Want a secure smartphone? There are a few options available: Samsung’s Android phones use the company’s Knox security technology. BlackBerry emphasizes its own security solution. Silent Circle designed its own custom version of Android focused on security and privacy for the Blackphone.
But the Turing Phone from Turing Robotic Industries may be one of the most unusual security-focused phones to date. It has a unique design that lacks even a headphone jack or a USB port, because the company wants to make it as difficult as possible for unauthorized users to get data from the phone.
The company unveiled the phone earlier this year and plans to begin taking pre-orders July 31st for $610 and up.
I’ve been reading about the phone for a little while, but to be honest, I wasn’t sure whether to take it seriously since I’d only seen rendered pictures of it rather than real-world photos. But now the folks from Android Authority have posted a hands-on video showing a semi-functional prototype. The Turing Phone may not be finished… but it certainly looks like a real product.
The phone will have a 5.5 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM, and 16GB to 128GB of storage. It will ship with Android Lollpop software, a 3,000 mAh battery, and 13MP rear and 8MP front cameras.
Here are the things that make it really stand out:
- Case made with “Liquidmorphium” alloy for durability (it’s a mix of zirconium, copper, aluminum, nickel, and silver)
- Fingerprint scanner built into the side of the phone, where you can login with a thumbprint
- Multi-factor authentication software which requires a fingerprint scan and a password, pin, or pattern swipe to unlock certain features
- Waterproof design that doesn’t require port covers
OK, but what about the lack of a headphone jack? No problem… Turing figures you can use Bluetooth headphones, speakers, or other accessories.
There’s a proprietary charging port in place of a USB adapter… because Turing doesn’t want to make it easy to connect the phone to a PC. If you want to transfer data to and from the phone, the company wants you to do it using a WiFi connection.
The Turing Phone is an unusual looking device that’s designed to offer durability and security. But the decision to use a non-standard charger and to leave out the traditional audio hardware could turn off some users… as might the idea of ordering a high-priced phone from a company with no real track record.
Still, if you’re interesting in pre-ordering a phone, Turing plans to charge $610 for a phone with 16GB of storage, $740 for a model with 64GB, and $870 for a 128GB version. Those prices include a Bluetooth headset, speaker, game controller, and keyboard which are part of a bonus package for customers that pre-order the Turing Phone.
Because a phone with wifi & bluetooth turned on is so much more secure than one with a usb port …
They should put a photo of this turd in the dictionary in the definition of ‘security theater.’ Pull the headphone jack for -SECURITY- reasons? Ok, if they were pulling all external ports to make it more watertight maybe, but they left a charging port. And instead of the universal microUSB they use their own closed brick. Making the default USB action “Charging Only” does the same thing for security. Sorry chumps but if it has BT, WiFi and a cell radio it isn’t closed off. At. All. And if it runs any of the off the shelf operating systems it isn’t secure. At. All.
The whole rooting phones game depends on a never ending stream of exploitable security flaws, and is there a phone that can’t be rooted or jailbroken? Which means they aren’t secure. Is there any software stack that doesn’t see multiple remote exploits against it per month? Yet most phones get one or two updates during their service life. Is this vendor promising weekly updates for a defined service life? Then it isn’t even trying to be secure and the updates are almost all cases of fixing problems after they are seen in the wild.
If you want a secure phone, buy a burner. Then your conversation is between you, the other side of the call, the phone company and the NSA. And that is as close as you are getting unless you are a nation state actor or willing to invest an utterly impractical amount of time and money in the problem.
Why the proprietary charging port though? Plenty of dumb-phones still using microUSB for charging only, and not going to fall foul of the harmonising legislation whenever the powers that be finally get their bricks in a pile.
Their decision seems absurd on its face. You can secure a USB port on a smartphone by simply not having any connections to the USB pins which would normally transmit data, leaving only the power connections intact.
Also, isn’t it possible to transmit data over BT? I don’t do it because my desktop doesn’t have BT, but I thought it was possible.
Agreed, it would have been more in keeping with the portless-waterproof-secure theme to have made it Qi-charging only…
This would be popular with companies that issue smartphones to employees who have access to sensitive info. Anyone with their corporate exchange account setup on their smartphone would benefit from this type of security.
“Multi-factor authentication ….. to unlock certain features” This is big. I’ve always wanted this in Android. To be able to lock specific features. Some people don’t necessarily want to incur the hassle of password protecting their phone, when they only want to prevent someone from accessing either their photos, or maybe just their email.
Even for personal use, I would love that feature just so that I can safely hand my phone to a friend to show them something, and not worry about them flipping through all my photos.
I wouldn’t buy an expensive smartphone from a small company like this, but Samsung or one of the other big players should take a page from their book.
I get the impression that this company doesn’t have an intention of bringing this to market, they are probably just posturing for a buyout.
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