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Technology Untangled: Sideline app adds second line to your smartphone

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technology-bourWe are all familiar with having and using multiple email accounts. At the very least, most people have a personal email account and a business email account. We of course don’t need to use two separate computers or smartphones to manage our multiple email addresses. Then why should we need to use multiple phones to manage our business versus personal phone lines? Simple, inexpensive technology is available that will allow you to use just one smartphone with two phone lines.

Traditional landline office phones are not as practical as they used to be and are not nearly as flexible for today’s mobile workforce. For some businesses, the answer has been to provide separate hardware in the form of work cellphones for their employees. These phones are owned, maintained and administered by the company. This approach can get expensive with more than a few employees. But who really wants to carry around two phones on a regular basis?

I recently ran across an advertisement for an app that allows you to add a separate phone line to your existing smartphone. This idea seemed practical, especially in this age where virtually everyone carries a personal smartphone at all times. This Bring Your Own Device concept, or BYOD, is a standard mode of operation for today’s business professional. Why not make better use of that one device instead of deploying two?

Sideline is the name of the app that we will look at today. It strikes me as something certainly worth a try. The basic app is free and the affordable pay version is surprisingly flexible as a feature-filled business phone solution for many small businesses.

The Sideline app, available for both Android and iOS, was easy to download and install. By default, the process assigns you a new second phone number with the same area code as your existing line. Alternatively, you can choose your number from a list of other available numbers. You can even choose another area code if you desire. This is a real phone number that operates via the existing carrier network of your phone, so the service is as reliable as you are now used to. It does not use a VoIP or Wi-Fi connection.

The concept here is that this new number, this new functionality provided by the app, allows you to completely separate your personal phone number from your business number as if you were carrying two phones. When you think about it, your original existing phone functionality is nothing more than a smartphone app. Sideline simply adds another phone app that functions in parallel, thus restoring some of your personal privacy. If you already have a business number you want to retain, you can port that number to the Sideline app, similar to the process used when switching cellphone carriers. I would recommend you first try out the assigned number for a while to see if you like the Sideline service before considering porting.

It is a simple matter to then make and receive calls with your new number, essentially by choosing “line 2.” You must of course keep the Sideline app running in the background whenever your phone is on. I was glad to learn that when turning your phone off and on again the app automatically reloads. Other familiar features also come with your new free number, including texting, voicemail and caller ID. Your existing contact list automatically integrates to keep things simple.

Your Sideline number is free to use as long as you want. For a sole proprietor or a small law firm, the free version may be all that you really need. Of course, there are some catches. The free version peppers your display with ads when you are inside the app. This has only been slightly annoying for me so far. The fee to remove the ads is $2.99/month. You can keep your assigned number for as long as you want, but if it is inactive for more than 30 days, it will expire and be taken back. The fee to reserve your number and keep it from expiring is $9.99/month. There are other options, such as voicemail-to-text, that you can add and pay for individually.

Stepping up to the more robust and full-featured business version of Sideline, called the team version, will cost you $9.99 per line. This is still much less than deploying new cellphones and/or landlines for your entire staff. Assignment, management and control of the company phone lines stays with you. This can all be managed remotely by computer. You can also program a main business number with an auto attendant and a phone tree to direct calls to the right person or department. This team version is offered with a free 30-day trial.

Whether you use it for business or not, having a free second phone number can be appealing for use as a “private” line or also as a “burner” line. You can find all the details about giving your one phone two numbers at Sideline.com.•

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Stephen Bour (bourtech@iquest.net) is an engineer and legal technology consultant in Indianapolis. His company, the Alliance for Litigation Support Inc., includes Bour Technical Services and Alliance Court Reporting. Areas of service include legal videography, tape analysis, document scanning to CD and courtroom presentation support. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

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