This article is about the Blackphone. A mobile phone made secure from the ground up .
A few days ago I received my Blackphone. It came in a nice enough box.
The phone is light, fairly thin, has a camera, runs a version of Android. I was a little surprised about the camera, but its such common feature now. For pictures I think your best bet is to check out the site. I am not sure if ithe phone
The phone itself is black (duh).
The basic UI is snappy and easy to understand.
There is zero bloatware in this phone, which is to be expected, but its still a nice feeling compared to your average bloated Android phone. It comes with the bare necessities with the addition of the Silent Circle suite of communications tools, Spider Oak file sync (think of it as a secure encrypted version of dropbox), and a program that will encrypt your wifi called Disconnect Secure Wireless, and an app from Disconnect to search the internet without being tracked.
I have been a user of Silent Circle and Spider Oak for some time so I felt right at home with the software on the phone. With the exception of having to key in long passwords with the on screen keyboard. Its error prone for people with adult fingers.
All of these programs are available to you in your Android phone and most of them are available for the iPhone too. So you don’t have o buy a Blackphone to use them.
In addition its the camera, browser, calculator, calendar, email, dialing app, texting app, music player and a sound recorder. that is about the software you get. There is no app store included by default, which again makes sense for this phone. There is Android without any Google premium features. No Gmail, No Maps, No app store or any of the other Google features usually available on common feature phones. I believe it would be impossible to build a secure phone whilst still licensing these services from Google.
I had one problem during setup, that was quickly solved by customer support. It turns out that you have to type in your username for Silent Circle in all lower case. I am very impressed with customer support, and that is something I cannot say very often. They were very fast and accurate.
One important thing to note is that you need friends / contacts / coworkers who use Silent Circle to communicate securely with them. If you buy this phone and you are the only person you know of who uses Silent Circle suite then you will have limited use out of the suite since you can’t communicate with anyone. But this is an excellent time to tell people one solution for communicating securely, and encourage adoption. When you buy the BlackPhone you get 3 free 1 year user accounts for your friends and family. (Remember you can’t install the suite on your iPhone or Android phone as well). So then you will have someone to talk to .
Along with the phone itself you get a few nice additional services:
- As mentioned you get the 3 friends and family 1 year user accounts
- 2 years of Silent Circle mobile (free use of the suite on your Blackphone for 2 years)
- 2 years of Disconnect VPN 1 1GB per month. (for me its half that so I will look into it)
- 2 years of SpireOak 5GB/month.
Which according to the promo is worth $829 if you bought it separately.
The basic specs of the phone are as follows:
Blackphone is powered by a >2 GHz quad-core SoC and features a full set of premium features, including GPS, a 4.7-inch HD IPS screen, LTE, HSPA+, 2GB DDR3 RAM, 16GB of storage, >8MP primary camera with flash and 1.3MP front camera, Bluetooth 4.0, and 802.11n WiFi.
Its only sold unlocked, and it costs $629, but right now they are sold out, but more phones are on their way.
Is the phone worth it?
It depends, if you are looking for a full feature phone to compete against Samsung S5 or the HTC M8 this is not the phone for you. If you are more interested in protecting your privacy than glitz, then this is one of the best options I know about.
How secure is it?
In my opinion this remains to be seen. Phil Zimmermann (of PGP fame) is one of the founders or Silent Circle. I personally think he is pretty much a genius and he has certainly spent a lot of his life fighting the government for the right of individuals to use strong encryption. So far I haven’t heard of any attacks against Silent Circle. There are some very good people behind the Blackphone as well, though I am not aware of how battle tested the phone itself has been.
Angela Merkel (German Chancellor) reportedly now has a customized Blackberry with a security chip in it. If you wish to call her the only snag is that the phone you use to call Mrs Merkel’s must also have the same level of encryption, and it doesn’t come cheap. Secusmart’s chip costs 2,500 euros (£2,000; $3,400).
The Blackphone is $629, and stands alone in the market today as the best bet for individuals to have a secure phone. (Unless you have a lot of money laying around).
I am excited to use this phone in the time to come and I will report back after I have some real experience with it. Now go buy it so I can talk to you.