Reviews

Blackphone smartphone review: Hands on

Is this the most secure Android smartphone on the planet?

The small Blackphone stand at MWC has been overwhelmed with attendees looking to get more information about the Android "privacy phone" which is available to pre-order online and due for release in June.

Running a customised version of Android - dubbed PrivatOS' - the Blackphone aims to equip users with privacy tools so they can keep data locked down. It's not NSA-proof' but the device will provide you with more control over your data than commercial handsets on the market, it is claimed, and could be deployed to staff who handle confidential data.

Control your privacy

Key apps include Security, which provides users with an overview of how to protect data.

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App permissions allows you to fine tune location settings. So, for example, you can allow apps to have access to your "Coarse location" - locating you to 100 feet, but can turn off "Fine-grained location" which can give away your exact location.

Meanwhile, a Smarter Wi-Fi Manager allows users to set up trusted Wi-Fi networks. Once a user is out of range of a network, the device will automatically switch off the wireless radio, preventing data leakage to unsecured networks, saving battery power. It also has power to set the Wi-Fi connection on a timer.

Blackphone will not have the Google Play app store pre-loaded, but there will be nothing to stop users from side-loading it onto their device and then downloading applications.

Bundled features

Priced at $629, one of the best bits of the device is the services which are bundled in. You get a two-year subscription to services from Silent Circle, Disconnect (privacy tracker), and file-sharing website SpiderOak. Blackphone owners also get a one-year subscription to Silent Circle for up to three members of their friends and family. 

Blackphone claim if users purchase the device and the services separately it would cost $1508 in total.

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Hardware

The hardware might not be as eye-catching as the software, but effort has gone in to make the device desirable.

The Blackphone has a 4.7in HD IPS display, 2GB of RAM, 8-megapixel camera, 16GB of storage and support for 4G, Bluetooth 4 and Wi-Fi 802.11n. It's powered by a 2GHz quad-core chip, but the firm has yet to publicly confirm whether this is using technology from ARM or Intel.

Due to launch in June, IT Pro reckons the Blackphone has the potential to be an asset to those concerned about personal and corporate data leaking to third parties. Although it will initial be available online, Blackphone has signed up with an operator in Holland and is also in talks with UK networks to stock the device. 

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