Call on line 2! Eight ways to add a second line to your smartphone

Whether you're running a business or just looking to improve your BYOD situation, there's an app that can help.

cropped man's arm in tan suit holding retro red phone

Can you imagine someone crazy enough to carry around two smartphones? That’s two phones to keep charged, two phones to keep track of, two phones to stow in your pocket, purse or carry-on. Madness!

Actually, for many it’s not a question of sanity; it’s a matter of necessity. Perhaps your company issued you a phone for business purposes but won’t let you use it for personal calls. Or you’ve started your own business and need a dedicated line. Whatever the case, juggling two phones feels like a special form of torture — and let’s not overlook the expense.

Good news: Thanks to a growing roster of apps, one smartphone can have two separate and distinct phone lines. (Possibly even more than two.) You keep your current number, then add a second one (new or ported, your choice) that's strictly for business. When you want to place an outgoing call, you use an app similar to your phone's native dialer. Incoming calls typically have a distinctive ring (and often caller ID as well) so you can tell they're business-related.

You can also send and receive text messages via that number, and in some cases add extras like auto-attendants and voicemail transcription.

This is great stuff, not just for small-business owners, but also for individuals. For example, many employers are willing to cover the cost of a smartphone and monthly plan, but only as long as you work there. That means if you leave or get fired, you lose your mobile number. If you're using an app-powered second line as your personal number, though, that number can stay with you as you move from one phone to another.

[ Further reading: Chat happens: Your guide to 8 group-chat services ]

So, what does a second line cost? Considerably less than a second phone. I tested a variety of services — BusinessCall, eVoice, Flyp, GoDaddy SmartLine, Google Voice, Grasshopper, Line2 and Sideline — with prices ranging from free to $89 per month. The latter is a rarity; most individual and small-business users can expect to pay $10 to $15, although the lone freebie option — Google Voice — can get the job done if you're willing to accept a few compromises.

As you shop for a second line service, keep in mind that seemingly comprehensive plans may not include all the features you want. For example, some services charge extra for features like text messaging and voicemail transcription — two options business owners are likely to want. And if yours is a call-heavy business, check how many voice minutes come with your plan. Your carrier might offer unlimited calling on your primary line, but your second-line provider might impose limits.

I performed most of my call and messaging tests on an iPhone 6S Plus, but checked each app's Android counterpart for any functional or interface differences.

However, because it would be logistically impossible to do so, I wasn’t able to test these services long-term. Where possible, you should sign up for a trial so you can make sure calls, messages and notifications are delivered consistently and reliably. You should also check to see how recently each app has been updated; anything that hasn’t been touched for a long time (say, upwards of a year) could pose compatibility issues with newer operating systems.

Thankfully, save for a few setup hiccups here or minor operational hassles there, in my tests all eight of these services delivered on their promise of a functional, useful second line.


Platforms: Android, iOS
Price: Starts at $6/mo.
In business since: 1998

In case the name didn't make it abundantly clear, BusinessCall adds business calling capabilities to your Android phone or iPhone. It gives you a new number in the area code of your choice or lets you port an existing number at no charge. And it offers a few basic CRM tools to help you keep tabs on customers and potential sales. Although the app made its debut in 2013, the company behind it, uReach, started way back in 1998.

BusinessCall offers a $6/mo. plan that includes 100 voice minutes and 200 text messages, or a $13/mo. plan for unlimited everything. (The BusinessCall website shows only the unlimited plan, but the Android and iOS apps prominently display the $6/mo. option, and a company representative confirmed its availability.)

Because calls are routed over voice networks (same as with most of the other services), both plans draw on the minutes afforded to you by your carrier, which matters only if your plan doesn't include unlimited calling. Text messages rely on data and don't count against your carrier's monthly SMS allotment — which could actually be a negative if your carrier plan offers unlimited SMS but specific data limits.

2nd phone line svc BusinessCall BusinessCall

The BusinessCall app has a straightforward, easy-to-navigate interface.

The simple, straightforward app offers a few handy features, including a setting that automatically forwards calls to voicemail during designated after-hours periods (like evenings and weekends). Whenever you receive a call on your business line, the caller is automatically added to your "customer" list, and you can assign one of three predefined notes (like "follow up" or "potential customer") or add a custom one, then view those notes in a convenient checklist. Finally, all plans include free voicemail-via-email (you click a link in the email to listen to the voicemail), though there's no transcription option.

If there’s a red flag at all, it’s that the iOS version of the BusinessCall app hasn’t been updated in over a year. The company doesn’t maintain a blog, either, so it has the appearance of one that’s merely coasting, not innovating.

