By Rebekah Williams
New smartphone offers encrypted calls, texts and contact lists
Long before the NSA scandals, plans were in the works for a new phone with increased privacy settings.
Mike Janke, a former Navy SEAL, creator of the email encryption program Pretty Good Privacy and CEO and co-founder of the company Silent Circle, is releasing the Blackphone.
“We were working on this long before the Snowden release,” claims Janke.
While the Blackphone looks like a typical Android phone, it sets itself apart by claiming to put “privacy and control directly in the hands of its users.”
The Blackphone has a 4.7-inch HD screen, IPS display, 16 GB storage, LTE and an eight-megapixel camera. What makes this phone different is its privacy apps.
The phone comes complete with the Silent Circle privacy app package.
Silent Cirlcle includes: Silent Phone, an app enabling peer-to-peer encrypted VoIP calls; Silent Text, a messaging encryption app; and Silent Contacts, a safeguarded contact list, preventing against other apps that could skim one’s contact list.
These benefits only exist when contacting between two Blackphones.
However, everyone who buys a Blackphone will receive three one-year subscriptions to give out to friends and family.
Once that subscription runs out, those recipients must choose between paying $10 per month to continue their benefits, outright buying a Blackphone themselves or returning to regular cellular communications.
Other benefits of the Blackphone include SpiderOak, a five GB encrypted data backup, and Disconnect, a search provider that utilizes a VPN to make Internet searches anonymous.
Additionally, the Blackphone blocks a list of known trackers that companies use to target advertisements, preventing information from being accessed and sold.
The purchase of a Blackphone entitles the purchaser to a free two-year subscription to all of these perks, currently available to iPhone and Android users for a fee.
Despite all of this, Silent Circle is not naïve about its product.
“There’s no such thing as a 100 percent secure phone, and there’s no such thing as an NSA-secure phone. If you have a phone, it can always be hacked,” warns Janke.
Most privacy and security issues with Android phones come from apps.
Third-party apps from Google run no differently on Blackphone than on a regular Android and, thus, are subject to the same security hacks.
While on regular smartphones you are forced to either accept or decline permission, in full, for apps to access your information.
When you download an app on the Blackphone, you have the option to choose which apps have access to private information, such as your location or contact information.
Pre-orders are already being accepted, and phones will be mailed out in June 2014.
Buying the phone off-contract costs $629, which is cheaper than the current cost of the unlocked and contract-free iPhone 5S, at $649.
However, on-contract, the iPhone 5S drops to $199 for the 16 GB version.
Silent Circle is aware that many consumers have no need for their privacy settings, and they are in no way attempting to compete with the likes of the iPhone.
That being said, they have a goal of 10 million sales per year for the first three years on the market.
Silent Circle is planning future devices with privacy settings along the same lines as the Blackphone, possibly including a tablet version.
This raises the question of whether or not many millions of Americans really need advanced privacy for their daily communications.
Ever since the Snowden leaks, there has been increasing paranoia surrounding government surveillance.
The Blackphone may provide a form of relief for the average person who now feels that he or she is under suspicion and observation by the NSA.
Will the Blackphone be the newest technological craze or will it turn out to be an investment flop?
Its success or failure will be completely dependent on consumer interest.