Announced at the beginning of this year, the Blackphone is a security focused Android device which tries to put “privacy and control directly in the hands of its users.” It is made by SGP Technologies, a joint venture between the secure communications provider, Silent Circle, and the Spanish mobile device manufacturer, Geeksphone. It was released in the spring but has failed to make any significant in-roads mainly due to its $629 price tag, and the fact that it has no Google services. Although the latter is understandable from a security point of view, the former is basically just wrong. If you want to offer security to the masses, you need to do it at a good price, otherwise no one will care.
But instead of dropping into the abyss of failed smartphone makers, Blackphone is still alive and kicking. The company has just announced that it will be releasing a new version of its Android based OS – PrivatOS, and that it will be opening the doors to the world’s first privacy-focused app store. Since the Blackphone handset doesn’t have access to Google Play, the new app store is an important advancement.
The new app store, which will be opened during January 2015, features curated apps specifically selected by Blackphone as the most secure privacy-optimized apps on the market. The new version of PrivatOS, which will be released in early 2015, will come pre-loaded with several of the apps from the new app store.
The big new feature of PrivatOS 1.1 is Spaces. Like glorified user accounts, Spaces gives users the ability to create separate self-contained ‘spaces’ for apps and data. This is potentially quite useful for people who use their devices at work and need to keep their personal data and work data separate. Not only can spaces separate work life from personal life, it can allow users to create a “parents only” space from a kid-friendly one, or any other kind of separate spaces.
The app store and Spaces both sound like steps in the right direction, but really Blackphone needs to release a cheaper model and then maybe it might gain some popularity.