Sunday, May 29, 2016

BlackPhone 2 Review

I've been excited about the Blackphone 2 for quite some time and finally switched over to it.  Partially because I want to make it harder for criminals, companies, and the government to intrude on my privacy, partially because I want to encourage the tech industry to implement smart security measures.  Why in the world does pandora demand access to my iPhone's calendar?  This has gotten out of hand.

Unfortunately, the Blackphone 2 is not ready for prime time.  Here's a short list of why.
  • Any attempt to update the OS is met with "Download failed" with no debug data for why it failed.
  • It's freaking huge.  One handed, fully 50% of the screen is out of your thumb's reach.  And the weight of it is killing my wrist.  And in a world where I need map on my phone while driving or coffee in my hand while texting, a phone this big is basically worthless. 
  • The touch screen is really inaccurate.  I'll tap the same icon 5-10 times before it's registered and acted upon.  Sometimes I'll tap an button in an app and SilentOS will pass the tap back to the home screen, opening a completely application
  • Google maps keeps failing to find my location, even though I've given it permission. 
  • Even though I blocked Facebook from accessing my location, it is able to access my location via Google Play Service.  So what's the point, Blackphone?  It's not granular permission if you're giving them a giant back door.
  • The volume/power combo for taking a screenshot is very hit or miss.
  • No built-in visual voicemail.  Gotta download your carrier's app.
  • Notifications take a TON of configuring.  Let me put it this way: new applications should not be able to display full notifications on a locked screen.  For example, Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger shouldn't default to publishing the entire text.  A private-by-design phone should at least only show the name of the contact, but preferably only show that a message exists.
  • The phone's usability is 5 years behind an iPhone.  Some examples:
    • My mom texted me a picture and I wanted to send it to my sister.  There's literally no way to copy/save a picture in BlackPhone's text app. 
    • Highlighting text is a real, real pain.  But copying it is impossible, because the copy button is at the very top the screen, 4 inches away from your thumb.
    • The triangle-circle-square buttons at the bottom of the screen are endless torture for me.  Apps like outlook have a set of buttons at the bottom of the screen and it's completely counter-intuitive to have two layers of buttons.  I accidentally reply to emails several times a day. 
    • To open the camera from a lock screen on an iPhone, you swipe upwards.  To do the same on the Blackphone you have to unlock the phone.  This is a big deal because I frequently want to record events transpiring around me, and I might miss it while unlocking the phone.
  • It takes forever to reboot.
  • It's noisy.  Why did I just get a notification that I took a screenshot?  I know I took a screenshot.  Why did the keyboard icon just appear in the upper right?  I know I'm using the keyboard. 
Some good things:
  • The display is great
  • Tethering works great
  • The wifi by GPS feature works great
  • I love the granular control "security center" where it works.  
  • Apps seem to be compatible and work just fine usually.
Google play services (as mentioned before) kills the whole point of the phone by handing control over:

I'm going to be asking Silent Circle if there's a new, smaller version coming out in the next couple months.  If not, I'll probably give this to some kid to use as a tablet.

1 comment:

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