MWC 2014: Privacy-Focused Blackphone Enters The Market

Blackphone, the joint venture between pro-privacy communications provider Silent Circle and Spanish smartphone manufacturer Geeksphone, has revealed its first handset at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, promising secure phone calls that are protected against the intrusion of hackers and government agencies.

The Blackphone is available to pre-order at $629 (£377), distributed by KPN in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. The company promises that certain data will not even be shared with the operator, to the point that updates to the privacy-focused PrivatOS will be sent over-the-air by Blackphone, not carriers.

Privacy focus

Phil Zimmerman, co-founder of the Silent Circle and author of Pretty Good Privacy, told the audience at MWC that Blackphone is the culmination of his work to make secure phone calls a reality.

“I’ve been interested in making secure phone calls longer than I’ve been interested in making secure email,” he said. “When I first started trying to make secure phone calls, I noticed that the enabling technology wasn’t ready yet and while I was waiting, I made PGP.”

“The entire reason for the phone to exist is to protect your privacy. We’re not a phone company trying to add a privacy feature, we’re a privacy company making a phone.”

In addition to the Android-based PrivatOS, the Blackphone comes with a full suite of privacy-enabled applications, along with two-year subscriptions to the Silent Circle range of software – Silent Phone, Silent Text and Silent Contacts – along with private browsing and VPN from Disconnect and secure cloud storage from SpiderOak. It also ships with Smart Wi-Fi Manager, developed by Blackphone’s Mike Kershaw, and powerful remote wipe and recovery tools.

For everyone

Users will also receive three separate 12 month Silent Circle subscriptions they can give away, meaning they will be able to chat to friends family securely out of the box.

In addition to the privacy features, the Blackphone specifications compare favourably to other high-end smartphones. It’s powered by 2GHz processor, features 2GB of RAM and and 16GB of storage, a 5.7-inch display, an 8.1 megapixel camera and support for LTE networks.

Blackphone says it is a phone for everyone who wants to protect their privacy, not just business users, and claims that the overall package is worth $1059.

“I have spent my whole career working to uphold the objectives of privacy,” added Zimmermann.  “Now that the mobile technologies are mature enough, we couldn’t be more proud of the launch of Blackphone, the first mainstream, fully-integrated secure communications phone, designed for anyone to use as easily as the legacy phones they’re used to already.”

What do you know about MWC?

Steve McCaskill

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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