Blackphone

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Blackphone
Blackphone.png
Manufacturer SGP Technologies, SA, a wholly owned subsidiary of Silent Circle
Type Smartphone
Release date 30 June 2014
Introductory price US$629 [1]
Operating system Silent OS
System-on-chip used Tegra 4i[2]
CPU 2 GHz Quad Core SoC
Memory 1 GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
Storage 16 GB flash
Display 1280x800 4.7 in (120 mm) diagonal IPS LCD
Camera Rear: 8 MP with flash
Front: 5 MP
Connectivity Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4/5 GHz); GPS; Bluetooth v4.0
Power 2,000 mAh
Online services Bundled secure voice/video/text/file sharing and VPN service
Weight 119 g
Website www.silentcircle.com

The Blackphone is a smartphone built to ensure privacy, developed by SGP Technologies, a wholly owned subsidiary of Silent Circle. Originally, SGP Technologies was a joint venture between the makers of GeeksPhone and Silent Circle. Marketing is focused upon business users, stressing that employees often conduct business using private devices and services that are not secure and that the Blackphone service readily provides users with options that ensure confidentiality when needed. Blackphone provides Internet access through VPN.[3] The telephone runs a modified version of Android called SilentOS that comes with a bundle of security-minded tools.[4] On 30 June 2014, the Blackphone began to ship advance orders.[5]

Background[edit]

The concept of an encrypted telephone has been an interest of Silent Circle founder and PGP creator, Phil Zimmermann,[6] for a long time. In a video on the Blackphone web site, Zimmermann said,

I had to wait for the rest of the technology infrastructure to catch up to make it possible to do secure telephony. PGP was kind of a detour for me while waiting for the rest of the technology to catch up to make really good secure telephony possible.[4]

Aaron Souppouris of The Verge stated:

The Blackphone looks like a fairly standard Android phone. It has a 4.7-inch HD (the exact resolution has yet to be announced) IPS display, a 2GHz quad-core processor, 16GB of storage, an 8-megapixel camera, LTE — pretty much everything you'd want in a smartphone, and very little you wouldn't. Produced by Silent Circle, a company with an existing portfolio of security- and encryption-related software[7]

The Blackphone also allows insecure communications. Mike Janke, CEO and co-founder of Silent Circle, has suggested there are certain calls people want to encrypt, but "if you're ordering a pizza or calling your grandma", it's unlikely you'll feel the weight of criminals on your shoulders. "This is why Blackphone is unique — it gives the user the chance to choose the level of privacy."

Blackphone runs a custom-built Android OS called SilentOS. The operating system essentially "closes all backdoors" usually found open on major mobile operating systems.[citation needed] Some major features of SilentOS are anonymous search, privacy-enabled bundled apps, smart disabling of Wi-Fi except trusted hotspots, more control in app permissions, and private communication (calling, texting, video chat, browsing, file sharing, and conference calls). Geeksphone also claims the telephone will receive frequent secure updates from Blackphone directly.[4]

It supports the following 2G, 3G, and 4G bands, respectively:

  • In North America (Region2): GSM: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz; HSPA+/WCDMA: 850 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 MHz (42 Mbit/s); LTE FDD bands: 4/7/17 (Cat. 3 100 Mbit/s)
  • Rest of world (Region1): GSM: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz; HSPA+/WCDMA: 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 MHz (42 Mbit/s); LTE FDD bands 3/7/20 (Cat. 3 100 Mbit/s)

LTE Cat. 4 (150 Mbit/s) is under development.

In early 2015, Geeksphone sold its part of SGP Technologies to Silent Circle to focus on wearables sold under the brand Geeksme. 14 engineers from Geeksphone, including Javier Agüera, remained in SGP. [8]

In the summer of 2015, Silent Circle announced that they would be releasing a successor to the Blackphone, the Blackphone 2, in September 2015.[9] It has a 5.5-inches full HD screen with Gorilla glass, and a faster Qualcomm Snapdragon Octa-Core Processor. The price also has been increased to US$799.00. Blackphone 2 does not have a removable battery.

Services bundled[edit]

  • A one-year subscription to Silent Circle’s secure voice and video calling and text messaging services, plus a one-year "Friend and Family" Silent Circle subscription that allows others to install the service on their smartphones.
  • One year of SpiderOak cloud file storage and sharing, limited to 5 GB per month.[10]

Kismet Smart Wi-Fi Manager comes pre-installed. It also includes an international power adapter kit and a headset.

Reception[edit]

Ars Technica praised that the Blackphone's Security Center in PrivatOS gives control over app permissions, such as the bundled Silent Phone and Silent Text services that anonymise and encrypt communications so no one can eavesdrop on voice, video, and text calls. They also praised the Disconnect VPN and Search that keeps web trackers from the telephone and anonymises web searches and Internet traffic. The Ars Technica reviewer did not like that the telephone’s performance is mediocre, noting that using a custom OS means no Google Play or any of the other benefits of the Google ecosystem, spotty support for sideloaded apps, and reliance on Amazon or other third-party app stores.[10]

The telephone's original launch quantity is unknown, but was reported to have sold out shortly after the launch began.[11] Since then, Blackphone has resumed normal sales.

As of June 2015, a Blackphone was on exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum and one had been added to the collection of the International Spy Museum.[6]

Problems with Blackphone production and near bankruptcy[edit]

In 2016, Silent Circle had significant financial problems, caused by a significant overestimate of how many phones they could sell. This led to the near bankruptcy of the company.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nick Summers (2014-02-24). "Anti-NSA Blackphone Smartphone Now Available to Pre-Order for $629". Thenextweb.com. Retrieved 2017-07-18. 
  2. ^ Bakalar, Jeff (2014-04-28). "Nvidia's Tegra chip powers ultrasecure Blackphone". CNET.com. Retrieved 2017-07-18. 
  3. ^ Hannes A. Czerulla. "Das Blackphone soll die totale Überwachung stoppen | heise online". Heise.de. Retrieved 2017-07-18. 
  4. ^ a b c Brodkin, Jon. "Creator of PGP e-mail encryption making secure Android 'Blackphone'". Ars Technica. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  5. ^ "Privacy-centric Blackphone now shipping to pre-order customers". TechSpot.com. 2014-06-30. Retrieved 2017-07-18. 
  6. ^ a b Ranger, Steve (23 June 2015). "Defending the last missing pixels: Phil Zimmermann speaks out on encryption, privacy, and avoiding a surveillance state". TechRepublic.com. 
  7. ^ Souppouris, Aaron. "Blackphone: an Android phone that puts privacy first". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  8. ^ La española Geeksphone sale del proyecto Blackphone, el móvil antiespías, Marimar Jiménez, Cinco Días, 27 February 2015
  9. ^ Chris O'Brien (2015-08-21). "Blackphone 2 from Silent Circle will test whether security is a priority for smartphone buyers". VentureBeat.com. Retrieved 2017-07-18. 
  10. ^ a b "Blackphone Details". [SGP Technologies]. Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  11. ^ "Shipping Starts on Blackphone, World's First Privacy-Optimised Smartphone | Mobile Marketing Magazine". Web.archive.org. 2014-07-01. Archived from the original on 2014-07-01. Retrieved 2017-07-18. 
  12. ^ Thomas Fox-Brewster (2016-07-06). "Sorry Privacy Lovers, The Blackphone Is Flirting With Failure". Forbes.com. Retrieved 2017-07-18. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]