Silent Circle, the company behind the security-focused Blackphone 2, is taking aggressive steps to curb proliferation of “grey market” Blackphone sales on channels like eBay or Craigslist.
Customers who bought Blackphones from unauthorized sellers risk ending up with bricked devices, Ars Technica reports. An update to Silent OS, the Android-based operating system that powers the device, is disabling core functionality for some users. One customer in Germany, who bought a Blackphone 2 off eBay, was told by Silent Circle that his bricked phone is not genuine.
Upon review of the IMEI number you provided, it has been determined this device is not a genuine Silent Circle Blackphone 2. This device was not sold by Silent Circle or an approved vendor of Silent Circle and, therefore, we are unable to provide any further assistance.
It’s not clear what the company means by “not genuine.” The devices in question could be counterfeits or “replicas” designed to scam gullible users. It’s also possible that the Blackphones that keep popping up on eBay are unauthorized units sold without Silent Circle’s approval. Ars Technica speculates that the contract manufacturer that built the Blackphone 2 for Silent Circle made more units than the “official” production run.
Silent Circle is going through tough times, after the original Blackphone flopped, leaving the company with a large number of unsold units. It’s possible that something similar has happened with the second generation of the device, and unsold Blackphone 2 units somehow ended up on the grey market.
Silent Circle did not dispute the veracity of the Ars Technica report and said it’s working aggressively to stop the sales of “unauthorized devices have been manufactured as Blackphones.”
Silent Circle’s heavy-handed tactics aside, the Blackphone 2 remains one of the better options for users who worry over the privacy of their communications.
Is the Blackphone 2 truly secure? That’s arguable, but one thing’s clear – buying one from a random seller on eBay is a bad idea, even if the price is very tempting. You not only risk getting your phone bricked via OTA, but you also have no guarantee that the software on the device is genuine, untampered with, or supported by Silent Circle. And that defeats the whole purpose of getting a secure phone.
Bottom line, if you’re interested in a Blackphone, only buy one from the official channels: Silent Circle in the Americas, Kick Mobiles and Styx in EMEA, and Dialog Hub in Asia Pacific.