Blackphone, a consumer-grade smartphone designed to keep conversations private, has now begun shipping to customers.
Revealed at the start of the year, Blackphone emerged from a joint venture between Silent Circle and Geeksphone, SGP Technologies. After confidential documents released by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of US governmental surveillance and spying, security and encryption have hit the spotlight in a big way, and so there is now consumer demand for such handsets.
Blackphone uses PrivOS, a tailored operating system built from Android KitKat. While no mobile device will ever be 100 percent secure, the OS includes a number of security-related features including a remote wipe and protect tool and advanced application permissions. According to Ars Technica, testing revealed the handset lived up to the hype, and there was little data leakage through use in comparison to today's average smartphone.
Although a price tag of $629 might seem a little high, users also receive a security-focused pack of subscriptions and software in addition to the gadget. Once you have purchased a Blackphone and scan a QR code bundled with the device, you are given a two-year subscription to Silent Phone and Silent Text apps which encrypt your communication. In addition, the Kismet Smarter Wi-Fi Manager prevents wifi hotspots from capturing Blackphone users' wireless connection history and other information that could be used to track users' locations or patterns of activity, and "learns" which wifi networks are to be trusted by detecting nearby masts. Users also receive two-year subscriptions to secure cloud storage provider SpiderOak and Disconnect, which offers private search and VPN facilities.
Toby Weir-Jones, CEO of SGP Technologies commented:
Blackphone's arrival puts mobile privacy directly in the hands of professionals and consumers everywhere. In a world where devices and apps increasingly offer features only in return for users' personal or sensitive information, the pent-up demand for Blackphone shows there is strong, international demand for our brand's devices and services that stand apart by placing privacy before all else.
EU orders will be shipped first, followed by US devices. Pre-orders quickly ran out once the phone debuted at Mobile World Congress, but SGP Technologies will take the next wave of orders on July 14.