- Mid-tier performance
- Non-removeable battery
- Weak camera
There’s no question that with the rise of mobile phones and the Internet, more of your personal information is out in the world than ever before. Mobile phones act as offices, address books, photo albums and journals. They’re a gold mine of private data that hackers or investigators would love to see.
Whether you’re storing personal business information on your mobile or simply want a little more peace of mind when using your phone, the Silent Circle Blackphone 2 claims to offer a level of security that you won’t find in any other Android handset. But does the specs and feature descriptions add up to a good experience and is the handset actually more secure?
We’ve scoured reviews on this secretive new handset to find out what people are saying.
The phone’s design definitely has a touch of stealth inspiration. The all-black plastic case and non-descript markings don’t scream “I’M USING A SECURE PHONE!” In fact, most reviewers didn’t mention much about design at all. ZD Net mentioned, “It's curved corners and lightly textured edges makes it easy to hold, despite being on the larger size.” Otherwise, there were a few grumblings about fingerprints--an issue to be expected in a glass backed phone.
Flipping around to the front, you’ll find a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS display. Reviews on this were notably better. Forbes stated, “The 5.5-inch full HD screen is a real beauty, bettering or equalling most others on the market.” TechRadar agreed, noting, “The display is bright and quality-wise it's on par with other efforts at the high-end of the smartphone market.” The resolution and screen size should offer crisp text and good detail in movies and games.
Keeping the phone moving along at a respectable pace, you’ll find a 1.7Ghz octa-core Snapdragon processor. While not the fastest processor available, ArsTechnica says, “Rest assured, the Blackphone 2 will handle most daily usage with little trouble.” In all, reviews on the performance of the handset were positive.
It’s not a flagship or gaming phone by any stretch, but it should provide enough power for most users. With 3GB of RAM, basic multitasking and productivity work showed no signs of delays either.
32GB of internal storage ensures you can fit all of your favorite apps and content on the phone. While there is support for microSD cards up to 128GB in capacity, keep in mind that security of external data is not provided.
Where the handset starts to differ from other high-end Android phones is the software. Silent Circle’s SilentOS is a heavily modified version of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. While it looks like a fairly stock version of Android on the surface, it offers options you won’t find on any other phone currently available. Granular permission controls, multiple profiles known as Spaces and default 128-bit AES encryption provides the basis for improved security. There’s also the Silent Phone app which provides end-to-end encryption for communications.
The phone does allow sideloading apps and access to Google Play. So security breaches are not impossible. However, the level of control over permissions and data access are second-to-none. ZD Net tried out all the settings and declared, “By patching up the conventional ways that a hacker (or government spy) can attack, the Blackphone 2 goes far above and beyond in securing your data than any other smartphone on the market today.”
To keep your phone up and running throughout the day, Silent Circle included at 3060mAh battery. While not removable, nearly every review found they had enough juice on a single charge to last an entire day. Forbes put the QuickCharge 2.0 feature to the test and found, “Battery life was fairly typical, a full charge taking roughly three hours and lasting just over 24 hours when consistently used.”
One area where the reviews were less than stellar was the phone’s cameras. The 13+ megapixel rear camera and 5+ megapixel front-facing lens took a beating from most reviewers. You won’t find the laser focusing, wide-aperture lenses or optical stabilization in similarly priced phones. Instead, you’ll find an average camera. The Guardian took their phone around snapping shots about town and ruled, “The 13-megapixel camera is nothing to shout about. It produces average photos in good lighting, but washed out, dull images when shooting indoors under artificial light.
The five-megapixel front-facing camera is fixed focus and equally anaemic.”
Overall, reviews agree the the phone does exactly what it claims to do. However, all agreed the price might be a tough sell. You’re looking at flagship prices for the specs of last year’s flagship phones. But is the price for the added security worth it? That’s up to you.
Wired applauded the phone, saying, “This new device blows apart every preconception you might have about a ‘security phone.’ It doesn’t feel like a security phone. It feels like a regular phone. Regular apps will run on it.” ArsTechnica was impressed, noting, “So it might not have a stylus, the fastest processor, or the most powerful graphics engine, but it will serviceably perform as a smartphone while not giving you up to surveillance.”
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