The Blackphone is a smartphone for folks who aren’t satisfied with the privacy and security features offered by Android, iOS, or other popular operating systems… and who are willing to pay a premium price for those features.
The phone sells for $629, has the specs of a mid-range Android handset, and stands out from the crowd thanks to its enhanced security features including a custom version of Android called privatOS.
Here are some of the things that make the BlackPhone different from a standard Android phone:
- Built-in support for encrypted voice and video calls and text messages using Silent Circle‘s apps and services (the recipient has to use the apps too)
- Anonymous web browsing and VPN services powered by Disconnect
- Prevent WiFi hotspots from capturing your data and using it to track your location
- SpiderOak encrypted cloud storage
- Security Center which gives you control over permissions for all of your apps
Since PrivatOS is based on Android 4.4 KitKat, it can run most Android apps, but you get more control over what information your phone will share with those apps.
Of course there’s a trade-off: this isn’t a Google certified phone, so there’s no Google Play Store or official Google Maps, Google Chrome, Gmail, or YouTube apps. But if you’re serious about privacy you probably didn’t want Google loading all of those apps and services on your phone anyway since it can use them to track data about you (generally for the purposes of ad targeting).
You can easily install a third-party app store like the Amazon Appstore or sideload apps.
Ars Technica has a detailed review of the Blackphone and finds that it lives up to its promise of providing a modern smartphone experience, but with more privacy and security. On the other hand, since secure voice and video calls are routed over a data connection, call quality can vary greatly depending on your internet connection.
While a phone like this will likely have limited appeal in the consumer space, it could attract corporate customers who don’t want to share their data with Google, Apple, Microsoft, or other service providers.