Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Data on Lockdown: Introducing the Blackphone

There are no clever misspellings or numbers in it's name- you won't see any plays on edgy words like "experience", "razor" or "infinity". If you didn't notice the three extra buttons at the bottom, you might mistake this phone for an ordinary iPhone. The Blackphone is simple, unassuming, low-key. On purpose.

With mobile hackers becoming more prevalent in recent years and the NSA making headlines, you might wonder who exactly has access to your data? After all, all your bank numbers, contacts and your schedule are located in the same device. You don't have to be a secret agent to want a high-tech phone that doesn't track you and allows you privacy when you're calling and texting your friends.

The Blackphone by SGP Technologies is a response to this need for mobile security. For $629, you can rest easy knowing that you've your data on lockdown for the most part. Although it isn't NSA-proof, it has its own operating system called PrivateOS, which is still part of the Android family. In addition, there's the Security Center feature, which allows you to micromanage your app permissions. The website claims that it disables all but your trusted Wi-Fi hotspots, so there's no user tracking.

The Blackphone may look demure, but it has quite a long memory- it has a 4.7 inch screen, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal memory and an 8 megapixel camera. The real reason for the high cost is the software, though. The $629 price tag includes 2 years of SpiderOak and Disconnect, third-party security apps that add even more protection to your data, but that's another $240 when your subscriptions expire. It also includes 3 subscriptions for a year for 'Friends and Family' Silent Circle, which allows you to pick three people to talk to securely, but you'll end up paying $360 the next year when you renew. And there's no way to completely secure your email.

 Unfortunately, the Blackphone will only be available in three countries when its launched in June: Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have all agreed to try it out.

So is it worth it? For some, paying top dollar for ultra-high mobile privacy might not be worth it, but those wanting to lay low on the grid may find it worth the extra expense. After all, you can't put a price on security.

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