That said, BusinessCall remains a competitively priced and business-friendly option for anyone seeking a second line.


Platforms: Android, iOS
Price: Starts at $13/mo.
In business since: 1999

Originally a low-cost voicemail service, eVoice jumped into the virtual-phone business in 2010 with eponymous apps for Android and iOS. The focus: making small-business users seem professional, with baked-in features like auto-attendant, multiple extensions and a toll-free number.

The basic plan ($13/mo.) includes 300 voice minutes, two extensions, and six local and/or toll-free numbers. The next tier ($30/mo.) adds minutes, extensions, phone numbers and extras such as inbound faxing and access to VIP tech support. Higher tiers are available for customers needing even more minutes and numbers. (See pricing info.) All plans include standard features such as call forwarding, an auto attendant and voice-to-text transcription. Premium features such as call recording and online faxing add an extra charge to your monthly bill.

2nd phone line services - eVoice eVoice

The eVoice app is polished and nicely organized.

You can sign up for service in a web browser or right from the polished, nicely organized app. Although I had some initial trouble completing the signup process from within the iOS app, eVoice updated both the Android and iOS apps shortly after I completed my review — ostensibly to fix that and other bugs. In the interim, I’d emailed tech support for help; within two hours I received a reply from the sales department directing me to web signup. About an hour later, tech support proper replied and asked me to call for assistance. Neither message specifically addressed the problem, but at least solutions were offered.

Unfortunately, after I signed up on the web, I ran into another odd glitch: I couldn’t complete my account-profile setup because of an “invalid first name.” Huh? I changed “Rick” to “Joe” and was able to finally finish the process.

Other small annoyances: The iPhone app doesn't support iOS's predictive text, which made for slow, aggravating message composition. And both apps offer access to very few settings. If you want to make changes, you'll have to use the web portal. But even there you can't even record a custom voicemail greeting; the only option is to upload an MP3 audio file to the portal.

Little hassles like these get in the way of what is otherwise a robust second-line service for business users. Luckily, once you have everything configured to your liking, at least some of those hassles disappear.


Platforms: Android, iOS
Price: Starts at $8/mo.
In business since: 2015

Flyp’s claim to fame: up to five extra numbers on your phone, with flat-rate pricing of just $8 per number. You can also get a price break by paying annually ($80 per number). Either way, Flyp is one of the more competitively priced services in the group — especially considering that you get unlimited cellular calls and text messages.

It’s also one of most limited. There’s no web portal, so everything from signup to settings happens within the app. Admirably, you don’t need a credit card (or even an email address) to take advantage of Flyp’s free 7-day trial. However, because your account is tied directly to your phone and its primary number, you can’t sign into the same Flyp account on a different device.

That might not be an issue if you plan to restrict all second-line activities to your phone anyway, but other aspects of the service may prove more troublesome. For example, Flyp seems to have a smaller pool of available numbers than other providers (and no toll-free numbers). My default search is my home area code (248), but Flyp couldn’t find a single number to match.

Flyp also offers no call-forwarding or call-screening features, and although it has a do-not-disturb toggle, you can’t set specific hours. Pity the business owner who forgets to turn off DND in the morning and misses important calls.

2nd phone line services - Flyp Rick Broida / IDG

Here’s hoping you like the app (which is very easy to use), because Flyp has no web portal.

The app claims support for animated GIFs in text messages, but when I tried the feature on a Nokia 6 running Android 7, an error message told me, “This text field does not support GIF insertion from the keyboard.” An email to Flyp support was answered very promptly, citing a limitation of the Android platform. So the feature is iOS-only, even though the Google Play Store’s Flyp page expressly mentions GIF messaging.

That small glitch aside, Flyp is easy to use and cheaper than many of its competitors. It’s also very basic, and probably insufficient for someone seeking a business-friendly second line.

GoDaddy SmartLine

Platforms: Android, iOS
Price: Starting at $4/mo.
In business since: 1997

Although GoDaddy has been around forever, at least in Internet years, the company’s SmartLine service made its debut just a short time ago, in August 2017. Does the name ring a bell? You might be thinking of the eponymous Simpsons news program hosted by Kent Brockman. No relation: This SmartLine is the first product of GoDaddy’s 2016 acquisition of FreedomVoice, a business-oriented voice-over-IP service provider.

