The wait is almost over for early adopters of Blackphone, an Android-based smartphone that promises enhanced privacy and security.
Geneva-based SGP Technologies, the phone's manufacturer, announced that the Blackphone handsets began shipping Monday to customers who pre-ordered them.
SGP is a joint venture between Silent Circle, a provider of encrypted communications services based in National Harbor, Maryland, and Geeksphone, a smartphone manufacturer based in Madrid. The two companies announced Blackphone, a phone that runs a customized version of Android called PrivatOS and bundles Silent Circle's secure messaging and calling services, at Mobile World Congress in February.
The device also comes preloaded with several privacy-focused apps and services that provide anonymous Web search, private browsing and secure storage. Those apps include Kismet Smarter WiFi Manager, which prevents connection history and other information leaks to wireless hotspots, Disconnect Secure Wireless for virtual private networking and SpiderOak for encrypted cloud storage.
The phone also has a built-in remote wipe feature, uses Disconnect Search to hide the user's IP address, browser cookies and other personal information from search engines and comes with a Security Center feature that allows users to control app permissions in detail.
The Blackphone costs US$629 and comes with two-year subscriptions to the bundled Silent Circle, SpiderOak and Disconnect secure communications and storage services.
The phone has a 4.7-inch IPS HD screen, is powered by a 2Ghz NVIDIA Tegra 4i quad-core system-on-a-chip coupled with 1GB LPDDR3 RAM and has 16GB of on-board storage space, extensible via a microSD card slot.
According to its creators, the Blackphone was designed to prevent bulk data collection and snooping by cybercriminals and intelligence agencies, but it cannot protect against targeted surveillance that involves the use of more sophisticated methods and exploits.
At the moment the device can't be bought through its official website because the initial inventory sold out, but SGP Technologies plans to begin accepting new orders on July 14.
Users in certain countries can buy the phone directly from their carriers. For example, Dutch telecommunications provider KPN will sell it to customers in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, following a partnership signed in February with the device manufacturer.