SGP Technologies has begun shipping its privacy-focused Blackphone, claiming the handset will protect users from intelligence agencies’ and criminal groups’ espionage campaigns.
The Blackphone is the first smartphone released by SGP Technologies and is a joint project between security firm Silent Circle and hardware company Geeksphone.
SGP announced the Blackphone in January but only unveiled the handset one month later at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) trade show.
It is aimed at individuals such as workers who regularly handle sensitive information. The Blackphone was listed as a key tool to help users protect themselves from government surveillance campaigns, such as the National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) PRISM.
PRISM is a mass-surveillance campaign that saw the NSA siphon vast amounts of web user data from numerous technology companies including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Apple.
SGP Technologies chief executive Toby Weir-Jones said fresh privacy concerns following PRISM helped increase interest in the Blackphone. He confirmed that the handset is currently sold out and will not be on sale again until 14 July with prices starting at $629.
“Blackphone’s arrival puts mobile privacy directly in the hands of professionals and consumers everywhere,” Weir-Jones said.
“In a world where devices and apps increasingly offer features only in return for users’ personal or sensitive information, the pent-up demand for Blackphone shows there is strong, international demand for our brand’s devices and services that stand apart by placing privacy before all else.”
At the time of publishing SGP Technologies had not responded to V3‘s request for comment on exactly how many Blackphones it has sold since it began shipping, or whether the firm is able to meet pre-order demand.
The Blackphone runs using a custom PrivatOS operating system. PrivatOS is a radically altered version of Android KitKat, which integrates Silent Circle’s Silent Text, Silent Phone, Silent Contacts and Silent Keys services directly into it.
The custom tools are designed to let users securely make and receive phone calls, exchange texts, transfer and store files and video chat, without fear that their activities are being monitored or recorded.
The tools work by setting up a secure line of communication between phones with the applications installed. The lines are encrypted using a self-generating and deleting encryption key that is never stored on the phone or by Silent Circle.
The technology does not work on communications between a Blackphone and regular phone without Silent Circle services.
Silent Circle has bundled the Blackphone with three complimentary one-year subscriptions to Silent Circle services that can be shared with friends, family or co-workers to help get round this.
As an added safety measure, the Blackphone comes bundled with the Kismet Smart WiFi Manager and two-year-long access to Disconnect VPN and SpiderOak encrypted storage.
The Blackphone also features top-end hardware and comes loaded with a powerful quad-core 2GHz Nvidia Tegra 4i processor, 2GB of RAM, 4.7in HD in-plane switching (IPS) display, an 8MP rear camera and 16GB of internal storage.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Blackphone.