Blackphone: The $630 privacy and security focused Android smartphone

Blackphone: The $630 privacy and security focused Android smartphone

Summary: Is your security and privacy worth $630 plus another $120 per year beyond the first year? If so, The Silent Circle Blackphone might be for you.

TOPICS: Mobility, Android

Silent Circle has made available for pre-order the first smartphone to put privacy and security first.

(Source: Silent Circle)

Called Blackphone, which was first announced earlier this year, the handset makes use of a customized version of Android called PrivatOS and comes kitted out with a full suite of privacy-enabled applications.

On the hardware side of things the Blackphone is reasonably impressive:

  • 4.7-inch HD IPS screen
  • >2GHz quad core CPU
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 16 GB storage
  • LTE
  • HSPA+
  • Front camera >8Mpx with flash, plus rear camera

Some of these spec points are currently fluid and will be nailed down closer to release, which is currently slated for June 2014.

The handset is also kitted out with a range of security apps:

  • Silent Circle Apps
  • Silent Phone
  • Silent Text
  • Silent Contacts
  • Blackphone-built apps
  • Blackphone Firewall
  • Blackphone Activation Wizard
  • Blackphone Remote Wipe
  • Select 3rd-party apps
  • Disconnect Secure Wireless
  • SpiderOak Blackphone Edition
  • Kismet Smart Wi-Fi Manager

The Blackphone apps comes with a full year's subscription, after which the user will need to cough up $10 per month to continue using the suite or go back to using unencrypted comms.

The handset is unlocked and can be used on any compatible network – no carrier support is needed for the encryption and privacy tools.

Blackphone is backed by some big names, and is the brainchild of security and technology specialists including Phil Zimmermann, the creator of the PGP encryption tool.

The handset is certainly an interesting idea, but I'm skeptical that there are enough people out there willing to hand over $630 for the hardware plus then be committed to a $120 a year plan to make this work, even if we spread the net wide and include enterprise in this category. Silent Circle is targeting 10 million sales per year over the first three years, which sounds like a lot given hiow niche it is. Perhaps the biggest niche for this device is the void left by the implosion of of BlackBerry. 

And while Blackphone is the first security and privacy focused smartphone, I don't expect it to be the only one for long, and I wouldn't be surprised to see bigger players – perhaps Samsung, which has quite a focus on BYOD – to enter the arena.

On top of that, this is a new handset running a new operating system, so the scope for teething troubles and bugs is high at this stage.

Oh, and remember, to make use of this, the person you are communicating with either needs a Blackphone, or needs to be using Silent Circle apps on their Android or iOS device.

Topics: Mobility, Android

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  • Nice

    Good idea focusing on security for a niche. I can see how companies may want to deploy this phone, since it also has Android support. I doubt this will be a BYOD, most likely companies will purchase.
    Sean Foley
    • Front camera 8PX and a back camera

      Front camera >8PX and a back camera

      is it right?
  • How many drug dealers have $1,000 to spend to keep the cops off them?

    Remember, Mexico is a HUGE market!
  • I'd say...

    I'd say there's about an 89% probablibilty that "Silent Circle" is an NSA front company. How best to listen in on the bad guys than set up a fake company promising to make their communications secure and confidential?
  • Inconceivable! (I do not think that word means what you think it means)

    Do your own background checks if you're suspicious:

    This company was formed by security insiders that were unsatisfied by current offerings, and innovated around the controls which you yourself seem very concerned with. I say hooray for their efforts. They couldn't have accomplished what they have without some insider knowledge of government efforts (see Navy Seals among leadership).

    Seals tolerate NSA when they have to, but are not complicit nor agreeable to intrusions of privacy and freedoms.

    I'm a total conspiracy nut, but don't see one here. I see a foil instead.
  • Only secure until... call/text/email someone on a non-secure phone. It's the classic conundrum of security. So unless you're willing to restrict your communications to only other Blackphone users (admittedly a valid option), you're probably better off avoiding things that create a digital trail in your communications altogether if security is a priority. But then again, for those who care enough, this is not news.

    "The value of an alias will only increase with time" - Cornhead, circa 2013
  • Pretty useless overall

    While it is a neat concept... IT fails because it needs the other user to use the same secure software and apps.... Which means why do they need a phone? they should sell the suite of apps, if its the same hardware... who cares?
  • Too expensive

    There are other ways to secure your whole phone/tablet/PC infrastructure and communications than this - 10 million per year sounds unrealistically high
  • Blackphone vs. Rooted TOR

    At the risk of sounding like a sec noob, what is the difference between what BlackPhone promises and an unlocked phone running a custom ROM, TOR, and the TrevE Logging Test App?