Pre-orders have opened up for the Blackphone, a high-end Android smartphone that puts privacy and security ahead of everything else. Available for $629, units will ship to customers in June 2014.
Silent Circle, a company with a portfolio of security- and encryption-related software, has joined forces with a Spanish hardware startup known as Geeksphone to bring us the Blackphone, which claims to be the first smartphone to place "privacy and control directly in the hands of its users."
The Blackphone runs on a heavily-modified Android operating system known as PrivatOS, but otherwise appears to be a standard Android phone, with a 4.7-inch HD IPS display, a 2GHz quad-core processor, 16GB of storage, an 8-megapixel camera, and LTE. The obvious privacy and security enhancing features come in the form of three apps: Silent Phone, Silent Text, and Silent Contacts, which offer an encrypted VoIP service, IMS, and contact list.
These apps are already available for iPhone and Android devices with a paid subscription, but the Blackphone comes with two years of service. Here's the caveat: the apps only offer peer-to-peer encryption when you're calling another Silent Circle user. To try to remedy this, the Blackphone comes with three extra one-year subscriptions that users can hand out to those they wish to communicate with securely. Through partnerships with other security-focused companies, the Blackphone also comes with services that provide 5GB of "zero-knowledge encrypted data backup" and a search provider that uses a VPN to render your Google or Bing searches anonymous.
The Blackphone makes no claim to be completely secure, however. "There's no such thing as 100-percent secure," explains Silent Circle CEO and co-founder Mike Janke, "and there's no such thing as an NSA-secure phone. If you have a phone it can always be hacked."
Most Android phone security issues come through apps, and the Blackphone gives users control over what apps can do and what information they have access to. A Wi-Fi manager limits wireless-based tracking, and another tool will prevent your personal information from being tracked and sold to advertisers.
Pre-orders for the Blackphone have opened up today for $629, and units will ship to customers in June 2014.