How To Hide Your Phone Number in WhatsApp
WhatsApp is a Facebook-owned messaging app that works on both Android and iOS (as well as Windows and Mac), replacing your phone’s basic SMS functionality with a full-featured chat, call, and photo/video-sharing application. Though it hasn’t yet conquered the American market, it’s incredibly popular overseas and is growing in usage in the US as well. With its cross-platform functionality and major corporate support, WhatsApp is likely to remain a global player into the foreseeable future in the messaging space.
However, WhatsApp does have one flaw from the point of view of people seeking personal security and privacy: in order to work, you have to sign up for WhatsApp with your phone number, and that phone number is then visible to anyone you chat with. While this is not a problem for SMS chatting (where you only chat with people who have your number anyway) many people want to be able to chat with new friends without necessarily giving them their actual phone number in the process. Giving someone your real phone number can be a risk when you’re browsing the web online, and it makes sense that users would want to avoid giving out personal information in this day and age. So, how can you get around this requirement while still managing to chat using WhatsApp?
Unfortunately, there’s no real way to hide your phone number from WhatsApp—you need to use a valid phone number to sign up with the service. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t deploy a secondary or alternate phone number to hide your device’s actual identifying digits on your device. This way, you can give out your WhatsApp number to people you meet in the real world without having to worry about them using your real phone number for any sort of malicious purposes. To start, all we’ll need is a service that gives users free numbers to communicate and text with, and a fresh WhatsApp account to continue using on your own device. Let’s take a look how it’s done.
Getting a New Phone Number
The first step is to acquire a new phone number. Unlike the ancient days of yore, when getting a new phone number involved persuading a giant phone company to issue you one, today you can get a new number with about the same time investment as logging into a website. There are a huge variety of services and apps that will provide you a new phone number. This isn’t going to replace your current number—think of it as a secondary addition to your primary number. There are more than a dozen services online that promise to give you secondary numbers, either for free phone calls and messages or as a temporary number, but not all of these services are created equal. So instead of relying on a random service online, pick from one of these services that we’ve checked out:
- Google Voice: By far our top pick for secondary numbers, Google Voice was recently updated for 2017 with a brand new interface on both web and mobile, once again making it a great choice for users of all types. Google is a trusted company, and Voice even allows you to use your number to forward calls, making free phone calls in the United States, and text your family and friends with ease. Plus, when you select your Voice number, you’re able to customize it to make sure you get the number that’s right for you. Your number can be both called and sent text messages, making it just like a standard cell phone. It’s a great service, especially for free, and it comes as our top recommended service for anyone looking for a new phone number to use with WhatsApp.
- Talkatone: Like Google Voice, Talkatone is built around providing alternate numbers to call and text US-based users for free (and to call and text numbers outside the United States for small charges). As such, you gain an alternate phone number for calling and texting when you join the service, complete with a US or Canada-based area code. Talkatone even lets you change this number when you need to, a great feature that, as far as we know, isn’t allowed with Google Voice. The downside to Talkatone are the ads included within the app, but if you’re only using the phone number to verify your account, it’s easy to ignore the ads within the app itself and just use the number it gives you.
While Voice and Talkatone are our top two picks because of their lack of cost and ease of use, if you’re looking for an app with a bit more functionality beyond simple calls and texts, or an app with the ability to create more than one number incredibly easy, check out these applications:
- Burner: Named after “burner phones,” or the usage of temporary phone numbers, Burner is an app that automatically gives you a new number whenever it’s needed. You get a real phone number that can be used to place phone calls and texts from within the app, and you can set up information about that number automatically. When you’re done with that number, you can easily delete it from the device. Burner comes with a free number for seven days, but after that, you’ll have to pay a subscription service to use the app, or purchase a burner using credits. This can get expensive pretty fast, but if you see yourself using multiple phone numbers with multiple WhatsApp accounts, it might be worth using Burner over something like Google Voice.
- Sideline: With apps for both iOS and Android, the ability to use local area codes, and the ability to place texts and calls easily, Sideline is a great addition to this list. Unlike most of the apps on this list, sideline uses your normal minutes instead of using VoIP interfaces, saving you data when you’re not on WiFi. There are a ton of advanced features here, but if you’re only looking for a number to verify your WhatsApp account, Sideline might be a bit of overkill—especially since it costs $9.99 per month for personal users. There is a free 7-day trial though, which may be enough to help verify your account.
- Flyp: Flyp is very similar to Sideline, in that it’s an app created to replace your current phone number with an easy way to contact business associates, while also allowing you to separate your business accounts from your personal numbers. You can easily mirror local area codes while calling someone, masking your out of state code. And Flyp’s audio quality is excellent. But at $7.99 per month, it’s probably a bit expensive to use just for verifying a WhatsApp account. Like Sideline, this app has a free 7-day trial.
