clock menu more-arrow no yes

Review: How to Use a Borrowed Phone With Your Own Phone Number

The new app Hotel My Phone lets you create a virtual copy of your forgotten or dead phone on a borrowed phone.

It happens every day. People either forget their smartphones, or discover that their phones’ batteries are dead. So, if they have to send a text or make a call, they borrow a phone from a friend. It’s not the end of the world, but it does have a disadvantage: The call or text won’t come from your own phone number, so you have to explain that it’s really you on an unfamiliar number. If it’s a call, the recipient may even ignore it due to the strange number. And the borrowed phone won’t have your contacts in it, so if you can’t recall a person’s number, you’re sunk.

But now there’s a new app that allows you to temporarily log in to a borrowed phone to create a limited virtual copy of your own absent or dead phone — a copy that allows texting or calling from your own number, and displays your contacts.

The app, available for both Android and iOS, is called Hotel My Phone, and I’ve been testing it. It mostly works, but it still has a few bugs and limitations that may frustrate some users.

A text sent from a virtual iPhone inside a physical Android phone
A text sent from a virtual iPhone inside a physical Android phone

Hotel My Phone comes from a tiny Montreal company, PplConnect, which earlier this year released its first product, also called PplConnect, which allowed Android users to make and receive texts and phone calls on a PC or Mac. (Apple has since built similar calling functionality for iPhones into the Mac, and already had migrated texting across all its devices via its iMessage service.)

The company describes Hotel My Phone as a sort of Airbnb for phones. The idea is that you get a small circle of close friends to download the app, creating a trusted network of phones you can use with your own number in a pinch. You can even “check into” an Android phone to turn it into your virtual iPhone, and vice versa, if both phones have the app.

You can also use strangers’ out-of-network phones as hosts, by quickly downloading the app onto them, though the company plans to charge about $1 per use for this scenario (using phones in your network is free).

While Hotel My Phone is free, there are some fees, though the company starts you off with $1 in credit. Calls cost about three cents a minute. And if your phone is dead or off, texts cost 10 cents each, though the app itself can also send and receive text-like messages, which are free.

The app works by storing your phone’s number and contacts in the cloud, and making them available when you log in on a borrowed phone. The company says that your information is completely erased from the borrowed phone when you log out, and that the lender’s data is also protected.

For my tests, I downloaded the Hotel My Phone app to two Android phones — a Nexus 5 and an HTC One M8. I also downloaded it to an iPhone 6. This allowed me to pretend I was three different people, each with his or her own phone and distinct phone number.

I was able to use the Android phones as hosts for each other and for the iPhone. And I was able to use the iPhone as a host for each of the Android phones.

Hotel My Phone lets you securely share your phone with another user.
Hotel My Phone lets you securely share your phone with another user.

One important caveat: Hotel My Phone doesn’t go beyond calling, messaging and contacts. It isn’t intended to replicate anything more from the virtual phone, so you won’t see, for instance, the native home screens from your phone on a borrowed phone, or be able to use your other apps.

In each case, when I logged in to the app, I was able to see my virtual phone’s contacts, and its messages. When I made calls from the virtual phone, they appeared on the phone I was calling as though they came from that phone’s number, not the number of the actual physical host phone.

The app works better on Android than on iOS. For instance, if your absent or dead phone is an iPhone, texts you send from the virtual iPhone running on the host phone must come from a generic number, not your real one. And you can’t view your call logs. The company says this is because of the nature of Apple’s iOS operating system, which doesn’t allow access to certain features of the phone that Android does.

On Android, this use of a generic number for texting only occurs if your real phone is off or dead.

I also ran into a serious bug affecting only the iPhone. When using my iPhone as a physical host for either of my test Androids, I couldn’t make a phone call, but instead got an error message.

The company says this latter bug has been fixed in a new iPhone update to the app, which will appear soon in Apple’s App Store.

In general, I liked the idea of Hotel My Phone, but found it rough around the edges. Even after its release on Dec. 11, the company was still scrambling to expunge bugs. It issued a bug-fixing Android update just hours before I wrote this review.

If you’re the kind of person whose phone often dies, or who occasionally forgets her phone, Hotel My Phone is worth a try. But be prepared for some limitations and bugs.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.