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Super-Secure Blackphone Shipping by July

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 15 comments

UPDATE 11:30 AM EDT 6/17/2014: Blackphone's developers informed us that Google Play apps may not be available on the phone.

If you wish your smartphone had more security and privacy features, you might soon be switching phones: pre-orders for the Blackphone, codeveloped by secure communications provider Silent Circle and hardware developer Geeksphone, will hit the market before the start of July. Several thousand of the phones have already been pre-ordered, according to the Blackphone's makers, and the phone is already sold out.

Announced this past January, the Blackphone will cost $629 USD and be available on a number of service providers in the Americas and Europe. It has a number of privacy and security features, including encrypted phone calls, texts and video chats, a custom Android-based operating system and a Virtual Private Network to anonymize users' web traffic.

MORE: 5 Essential iPhone Security Tips

The Blackphone was created to address concerns over the National Security Agency's widespread surveillance, as revealed by former NSA employee Edward Snowden. Its privacy and security features also go a long way to protecting users from cybercriminals and hackers.

The phone has a 4.7-inch 720p screen, 16GB of storage, an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 5-MP front camera. Google Play Android apps are compatible with its custom Android-based operating system, PrivatOS.

The encryption used on Blackphone is end-to-end, meaning that even when communicating with less secure phones, users' content will be encrypted from their own Blackphone to Silent Circle's servers.

But even then Silent Circle can't read the messages sent through its servers, because the keys that "lock" the encryption reside only on individual Blackphones. This means that even if a government orders Silent Circle to disclose any or all of its records, the company will only be able to hand over encrypted and therefore unreadable data. 

The Blackphone comes with three one-year subscriptions to Silent Circle's encrypted communications app that users can hand out to their friends. This is to ensure that conversations are entirely encrypted between the communicating phones. The price also includes a two-year subscription for encrypted cloud storage provider SpiderOak, and two years of the Disconnect Secure Wireless VPN mobile client.

UPDATED: Although it was previously stated that Blackphone would be compatible with Android apps from the Google Play store, a representative told us that Blackphone's creators could not currently guarantee that Google Play apps would be available on Blackphone's PrivatOS operating system.

Email jscharr@techmedianetwork.com or follow her @JillScharr and Google+.  Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+.

Add your comment Display 15 Comments.
  • -7 Hide
    oczdude8 , June 16, 2014 4:11 PM
    Sounds like a great phone for drug dealers and mob bosses.
  • 6 Hide
    chicofehr , June 16, 2014 4:12 PM
    I want to see a comparison between this and the Blackberry 10 phones in security. It has android so I and interested if they were able to pull it off.
  • 2 Hide
    SamsChoice , June 16, 2014 6:33 PM
    THE NSA NEEDS TO BE RAZED TO THE GROUND
  • 3 Hide
    jgrabb , June 16, 2014 7:30 PM
    Super secure my you know what. Come on a 630 dollar phone needing fee subscriptions to maintain security? Buy a 200 dollar BlackBerry with no fees to maintain your security
  • 2 Hide
    vaughn2k , June 16, 2014 7:59 PM
    Not sure if this is really super -secure phone, How do we really know? How?
  • 3 Hide
    sc14s , June 16, 2014 9:31 PM
    Quote:
    I want to see a comparison between this and the Blackberry 10 phones in security. It has android so I and interested if they were able to pull it off.

    I feel like this system will win out over the blackberry system for security because it was built entirely for that purpose.

    Quote:
    THE NSA NEEDS TO BE RAZED TO THE GROUND

    Can't say i'm far off from that thought, it certainly needs to be reigned in big time. IDK about something that extreme however.
  • -2 Hide
    jasonelmore , June 16, 2014 11:13 PM
    i'm tired of sites and media blindingly insinuating encryption cannot be broken. Come on guys, this is the US Government. Encryption is Math, and if you put enough computers to the task, you can break encryption. The NSA has server farms like Microsoft has Azure.

    Encryption is not the end all be all eighth wonder of the world.
  • -1 Hide
    paradigital , June 16, 2014 11:40 PM
    So let me get this straight. all communication is encrypted and sent via Silent Circle's server farm? a) That's the blackberry method, and it wasn't the b-all and end-all of security, and b) surely "the powers that be" will just go to source rather than handset? Pointless phone is pointless. Oh, also, "secure" and "android", bwahahahaha.
  • 0 Hide
    cats_Paw , June 17, 2014 12:15 AM
    There is an old saying "The harder the shield, the sharper the sword".

    I doubt this will be any different. Personally, If the NSA wants so badly to know what I do at home, I am kinda sorry for them.
    Having so much power and using it for such pointless reasons is flat out embarrassing for humanity.
    On the flipside, Im quite sure anyone can figure a simple encryption to bypass NSA security. Not to mention you could just... you know... not use electronics...
  • 0 Hide
    hoofhearted , June 17, 2014 5:10 AM
    @jasonelmore, Assuming the NSA doesn't have a strong enough quantum computer running shor.qcl, I feel reasonably safe with the math at hand. I am more worried about getting punked by carriers and such with keystroke loggers (carrierIQ) or other such undiscovered implementation hacks.
  • -1 Hide
    icemunk , June 17, 2014 6:13 AM
    If I want a secure phone, I'll buy a Blackberry, not some overpriced knock-off. Thanks though.
  • 1 Hide
    brandonjclark , June 17, 2014 6:17 AM
    Quote:
    There is an old saying "The harder the shield, the sharper the sword".

    I doubt this will be any different. Personally, If the NSA wants so badly to know what I do at home, I am kinda sorry for them.
    Having so much power and using it for such pointless reasons is flat out embarrassing for humanity.
    On the flipside, Im quite sure anyone can figure a simple encryption to bypass NSA security. Not to mention you could just... you know... not use electronics...


    Exactly. If people realized how much resources are taken from us to fund this nonsense, well, let's just say I hope it would change some minds.
  • 0 Hide
    aminorex , June 17, 2014 8:45 AM
    Quote:
    Not sure if this is really super -secure phone, How do we really know? How?

    We will know when we can reproduce their executables from audited source code.
  • 0 Hide
    mySecure_Phone , June 18, 2014 1:55 AM
    You don't need to buy Blackphone to have safe mobile communication (texts, emails, calls). Better look at encryption software like mySecurePhone. It's a good for cell with Android and completely prevents from eavesdropping. So it's a perfect alternative for a bit too expensive Blackphone.
  • 0 Hide
    teh_chem , June 19, 2014 7:05 AM
    I think it's interesting to think that we have these different sorts of encryption, and that because the public hacking/enthusiast community says it's secure, and can't be defeated, means that there is no way to break encryption. I know it sounds super conspiracy theory, but it would not shock me at all that there is easy access to a supercomputer or network of supercomputers that the powers-that-be can use to crack encryption in a second or two. And all this stuff is just to make the public feel a little more warm and fuzzy.

    So that all being said, I don't understand how this could be secure if it's going to a non-secured phone on the other end. Even if it's sent secured from this handset to a server, it gets decrypted at that server and sent unencrypted to the other non-blackphone. Pretty pointless in that case.

    Curious if the components used within the phone are the same off-the-line parts that every other phone manufacturer uses. With all the rumors that the hardware itself is engineered to allow for snooping, all the software-end encryption doesn't matter if the people looking for stuff have access to it at the hardware level.
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