Google's support page at http://support.google.com/accounts/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=185839 states that if I set up two-factor authentication from my Android device, it will offer me a chance to install Google Authenticator and set two-factor authentication up without needing to give a phone number.

However, when I try this on my Nexus 7, it tells me to use a computer — and that only offers me options of an SMS or a voice call, both of which require me to give Google my phone number.

I've run this account since gmail.com was launched without a phone number attached, and I don't want to give my number to one of the world's largest advertising companies!

The gmail account is not my primary email account, and nothing important or secret goes through it, but I still don't want it getting hijacked.

Is there a way around this that doesn't involve spending money on burner SIMs? (nb: I'm not in the US, so please don't suggest Google Voice :)

  • no, it is not possible under any circumstances.
    – user60756
    Feb 16, 2014 at 0:50

2 Answers 2


Google requires a cellphone number so that they can send an authentication code to the number you gave them so you can still login to i.e. Gmail. So please note that the device with the Authenticator app does not have to be the device matching the number you gave.

In short: the phonenumber simply acts as a back-up medium so you can still login if you've lost the device with the app.

  • 8
    It doesn't cover those of us who don't want to give Google a phone number at all, though. If I've lost the Authenticator-enabled device, that's what the backup email address is for.
    – John Y
    Apr 19, 2013 at 13:28
  • Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're /not/ out to get you. Aug 7, 2014 at 15:18
  • 2
    This is untrue; if you have SMS in any form even as a backup then a hacker can intercept SMS to gain access. Backup or not having it there is an attack surface. The very core reason people took the time to write timed based 2-factor authentication and why Google created the Google Authenticator app was for this very use case. And the idea that Google themselves are forcing security conscious users to use an less secure method is inexcusable.
    – Sukima
    Jul 28, 2016 at 14:26

Google Voice requires another phone number, so there is no point to that. I created a Skype number for this purpose. However, there is a fee required.

You could theoretically let that subscription lapse, but the next person to get the phone number would get your codes, although I think it would be nearly impossible for them to know which account the codes were for, and if you are careful, you can avoid having codes sent to the phone number.

Personally, I am just going to keep paying for that Skype number. It could come in handy, anyway.

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