According to Pew Research, nearly half of Americans feel uneasy about sharing private information over a cell phone call. To address these privacy issues, Silent Circle, in partnership with Geeksphone, introduced the “Blackphone,” back in 2015. This is a secure smartphone designed to put privacy above all else. The two companies launched the product after the Edward Snowden leaks that illustrated the scale of data gathering of phone calls by intelligence agencies. A team of cryptologists, security, and mobile experts built the device that gives its users the ability to receive and make secure phone calls, transfer and store files and exchange secure texts without compromising their privacy. The Blackphone is powered by Android and is not tied to any vendor, carrier, or operator.
Blackphone is being marketed as the first “NSA-proof” smartphone, because of its purported ability to protect user communications by offering encrypted messaging and phone services.Silent Circle has secured the Blackphone all the way down to the chip level. The company partnered with Qualcomm and created a chip which could be securely partitioned. This enables users to set up unique spaces for work and personal information. Each space has its own specific app permission and privacy settings. Standard Android systems enable users to create separate spaces within the operating system, whereas Blackphone separates spaces at the chip level. The phone is easy to use and presented in a manner that is easy to understand.
However, Blackphone’s appeal has been limited due to poor hardware choices and its restricted nature. According to Forbes, The first Blackphone was a “failure from a technical and design perspective with underperforming but overpriced hardware.” Silent Circle originally expected 250,000 Blackphone orders from three distributor agreements. However, the deals fell through, as the actual sales were lower than expected. With fewer than 6,000 smartphones sold, the company has landed in deep financial trouble and is now restructuring its $5 million debt. Thus, the first Blackphone was a major financial failure for Silent Circle.
Silent Circle aimed to rectify the deficiencies in the original version of Blackphone by introducing Blackphone 2. It behaves like a standard Android smartphone with security-minded additions. Despite the launch of Blackphone 2, it still appears as if the demand for smartphones that protect user privacy is smaller than expected.