It's a post-Snowden world and we're just living in it. Mainstream smartphones don't exactly give users too many options when it comes to keeping their information private, but Geeksphone and Silent Circle hope to change all that with Blackphone, a privacy-oriented smartphone that strives to protect your data.
For months, the Blackphone has been called "NSA-proof" and has received a lot of attention from the media and privacy-minded consumers alike. What would have been a small, niche product a few years ago, is now a very famous and popular one, thanks to Edward Snowden. Now that we actually have proof that no one's data is off-limits - not even Angela Merkel's - it seems imperative to many tech companies that they find a way to keep their users' data safe, even if the government doesn't want them to.
Enter Blackphone, a joint venture from Geeksphone and Silent Circle. Blackphone combines mid-range smartphone specifications with high-end security features to make a much safer, more private smartphone for those intent on protecting their data from prying eyes. The Blackphone features a 4.7-inch HD display, an 8-megapixel back camera and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. It is powered by a 2 GHz quad-core processor and comes with 2 GB of RAM. The Blackphone has 16 GB of internal storage, too. In terms of connectivity, it has your standard GPS, Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11n.
The Blackphone looks like a pretty average smartphone at first glance, but when you take a closer look, you'll notice that it's packed full of features that aim to protect your privacy. The Blackphone is running a version of Android called Privat OS, which was specially designed to secure users' data and prevent spying. Privat OS comes with secure encrypted text, call, video chat and file transfer apps for when you need to be sure that no one can access the information you are sending. Blackphone lets you choose when to encrypt the information and when to let it go through as it normally would - virtually unprotected.
Of course, all this high-tech encryption isn't free, but if you buy a Blackphone, a two-year Secret Circle subscription will be included in the price. Blackphone buyers will also get three free one-year subscriptions to give to friends, colleagues and family members to try. After the free subscription runs out, users will then have to pay $10 a month for the service. The Secret Circle apps included on the Blackphone are also available for other Android and iOS devices, but you have to buy the subscription. Still, for just $10 a month, it's a pretty good deal.
In addition to the benefit of encrypted messages, files and calls, Blackphone's Privat OS also lets users choose which permissions they want to allow any app they download to take.
"Normally, when you download an app from the Play Store, it tells you all the permissions it wants in a single aggregate list, and you only have the option to accept or decline that list in full," said Toby Weir-Jones, GM at Blackphone.
Although the Blackphone is very secure, it is not exactly NSA-proof. In fact, Mike Janke, CEO and co-founder of Blackphone, is determined not to delude customers into thinking that Blackphone will gurantee the safety of tehir data.
"There's no such thing as 100-percent secure," said Janke. "And there's no such thing as an NSA-secure phone. If you have a phone it can always be hacked."
Still, Janke says, Blackphone is far more secure than any other device currently on the market. Blackphone plans to release more secure smartphone sin the near future, but for now, the company is hoping that Blackphone provokes change in the mobile industry.
The Blackphone is up for preorder with a $629 price tag. Amazingly enough, the price includes the Blackphone and the Secret Circle subscription, which makes it a real bargain. The Blackphone will start shipping to the United States in June 2014.