If you just want a second phone line, you can choose between two plans: SmartLine Basic ($4/mo.) and SmartLine ($10/mo.). Both plans give you discounts for prepaying annually and let you choose a local number for your account. And both are identical save for one thing: Basic affords just 100 voice minutes and 100 text messages per month, while SmartLine standard includes an unlimited number of both. If you want a toll-free number, GoDaddy offers four more plans — Toll Free Basic, Pro, Premium and Deluxe — that range from $10 to $100 a month. As with the non-toll-free plans, these plans are identical except for the number of toll-free minutes and text messages (from 300 to 5,000 in both cases) allowed per month. If you exceed your monthly allotment for the SmartLine Basic or toll-free plans, you’re billed $0.03 per additional minute and a penny per additional text.

All of the plans provide a fairly basic roster of features, but the important ones are there: voicemail transcription, a customizable voicemail greeting and support for business hours. . Ironically, despite FreedomVoice’s VoIP trappings, SmartLine relies exclusively on cellular for voice calls. There’s no option for Wi-Fi.

You can’t use the app to sign up for an account; that requires a visit to GoDaddy’s web portal. But you can use the app for things like recording your custom greeting and setting business hours. That said, the web portal provides more granular controls over the latter: You can set hours for individual days rather than just globally for weekdays and weekends.

2nd phone line services - GoDaddy SmartLine Rick Broida / IDG

SmartLine’s dialer is straightforward enough, but the overall UI feels a bit claustrophobic.

The app itself has a few issues, starting with the UI: Calls, texts and voicemail messages are all lumped together on the same page, instead of being separated into different tabs. That’s almost inexcusable; it’s difficult to tell them apart at a glance. And save for the Settings icon, the only other button is a plus sign you tap to access the dialer, create a new text message or access your contacts. That’s not very intuitive.

Fortunately, these are easy problems to fix. Assuming GoDaddy addresses them, SmartLine probably deserves a spot on your second-line short list.

Google Voice

Platforms: Android, iOS
Price: Free
In business since: 1998

Google Voice is this roundup's outlier. For starters, it’s free. And although it wasn't expressly designed with business users in mind, it can certainly serve them. Rumors have long persisted that Google might shut down the service or migrate users to Google Hangouts, but in early 2017, Voice received a fresh coat of UI paint and some much-needed improvements.

One big one: support for both picture messaging (a.k.a. MMS) and group messaging. The Google Voice app now has separate tabs for calls, texts and voicemail, and it allows you to manage a variety of settings that previously required a trip to a web browser.

2nd phone line services - Google Voice Rick Broida / IDG

The interface for the Google Voice app now shows records of calls, texts and voicemail on separate tabs.

The core service remains as compelling as ever, starting with superb call-forwarding features: Voice can route calls to not just your mobile phone, but any number of phones. For example, if you don't answer your mobile, Google Voice can continue forwarding the call to your desk, then your home phone and so on. Or it can ring them all simultaneously.

You also get access to features like call screening, call recording, scheduled "do not disturb" times and voicemail transcription (which works admirably well). You can also record custom greetings to be played for friends, family members, co-workers, anonymous callers and so on — though this is caller-specific, and therefore not a substitute for a true auto-attendant feature.

Google Voice remains a bit confusing in places — for instance, it’s hard to tell if you need to set up call-forwarding to your smartphone if you have the app installed. But there are potentially bigger issues for business users, starting with support: There’s no quick way to get help if you need it. Your only options are an online forum and a feedback form that doesn’t specifically mention tech support.

Google Voice also poses voicemail challenges: Unanswered calls go to your carrier’s voicemail box, not Google’s. You can set up the latter to override the former, but then anyone calling your personal number will hear your business greeting. There are workarounds, but they’re a hassle.

If you're willing to overlook those obstacles, Google Voice is versatile, functional and, best of all, free.


Platforms: Android, iOS
Price: Starts at $24/mo.
In business since: 2003

Citrix-owned Grasshopper caters to business users with a panoply of premium features: unlimited extensions, vanity numbers, voicemail transcription, support for fax messages and more. If all that sounds expensive, you're right: Grasshopper remains one of the pricier second-line services, with plans starting at $24/mo.

The Solo plan nets you a single line with three extensions, while the $49/mo. Partner plan offers three lines and six extensions. Both of those plans include unlimited voice minutes, but Grasshopper charges extra ($10 per month) for something as basic as text messaging. Want voicemail transcription? It’s another $10. You’d have to jump all the way up to the Small Business plan, which runs $89 monthly, to get those features included at no extra charge.

What’s more, there's no free-trial option (though Grasshopper does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee), and you can't sign up within the mobile apps; you must use the web portal. During that signup process, you can choose a local or randomly assigned toll-free number (at no extra charge), or get a custom toll-free number (like one that ends in "ROOM," for example). The latter normally costs $30 extra, but at press time Grasshopper was waiving that one-time fee.

