Silent Circle’s privacy-centric Blackphone 2 launches with full Play Store support

28 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Blackphone 2: NSA-thwarting Android smartphone goes on sale.

Worried about your smartphone privacy? The Blackphone 2 was announced at this year’s MWC and is described as “sexy and safe” by Silent Circle thanks to a slick design and enterprise-grade security features.

The 5.5-inch Android-based device is focused on privacy and security, delivering a pre-installed suite of apps that lets you make private, encrypted calls, send texts, precisely control what the phone’s apps can and cannot access and keep fully separate profiles with different levels of security.Blackphone 2, the sequel to the privacy-focused Blackphone, has launched today, promising to protect users against government surveillance and cyber attacks without compromising on functionality. The handset runs a new version of the firm’s Android-based SilentOS, and comes with features including Silent Circle’s Silent Phone app, which offers encrypted voice calls, messaging and file transfers.

While a few things changed since the phone’s launch — for example, its Android-based OS is now called Silent OS instead of PrivatOS, and the company has a new President and CEO, Bill Conner — it is the device we were promised in March, with an octa-core processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and a 13-megapixel camera. The original Blackphone, born out of a joint venture between Silent Circle and Geeksphone in 2014, claimed to be the first “secure by design” handset, offering full device encryption by default. Silent Circle’s privacy-focused app store is also included, as is Silent Meeting, which the firm claims is the world’s first truly encrypted conference calling platform. However, it was criticised by some for its lack of focus on design, and the fact that it did not offer access to Google Play, choosing instead to launch its own app store with a curated selection of privacy-optimised apps.

At the core of these is Silent Phone, which lets users make private voice calls and send encrypted messages (the messaging option was previously separated into an app called Silent Text, which has now been merged with Silent Phone). The phone is also certified for use with existing mobile data management systems, including MobileIron, Citrix, Good and SOTI, according to Silent Circle. “Today our privacy is increasingly threatened by governments, businesses and individuals,” said Bill Conner, president and chief executive of Silent Circle. “In addition, the growing number of companies where employees work on their own devices in and out of the office means that it is ever more vital to build smartphones that deliver on privacy. “People and enterprises want to take back control of their privacy but too often they don’t know how, or they feel they must compromise too much. Users can control and fine-tune their individual app permissions and the data the apps have access to, and can also build separate, secure “Spaces” for their sensitive business data and personal apps. The way it handles app permissions is smart: Instead of forcing people to accept or decline app requests for access to personal data, the phone lets you pick and choose which permissions you want to allow.

The device is the first component of Silent Circle’s Enterprise Privacy Platform (EPP), which combines software, services and devices to enable privacy at every level of business. Besides app permissions, you do get a respectable suite of privacy features for your money: Silent Circle’s PrivateOS 1.1 has a compartmentalized UI, putting up a virtual wall between the stuff you do when you’re working and what you do when you use the phone privately. Blackphone 2’s Silent Phone service makes encrypted calls and messages easy, and its Smart Wifi Manager prevents your phone from connecting to untrustworthy wifi. Blackphone 2 has decent but unexceptional hardware— a 5.5-inch screen, a 13 MP camera—and I’d be surprised if anyone bought it for its looks alone.

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