Blackphone 2: Blackphone 2 Release
Published: September 29, 2015
Blackphone 2: Blackphone 2 Release, There are two things certain in life — death and taxes. But you can take a bet on a third: there’s almost nothing that’s unhackable.
In the wake of revelations of government surveillance and a nearly endless stream of reports of hacks and data breaches, there’s a reason to be paranoid. All too often hackers or spy agencies find a way into the most popular devices, but that’s where Geneva-based secure phone maker Silent Circle wants to make it almost impossible.
Blackphone 2, the company’s second generation security phone, builds on the successes of its debut incarnation by bolstering privacy and security features, while not compromising on what many want in a modern smartphone. It’s available to buy now globally for $799 .
Anyone who’s wanted to adopt a more secure approach to his or her online activity quickly encounters a harsh reality: setting up strong security is rarely easy. Most of the best security and privacy apps and services are many years old, having stood the test of time; Pretty Good Privacy for encrypted email, for instance, is now in its third decade. Built in a time when user experience and ease-of-use wasn’t considered, nowadays they seem clunky or impossible to use.
With that in mind, the Blackphone 2 streamlines and simplifies how it wants its users — primarily business users and the core privacy-minded consumer market — to think about security, making it almost immediately more appealing than most other security-focused products.
Is this a hack-proof phone? It’s not and it doesn’t pretend to be, said Javier Aguera, Silent Circle chief scientist, at a meeting in London. But by patching up the conventional ways that a hacker can attack, the Blackphone 2 goes far above and beyond in securing your data than any other smartphone on the market today.
Secure to the core
By far the most important feature of the phone is its security — through and through. The Blackphone 2 acts like any other Android phone, but with a twist: it also runs Silent OS, an enhanced version of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop operating system, which adds a number of additional security features to the device.
This second-generation phone also includes for the first time Google’s own services, like Drive, Gmail, Photos, and even the Play app store — meaning you can download all manner of mainstream third-party apps. That might have some heads scratching: An unfortunate truth is that many of the apps and services you use are not working in your favor, by containing security flaws or sucking up your valuable data to better serve ads. So how can Google’s services, which collect vast sums of data on its users, coexist with a privacy-based phone?
The key to the Blackphone 2’s success is a security umbrella feature, which combines a series of granular controls without compromising the overall experience.
The Blackphone 2 has everything you need in a consumer phone, including a strong 13-megapixel camera. It does the job well, but there are better phones on the market for picture taking.
Take the new Security Center, which sits in the bottom-right of the home screen, ready to take orders from the user — not the individual app, which has for all too long called the shots. It’s goal of this central port-of-call is twofold: to help users separate and compartmentalize apps and services, while offering an overarching and comprehensive set of controls over your phone’s features and functionality, superseding all other options buried deep in the phone’s settings.
There’s also the new Spaces feature, which allows users to build isolated, secure areas. Similar to setting up a new user profile on a computer, the Blackphone 2 has a bevy of finely-tuned options that customize the space’s apps, settings, and even networks to connect to, and the space’s lock-screen passcodes. The feature physically cuts off your data from other spaces, meaning if an app is compromised, it can’t get access to anything else outside that space. That means you can have a dedicated space for that sketchy game you downloaded and make sure it doesn’t touch those mission-critical apps, such as your bank, mobile wallets, or email accounts. If you’re particularly averse to Google’s data collection, you can create a walled-off space away from the stock Android or Google apps. Think of it as the incognito mode in the Chrome browser that’s extended to other apps as well.
Sans user manual or step-by-step instructions, it took a while to understand the full potential of these spaces. It may take some experimentation and fiddling, but it’s hard to misstep or get lost, thanks to the general simplicity of the spaces’ design. You can easily switch spaces from the pull-down menu, or even the lock screen.
There’s a set standard in Silent Circle’s books for what default security and privacy should look like, but the level of customization and choice is refreshing. Silent Phone, the company’s flagship encrypted voice and video calling and messaging service, comes preloaded on the device. The stock Android phone and messaging apps remain on the home screen, giving the user the option to make unencrypted phone calls or send a standard text message.
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