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Blackphone 2: Privacy Handset with Mainstream Looks

BARCELONA -- Silent Circle's privacy-minded Blackphone is back with a second edition built to deliver top-notch security while offering the looks and performance of a flagship smartphone. Revealed at Mobile World Congress 2015 today (March 2), the Blackphone 2 will help herald the launch of an improved PrivatOS that provides greater security features to both Blackphone handsets and the upcoming Blackphone+ tablet.   

Sporting a 5.5-inch full HD display and a glossy, Gorilla Glass 3-based construction, the Blackphone 2 is a decidedly larger and sleeker phone than its all-plastic predecessor. The black-and-silver smartphone felt sturdy, yet lightweight enough to be held comfortably. 

MORE: Blackphone Review

The Android-based PrivatOS software that powers both Blackphone and Blackphone 2 will soon receive a feature called Spaces for separating the user's work and personal lives. Spaces keeps enterprise and personal data in completely separate profiles that can be easily switched between from the lock screen. All apps and data saved on the enterprise side can be locked or wiped by an IT administrator if needed.

The Blackphone ecosystem will also soon gain Silent Meeting, a secure conference-call platform developed by Silent Circle that eschews access codes in favor of a visual interface that lets the host easily view and manage who's on the call.

Blackphone 2 is built to integrate easily with office-software platforms such as Citrix, and is notably more powerful than the original Blackphone model. The handset runs on an octa-core Qualcomm processor (Silent Circle didn't specify the model) with 3GB of RAM and packs 32GB of storage, a 13-MP rear camera and a 5-MP sensor in the front.

Released last year, the original Blackphone ($630 unlocked) provides security features such as encrypted calls, texts and contacts. We had mostly positive things to say in our review of the older model, in which we praised the phone's robust and easy-to-use privacy features. We did, however, find the phone's processing performance to be sub-par compared to that of the average mainstream smartphone.

The Blackphone 2 has the potential to bridge that performance gap, while improving on both the secure-communication features and user-friendly interface that impressed us on the original. Details are currently scarce on the phone's tablet counterpart, the Blackphone+, but Silent Circle seems committed to building an ecosystem in which all of its products provide the same security benefits.

We'll have a fuller assessment of the Blackphone 2's capabilities when the phone hits later this year for a currently unannounced price.

Mike Andronico is an associate editor at Tom's Guide. Follow Mike @MikeAndronico and on Google+. Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+