Ad Hoc Labs CEO Greg Cohn was blown away by user response after he launched Burner, the app that gives you alternate phone numbers, last August. With everyone from John Gruber to Tommy Lee tweeting about it, the app saw a rapid rise in popularity. Now eight months later, the company plans to expand to Android and make some changes in how you pay for its service.
“When we first went to market in August, we were hoping it would be interesting to people, and we were just totally blown away, so we’ve been sort of furiously updating since then,” Cohn said in an interview. “We’ve continued to be a regular in the top ten utility apps on iTunes, and we’re seeing all kinds of use cases, even more than we’d hoped we might.”
Starting Wednesday, the app will be free to download (previously it was a paid app), and new subscribers will start out with one “burner,” or number they can give out that will re-direct calls and texts to their actual phone and existing number. Users can then pay to extend the length of time a burner number is active and how many calls and texts it can receive. The company raised angel funding back in October, although it started out as a boostrapped venture.
At the time Burner launched, it seemed like a lot of people would want to use it for illegal activity, since even the word “burner” is usually associated with criminal activity. But Cohn said that hasn’t been as much an issue as company or the media thought it would be. Instead, Burner has heard of some quite creative uses for the numbers, he said.
“We knew to anticipate more obvious use cases like Craigslist and dating,” he said. “But we’re also seeing plenty of activity among teachers and lawyers and doctors.”
Users of the iOS app will also see some improvements on Wednesday, the company noted, including “customizable voicemail greetings; the ability to manage call history by starring, renaming or hiding conversations; improved notifications of in-bound calls, missed calls, and voicemails.”
Even as a variety of messaging and chat apps have popped up recently, Cohn said he still thinks Burner offers something unique.
“Part of our big value proposition is that you don’t have to join something to communicate with someone. You can steailthily interact with all of the cell phones that are in existence.”