The app offers an admirably clean interface, and it now allows you to modify call-forwarding settings. You can even use it to sign and email any fax pages or PDFs received at your number. One important consideration, however: The app requires both data and cellular connectivity. Most second-line services leverage one or the other. That could pose a problem if you’re working someplace that has Wi-Fi but poor cellular reception; now second-line calls can’t get through.

2nd phone line services - Grasshopper Grasshopper

The Grasshopper app has a clean, logically designed interface.

Compared with other business-oriented second-line services, Grasshopper feels a little overpriced. Several of the features included elsewhere cost extra here. And the lack of a free trial makes it that much tougher to recommend.


Platforms: Android, Fire OS, iOS, macOS, Windows
Starts at: $10/mo.
In business since: 2008

Aptly named Line2 understands the distinction between personal and business second-line needs, with three plans to choose from: one for personal and two for business users, with features apportioned accordingly. A personal user, for example, probably doesn't need a toll-free number or auto-attendant, options reserved for the business plans. It's a simple distinction, but a smart one.

The three plans are priced at $10/mo., $15/mo. and $20/mo., respectively, with discounts if you prepay annually. Even with those competitive rates, Line2 offers a lot of premium features and a few exclusive ones. For example, it's the only service here that relies on voice-over-IP for calls (though it can switch to cellular as needed). That means you can use it on, say, a tablet. In addition to iOS and Android, Line2 offers apps for macOS and Windows.

Line2 also scores points with some robust app features. In the iPhone version (but not Android, alas), you can swipe any contact to the right and then immediately tap a message or phone icon to send a text or place a call. And both versions of the app give you considerable control over call handling: You can toggle do-not-disturb and forward-all-calls options, and you can set call screening based on call types (no caller ID, known contacts, VIPs, etc.). There’s also the aforementioned option to manually switch between data and cellular for voice calls, which could prove incredibly handy if you’re having poor quality on one or the other. If you want to set up after-hours behavior, however, you must do so through the web portal.

2nd phone line services - Line2 Line2

Line2 offers extensive call-handling options within its app.

About the only feature Line2 doesn't offer is voicemail transcription. You do get voicemail messages delivered via email, but as MP3 audio attachments. If you can live with that, Line2 definitely ranks among the best second-line services, especially for those seeking a line for personal use.


Platforms: Android, iOS
Starts at: $10/month
In business since: 2015

At press time, Sideline was in the process of discontinuing its excellent ad-supported free option and switching to a paid-only model. Now the service costs $10/mo. for individuals, a price that includes unlimited calls and text messages, custom voicemail greetings, voicemail transcription and automated replies to texts. The Enterprise plan costs $10/user/mo. and adds prioritized support, multiple line management and an online dashboard. Unlimited international calling is also available with the Enterprise plan for $15/user/mo. (See pricing info.)

For the moment, the Sideline app continues to employ a unified inbox that lists calls, texts and voicemails on a single screen. It's a confusing arrangement, but at least you get some at-a-glance help: Calls are tagged with little "you called" or "called you" descriptors, and text messages show the most recent snippet of text (either from you or to you). To place a call or compose a text, you tap the corresponding icon. There's even a clever banner up top that displays your phone number and lets you copy it to the clipboard for easy sharing.

All this may change once Sideline fully transitions to its new model, which promises “big changes” based on lots of user feedback. (Hopefully that unified inbox will be the first thing to change.) At press time, however, the app looks the same as it did last year.

2nd phone line service - Sideline Rick Broida / IDG

Sideline uses a somewhat confusing unified inbox for calls, texts and voicemails.

Things we hope don’t change: The app lets you record a custom voicemail greeting, send all calls to voicemail if you don't want to be disturbed, receive email notifications of new messages and even add a signature to your text messages. Sideline also gives you the option of switching to Wi-Fi calling if you’re in an area where the cell signal is poor.

However, there's one fairly key issue: If you decline an incoming Sideline call, it goes to your phone's voicemail box, not your Sideline voicemail. If you want it to go to the latter instead, you have no choice but to let it ring through — not always a convenient or desirable option. (To be fair, that’s a problem with Google Voice as well.)

Now that Sideline has rolled out most of its promised updates, it’s easy to recommend: You get plenty of features and a competitive price. While it’s too bad there’s no longer a free option, Sideline should appeal to users seeking both simplicity and flexibility.

Quick reference: 8 second phone line services

(Drag or scroll right to see the rightmost columns.)

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

Bing’s AI chatbot came to work for me. I had to fire it.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon