers start at $3.99 per month

Upsells: Yes. There are in-app purchases and paid upgrades

In-App Purchases: $0.99-$399 per item

Number of Downloads (Google Play): 500,000+

Number of Downloads (Apple App Store): Unspecified

App Category: Utilities

Publisher: Onoff App

Current Version: 2.8.0.14

Download Size: 46 MB

Minimum Software Requirement: Android 5.0 or higher, iOS 9.1 or later

Getting Started with Onoff

As with any app, your first step is to download the app from the iOS app store or from Google Play. Just search for “onoff” and it should come up right away.

 

Once you install and open the app, you’re met with a green sign-in screen, which gives you the option to sign in with Facebook, sign in with Google, or sign up using email. Facebook or Google signup will require you to be logged into the respective service you choose.

 

On the next screen, you create a password for the Onoff app. Given that this app will handle personal (and likely private) communications, we suggest making a new and strong password not currently utilized for any other service. The longer the better. Also consider using both upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special symbols.

Onoff will then ask permission to access your contacts. Approve this if you wish to import any numbers of contact already in your phone.

The app will then ask you if you want to buy a new mobile number.

Onoff app mobile number selection screen

If you opt to buy a mobile number, you will need to purchase a subscription for that number. Prices are subject to change but as of the time this article was written you could buy one month at a time for $1.99/month, three months at a time for $2.33/month, or buy an annual subscription for $1.92 per month, which you pay all at once.

Onoff Interface

Within the app, you have the option to customize each number you purchase which is a nice touch.

onoff app screen , number settings

The above interface is what comes up when you touch the three lines at the top left of the main screen. You can create a custom profile to use with any numbers you choose. You can also choose whether you want to allow calls, messages, or both to that number.

You can also opt for private mode. This mode allows you to password protect your numbers and their associated content. You can create one password for all your numbers or create a separate password for specific numbers at your discretion

The app itself has a simple interface:

Let’s explore what the user interface has to offer below…

Calls

The call screen keeps your call log. You can click on the keypad to dial out from within the app.

Messages

This screen keeps a record of your text messages from any number you use within the app. You can also send delayed SMS messages by setting the time and date you want your message to go out.

Voicemails

This screen shows your voicemails from any number within the application. You can use one voicemail greeting for all your numbers or set up a custom one for each number.

Contacts

The contacts tab allows you to view contacts that you have associated with any number within the application.

International Calling

For international calling, you will need to choose a package. Onoff offers several options based on where you are calling.

onoff app screen plan packages by country or region

Consumer / User Reviews

The overall consensus among users seems to be positive. There are some complaints about customer service, but Onoff app representatives seem fairly quick to respond to reviews.

The main complaint seems to be around pricing. Many users expect the app to be free. While the app is free to download, there is a charge for purchasing a number, and you need to purchase a plan to make international calls.

Number of Downloads (Google Play): 500,000+

Number of Downloads (Apple App Store): Unspecified

Google Play Rating: 3.7 stars (8,337 reviews)

Apple Store Rating: 4 stars (28 reviews)

Final Verdict

Based on our experiences and consumer reviews, here are our thoughts on the app:

The Good

  • Clean, easy-to-use interface
  • Can sync contacts easily
  • Can call anyone, even landlines
  • Can make international calls from a local number
  • Good call quality
  • Good customer service

The Bad

  • Some issues with the app crashing
  • A purchasing system for making calls is confusing for users
  • Calling plan is relatively expensive
  • Doesn’t integrate with third-party applications like Whatsapp
  • Call porting is only available in France
  • Frequent price increases

Verdict

The unique features of Onoff make it worthwhile for many users. Some business owners who work in multiple countries set up local numbers for each country, for example. If you want to keep your number private, you can set up a number to give to contacts you don’t know well. If you use the app, make sure you’re clear on the pricing, though.

Closing Thoughts

Onoff allows for extensive customization. You can choose which number you want to associate your contacts with, for example. You can create custom voicemails and turn calling on and off. The ability to schedule text messages is also unique and can come in handy, especially for business owners. Not all countries are available, though, so you will want to look for your country before you purchase a number.

Some customers have complained about the frequent price increases. Since this is a relatively new app, it looks like they are still working out their pricing model. Be prepared for possible increases in your price.

You can opt to keep your information private with a password, which adds a layer of security to your phone calls. All in all, Onoff seems worth trying out as long as you keep a close eye on your charges. Customer service seems responsive to calls and emails, and most customers seem happy with their experience, particularly if they were aware of the charges involved with using the application.