- Hushed: What makes this app excellent is its end-to-end encryption when talking to other users. This makes it the most secure phone number app on this list, and that may be important if you’re trying to hide your identity both inside and outside of WhatsApp. All numbers are disposable, there’s no credit card needed to make an account, and calls can be sent and received from anywhere. That said, starter plans begin at $1.99 per month and run all the way up to $4.99 per month for unlimited calls and texts. There is a free trial, and if privacy is your main concern, this is a perfect app to use to call users outside of WhatsApp.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll be using a number from Google Voice, along with screenshots from Voice as we set up our new WhatsApp account. Google Voice’s own setup process is fairly straightforward; the app and website will both walk new users through picking a new number, and you’ll need a Google account to create your Voice profile. Once you have your new Google Voice number handy, you’re ready to move onto the next step in the process. Make sure you keep either the Google Voice app on your iPhone or Android device to view the confirmation SMS message WhatsApp sends during an account creation, or keep voice.google.com open on your computer’s browser.
Setting Up a New WhatsApp Account
So now you have your new number from any of the services we outlined above, and you’re ready to begin setting up a new WhatsApp account. We’re using the Android version of WhatsApp to test out this service; your mileage may vary on iOS or other operating systems.
Start by logging out of your WhatsApp account completely. Alternatively, you can uninstall the application and reinstall from the App Store or Play Store to guarantee a fresh install. Once you’ve reached the login screen for WhatsApp, WhatsApp will ask for your phone number to register your account and verify your device. Instead of entering your current phone number, enter the secondary number you created . Hit the “Next” icon, and WhatsApp will alert you to the number they’re going to verify. Make sure you entered your number correctly; once you’ve ensured the correct number has been entered into your device, hit “OK” to continue to the next step.
After this, WhatsApp will give you a prompt to automatically detect your verification code through viewing your SMS messages. While this is typically an easy method to skip manually entering a confirmation code, do not allow WhatsApp to do this. Because the text is going to your Google Voice or Talkatone number and not to your device’s SMS inbox, WhatsApp won’t be able to detect the code from within your phone. Instead, click “Not Now” to send the code. Once you’ve received your code inside your alternate inbox, enter the six digits into the field on your device. Once you type the sixth digit, your device will automatically verify the number. You’ll be asked to input a name for your WhatsApp account (this can always be changed later; it isn’t a username), and once this is done, you’ll be brought to your new inbox. Despite using your alternate number, you can still view your contacts automatically from within the device, though take note that they won’t see your name in your account unless you give them your alternate number or you start messaging them through the service.
Changing Your Current WhatsApp Phone Number
If you’ve been using WhatsApp for years and don’t wish to erase your messages and contacts to start over with a secondary number, it is possible to change the number inside the settings of your WhatsApp account on your phone. On WhatsApp’s own FAQ about the subject, WhatsApp makes it clear that your contacts need to have your new number saved in their device for a seamless experience, so while this will obscure your current number for your new number, it won’t necessarily remove the ability for people to have your old number through WhatsApp. That said, here’s how to edit your old number to your alternate number created in the steps above. Once again, the steps below are using the Android version of the application, though iOS users should be able to follow similar steps on their own platform.
Start by opening up WhatsApp, which should open to your inbox. Tap on the triple-dotted menu icon in the top-right corner (for iOS users, you’re going to be heading into Settings) and tap on the Settings and then on Account. Tap “Change number” and then “Next”. Enter your old phone number and then the new number.
Once this is set, hit “Next” in the top-right corner to transfer your account to your new number. This will let you save all of your pre-established message threads, groups, and contacts in your device, and new contacts will have to use your new number to contact you. It’s unclear whether or not there’s a limit on the amount of times one can change their phone number on a WhatsApp account, so keep that in mind when switching numbers repeatedly.
What to Do If You Need a New Number
Nearly every service mentioned above allows you to burn your old number for a new one. The premium offerings, including Burner, Flyp, and Hushed, are all built around the idea of being able to burn a temporary number and gain a new one. Talkatone allows you to burn a number for free once; after that, it’ll cost you a few bucks to redo the same thing. That’s not too bad, though, especially since most users shouldn’t have to burn numbers too often. Google Voice also allows you to change your number; however, once you’ve burned your old number, you can’t regain access to that number. There’s also no free or trial burns with Google Voice—it’ll cost you ten dollars upfront every time you want to change your number.
Once you have the new number in hand, you’ll have to either create another new WhatsApp account or use the guide above to change the number on your account. Again, changing numbers is a pretty easy transition on WhatsApp, and users will need your new number to continue speaking with you and adding your account through the service.
There’s no way to hide your phone number inside WhatsApp from being able to be seen by your fellow contacts when they view your profile. Unfortunately, WhatsApp was built around using a phone number to contact users while simultaneously providing a far more rich experience than what basic SMS message provides users. While WhatsApp requires your phone number to add users and for contacts to message you using the app, there’s nothing to stop you from using an alternate or burner phone number to effectively “hide” your real number. When you choose to use an alternate number on WhatsApp, you can give you that number freely to your contacts, friends, family, and associates, while simultaneously protecting your standard phone number from people you don’t know well.
Have any other tips on protecting your privacy while using WhatsApp? Share them with us in the comments below!