Hands on: Blackphone review

'Only the paranoid survive'

What is a hands on review?
Take the power back

Early Verdict


  • +

    Nice design

  • +

    Plenty of security options


  • -

    UI looks a bit bland

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An anti-NSA smartphone. A year ago that would have meant very little to anyone. Five years ago and the idea of a smartphone that protects your data would have probably been met with a lot of shrugging.

But these are different times, and as more and more people realise that their data is a commodity - and as more Snowdens appear and data breaches unravel - there's a growing call to reclaim our data and re-empower ourselves.

Enter Blackphone, the smartphone that promises two things: privacy and control. Is it NSA-proof? No, but it's offering a level of security and data you certainly won't get with your Samsung Galaxy S5.


Blackphone is the offspring of a partnership between Geeksphone (a Spanish developer known for building open Android phones) and Silent Circle (an encrypted communications firm).

At its heart, the phone runs on a custom version of Android named PrivatOS. Via out-of-the-box apps, your phone calls and texts are encrypted and communicated via data, while web browsing is also promised to be completely anonymous.

That means the person on the other end will also have to have Secret Circle running for messages to be encrypted at both ends.


Power might not be the selling point here, but you're going to want some decent specs if this is to become your go-to phone. Luckily, the Blackphone hosts a 2GHz quad-core processor along with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage.

There's a 4.7-inch HD IPS display on the front and an 8-megapixel camera on the back. With a price tag of $629 (about £377, AU$700).


There are a number of security features in the phone, but one of the standout ones gives you total control over the exact level of access any app has to your phone or to the network. Why is a game trying to access your contacts? Block it.

Another interesting feature is the Smart Wi-Fi manager, which will ensure your Wi-Fi is only active in certain trusted areas, and that it shuts off the moment you leave that location.

Buying the phone will also get you a two year subscription to Silent Circle services, as well as three additional licences, each for a year, to give to family or friends.


It looks nice too, with its black shell and HD display. Yes, security just got a bit sexy.

That said, the final version of the phone that will arrive in June will be slightly different to the prototype we played with. We were told we can expect a few tweaks in the design, but a rep told us that the 4.7-inch screen will remain at the same size.

Early verdict

The Blackphone has got people talking, and for good reason. The phone itself is a nice device but at the end of the day, it's something that will rely on people's paranoia to sell. If data has value, so, apparently, does protecting it. The question right now is: do you consider $629 a reasonable price to do so?

Hugh Langley

Hugh Langley is the ex-News Editor of TechRadar. He had written for many magazines and websites including Business Insider, The Telegraph, IGN, Gizmodo, Entrepreneur Magazine, WIRED (UK), TrustedReviews, Business Insider Australia, Business Insider India, Business Insider Singapore, Wareable, The Ambient and more.

Hugh is now a correspondent at Business Insider covering Google and Alphabet, and has the unfortunate distinction of accidentally linking the TechRadar homepage to a rival publication.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.