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An encrypted stealthy smartphone to debut at Barcelona mobile device trade show next month

A new Android-based smartphone designed to keep all your communications hidden from prying ears and eyes debuts in Barcelona next month.

The stealthy new Blackphone
promises to guarantee users anonymity and keep phone calls, text messages, video conferencing and browsing private by fully encrypting data on the phone.

Adding to the phone’s incognito image, promotional material features a shadowy hooded figure wearing dark glasses and dressed all in black riding an escalator, and tons of surveillance footage of people going about their everyday lives.

The phone is the product of Swiss-based SGP Technologies, which is a joint-venture between Maryland-based Silent Circle and Spanish start-up GeekPhones.

Early adopters and developers eager to take the new phone for a spin, will have to wait until next month, when the manufacturers say they will start taking pre-orders at the Mobile World Congress, Barcelona, Spain, Feb. 24.

The new device is being launched onto the international cell-phone market at a time when anyone with a secret to keep may be alarmed by the US NSA eavesdropping scandal that has revealed just how wide the net has been cast to collect
phone data.

The phone will run on a proprietary platform, PrivatOS, which appears to be Android with additional security features.

Few other details about the specs and features are available but the Blackphone will be unlocked and work with any GSM carrier, the manufacturers say.

Some background information about the companies that are involved in the joint venture might help to fill in some of the gaps and hint at what users can expect, however.

In Oct. 2012 Silent Circle, whose CEO Phil Zimmerman is leading the project, launched Silent Phone, a global encrypted video and voice service.

The service allows secure teleconferencing between subscribers for Android, iPhones and Windows computer users.

The company’s proprietary Silent Network operates on existing 3G, 4G cell phone networks and Wi-Fi and uses open sourced ZRTP encryption protocol invented by Zimmermann and Jon Callas, co-founder and CTO of Silent Circle, according to the company website.

Notably on the Secret Circle website touts the US military backgrounds of the company’s third co-founder, Mike Janke, and chief operations officer, Vic Hyder, both former Navy SEALs.

Until August last year, the company also provided an email service.

At the time the Silent Circle announced that it could not guarantee the privacy of the data following the NSA scandal and that it had deleted its entire archive of customers encrypted emails from its servers, which according to the Washington Times are located in Canada and Switzerland.

Janke told the Times that even though the servers are overseas, there are diplomatic agreements between the United Sates and both countries so the data could be subject to US subpoenas.

Delivering the hardware side of the project is GeekPhones, led by the company’s co-founder and CEO Javier Agüera.

Last year GeekPhones launched two developer demo devices. The more powerful version called the Peak offered a 4.3″ qHD multi-touch screen, twin 1.2Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPUs, 8 MP camera at the back with flash and 2 MP on the front, a 4 GB hard drive that can be expanded to up to 32 GB with MicroSD, 512 MB of RAM, and a 1800 mAh battery.

The company reportedly since announced a second release, the Peak+ with 1 GB of RAM, being sold for under $200 – for the demo version.

Interestingly the Peak was designed to run on Firefox OS, or according to a press statement from Mozilla, the company’s Boot to Gecko, Linux-based open source pre-release software, and was not a supported Firefox OS device.

Geeks Phones’ website shows the Peak and to be sold out with no information about further iterations.


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