UnaPhone Zenith promises to protect your privacy — but there's a catch

By ripping out Android services and features, Una says its device is more secure.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

A new, yet-to-be-released smartphone promises to put its users' security and privacy first with the help of a radical if not somewhat uncertain approach.


(Image: Una; press release)

Una earlier this month launched its crowdsourcing campaign ahead of the debut of its newest custom-built smartphone: the Unaphone Zenith.

Dubbed a "truly private and secure smartphone" that "values your privacy and data as much as you do," the 5.5-inch smartphone runs a modified Android 6.0 operating system called UnaOS.

The custom operating system rips out Google's apps and services, so that the company says "you are never tracked and that your data is never being sold."

It also comes with device encryption as standard, a customized secure boot, and device protection features that wipes the device if tampered with.

But here's the catch: you can't install any apps. No games, no Facebook or Twitter, and certainly no Angry Birds -- which, given some of the app-based security scares in recent months, from a security perspective, is not such a bad thing.

The phone-making startup hasn't ruled out creating its own app store, which would be stocked with apps that are verified to the company's security standards.

The company said it will offer a customized enterprise version for those who require certain apps and features.

Unlike most of Android's code, UnaOS isn't yet open-source. The company did pledge to release the code in the near future, which opens up the software to third-party inspection and community review -- a move that the company hopes will satisfy any fears that it put backdoors in the phones.

As for the hardware, the Zenith comes with a 1080p high-resolution display, a 64-bit 2.0GHz octa-core processor, 4GB of memory, 32GB of storage (with micro-SD card support up to 256GB), a 13-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front-facing camera, and a non-removable 3,000mAh battery with quick- and wireless charging.

It also features NFC for wireless payments and a fingerprint reader.

The company said the Zenith works on all major US and European networks, in the vast majority of cases up to 4G. It comes with a dual-SIM for regular travelers.

The startup said this week that it had received more than 5,000 orders, and the UnaPhone Zenith is set to be released in September for $429 -- subject to reaching its funding goals.

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