The Blackphone is one of the few smartphones on the market that focuses on total security and privacy of the owner. The company behind it doesn't claim its phone is quite "NSA-proof," but it does want to protect its customers against real-world security threats as much as possible.
Until now, you could only use the pre-installed apps that came with the Blackphone, which limited what its owners could do. You could also install third party app stores, but that could put you at risk, as the apps weren't vetted. Now, the company making Blackphone announced that the next update for its PrivatOS operating system will come with support for an app store. This should open up the Blackphone to many more security- and privacy-focused applications.
The update will also feature "Secure Spaces," which will allow Blackphone owners to create multiple secure sandboxes where they can try out apps without affecting the main security of the phone or compromise their data. The phone will come with the "Silent Space" by default, which includes the Blackphone's native applications.
The Secure Spaces feature was developed in partnership with Graphite Software, and it's similar to the virtualization features of Blackberries or Samsung's Knox-enabled devices.
"Secure Spaces brings choice to the mobile experience," said Alec Main, CEO of Graphite Software. "Until now, there were no options for segregating your apps and personal data. With Secure Spaces you can customize your device as you wish and let trusted third parties provide app recommendations without messing up your configuration or exposing your data."
The Blackphone's new app store could also become the company's first step towards turning its PrivatOS into a real platform, if it so chooses. Blackphone started out being a single phone with its own PrivatOS operating system and some pre-installed apps, and it's now already launching its own app store to expand the availability of apps for its customers.
In the future, we could see multiple devices, perhaps even made by other companies, that partner with Blackphone to use its PrivatOS operating system and app store full of secure applications. This would expand hardware choice for consumers, and in turn could increase the popularity and appeal of "PrivatOS phones" (perhaps they could use a catchier name such as "Blackphones," though, even if that's the company's own trademark right now).
This expansion would have its benefits as well as its risks, as Blackphone would have to heavily vet any other company's devices to ensure they are as secure as its own Blackphones. Anything less could put the credibility of the PrivatOS platform in jeopardy.
The Blackphone can be purchased from the company's online store for $629. The app store and "Secure Spaces" update will arrive in January.