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Getting a second phone number cheaply

People sometimes have a dilemma where they want to have a Telegram account that’s not associated with their primary phone number. (Gee, I wonder why…) For better or worse, Telegram accounts are associated one-to-one to phone numbers, so the only way to do so is to get another phone number.

One popular way to get a second phone number, for that or any other purpose, is Google Voice. If you have a Google account and an existing phone number, you can just get an extra phone number for free.

However, if that isn’t an option for any reason (maybe you are already on Google’s phone plan, like me; or maybe you want more than two phone numbers?), one really affordable way to get a second phone number is Twilio, for $1/month + change. Twilio has a lot of phone numbers, so you can search for pretty long sequences of digits to find a number you want. (For example, you could, hypothetically, get a phone number that ends in the phonespell for, say, DRAGON.)

Once you’ve acquired a phone number, you can set it up to forward calls and texts to your existing phone number. Here’s Twilio instructions on call forwarding and SMS forwarding. It’s a little do-it-yourself, but you don’t have to write code and it’s a lot cheaper than any second-phone-number apps I was able to find. One caveat is that, by default, you won’t receive messages from “short codes”, which includes the texts Telegram sends by default to verify phone numbers. Fortunately, if you wait for a bit, Telegram will also call you and say the number, which is enough to get through verification.

Notes on Telegram

While we’re here, make sure you understand how secure of a messenger Telegram is. Its chats are not end-to-end encrypted by default, so your chat history is visible to anybody with server access, unlike increasingly many other encrypted communication platforms. See e.g. this Wired article. This is not to say you should stop using it (I still use Telegram because I’m satisfied with that encryption level for the chats I use). Just know your risks.