Encryption communications firm Silent Circle of the United States and Spanish smart phone maker Geeksphone today unveiled a US$629 smart phone powered by a security-hardened version of the Android operating system.

The Swiss-based startup Blackphone created by the two firms introduced its inaugural product, the Blackphone at the Mobile World Congress expo in Barcelona.

Even before Blackphone’s release, interest in the handset spiked due to the due to media reports of the U.S. National Security Agency’s mobile data surveillance activities leaked by former NSA security contractor Edward Snowden, according to Jon Callas, chief technology officer of Silent Circle.


He also promised that the Blackphone will not be their only product and that other security and privacy-enhanced mobile devices will be coming out soon.

Callas and co-founder Phil Zimmerman, known as the creator of the PGP public-key encryption system are worked with Android-phone maker Geeksphone to develop Blackphone.

Blackphone looks like a typical Android smart phone but it runs of a hardened version of the OS called PrivatOS. Its standard apps include secure calling and text messaging, encrypted file transfer and video chat.

Zimmerman said a secure communications channel is created when either two Blackphones or a Blackphone and another device running a Silent Circle app connect and exchange encrypted keys.

Communications between the devices are encrypted and intelligible to intermediaries.

The BlackPhone has a 2GHz quad core CPU, a 4.7” HD display, front and rear-facing camera, 2GB of RAM, 16GB on-board storage and LTE, HSPA= and Wi-Fi capabilities.

Callas said there has been a significant spike in interest in the BlackPhone

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