The UnaPhone Zenith won't let users install any apps - and here's why

There are secure phones, like government-issued BlackBerries world leaders use, or the secure-but-not-quite-as-advertised BlackPhone by Swiss company Silent Circle. Then, there are straight-up paranoid phones like the UnaPhone Zenith, which is up on Indiegogo to get its initial push.

In short, the Zenith is an Elephone P9000 (read our hands-on) running a custom operating system dubbed UnaOS. Built on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow's code base, the system is stripped of all Google apps, frameworks, and libraries to prevent occasions of data mining, location tracking, and advertising activities. Known security vulnerabilities like Master Key, Fake ID, Certifi-Gate, Installer Jacking and Stagefright have been patched up, as well as less-known ones. System services and frameworks deemed unnecessary or potentially dangerous have been removed, too.

UnaOS' designers went to extreme lengths in order to obtain a level of maximum privacy. Save for encrypted over-the-air updates from the developers, no changes to the operating system are permitted whatsoever. Storage encryption is active by default and the Zenith cannot be identified by the carrier. Root privilege cannot be achieved, the bootloader is locked, and ADB access is completely disabled, which means tampering with this phone is darn near impossible.

Arguably, the most Draconian security measure involves not letting users install any third-party apps at all! UnaOS operates on the presumption that any and all Android apps not explicitly checked and green-lit by its creators are inherently insecure and potentially invade users' privacy with their permission requests. Thus, the Zenith comes with a suite of over 40 hand-picked and tested apps that cover almost all typical smartphone usage scenarios. Each is signed with a key that has to pass a check between restarts, or the smartphone won't boot at all. All communication apps feature end-to-end encryption as well.

UnaPhone is aware that a smartphone that won't let you install apps at all has an extremely limited appeal. Thus, the company considers polling users about any additional apps they would like to see on the platform and providing them with software updates. Business users can also request customized variants of the operating system with apps of their choice pre-installed. UnaPhone might also introduce a secondary UnaOS version that lets users install secure applications from a built-in app store.

However, the company's first priority is actually launching and delivering the smartphone and operating system. If the crowdfunding campaign succeeds, shipping and delivery are scheduled to commence in September 2016. The product is said to be in a manufacture and shipping-ready state. Pledges start from $439.

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31 Comments

1. grbrao

Posts: 294; Member since: Nov 23, 2012

I wish they could even allow us to add coustamized hardware into it...........

6. deanylev

Posts: 234; Member since: Mar 11, 2014

Now why the f**k would they do that? What's one thing got to do with the other?

9. grbrao

Posts: 294; Member since: Nov 23, 2012

i would ask them to add few video conferencing softwares, some document editing, drawings viewing, pdf editing software into it, and i dont expect SD610 or some thing to do that work, i am willing to pay for customisation though, SD820, 4GB RAM 4500 to 5000mAh battery, Cam- anything would do.. Cat-9 LTE-A minumum bose spreakers, intigrated voice cancellation and amplifier to the phone, HD voice recording, Even it cost 10,000$ it will be worth buying with such hardware and software constmisation.

16. jack123

Posts: 278; Member since: Jan 07, 2013

Are you sure about that?

23. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Its have to do everything with it. I like this custom software aproach its make the real most secure phone ever. Why not make the hardware custom as well? would be very good.

2. sarcastic_nerd unregistered

Nice niche product. It will certainly have its appeal.

3. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Paranoid^2...

4. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

what the point of "secure phone" if user cant do anything on it? :-/

10. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

whats the point of a secure phone if you get breached by your own incompetence? Plus it has apps on it...just very few. Obviously a niche product and the person doing this wont be playing candy crush any time soon.

13. TerryTerius unregistered

I wonder how much simpler it would be to circumvent the entire issue of cyber security and rely on physical documentation, as much as possible. Especially for government agencies, given no system is and never will be hack proof. Frankly, it bothers me that we have so much knowledge or memories stored in digital from that don't have any physical copies. That just sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

15. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

Because unless you go back to days before the radio...this simply isn't an option in todays world. While you blank yourself out, others are using tech against you. So this allows you to still use tech, but retain some form of security. However my wife is in business security, the number one breach? User given information, nothing technical. Of the gov agencies that were looked into over 60% of the breaches were not software related but user incompetence.

17. TerryTerius unregistered

So do you think it's a good thing for us to store a huge amount of humanity's knowledge and history without any physical back ups whatsoever? Seems to be putting a lot of faith that servers will never be compromised, or databases corrupted. True, you are right on that. Very much so. Even still, the more interconnected our world becomes the more vulnerable certain aspects of our life to become. For example, I'm all for autonomous vehicles, but that introduces a whole new vulnerability that wasn't really there before. Or interconnected homes, so on and so forth. I don't really see why mostly relying more on physical documents for government agencies and would be so difficult, as you seem to suggest. I'm not suggesting withdrawing from any reliance on technology or reversing our efforts to advance. Hell, a good example would be our nuclear bases which deliberately rely on outdated technology because it cannot be compromised.

19. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

paper can fade away, be burned, lost, destroyed. Seems like your putting a lot of faith in 'physical backup'. Tell me how that Library of Alexander is doing...or the ISIS targeted physical statues, art, and buildings. Oh wait are we in make believe land now? Also being on certain backups, they are very much physical. Just non-traditional physical. It would be like going from clay tablets to paper. And hearing you say how easy paper can be destroyed but clay not so much. If you are this paranoid, then you will have more than one backup, in more than one type of medium.

20. TerryTerius unregistered

And servers can be wiped or destroyed, EMP's can fry electronics, and data can be corrupted or stolen. What's your point? You don't have a good argument for not having any physical back-ups whatsoever. Jesus, you would think I said the Internet isn't worth having. All I said was having all of human knowledge in the hands of a few virtual libraries trusting nothing would ever go wrong without a plan B seems fool hardy. You're being hostile for no reason. I never insulted you, and your sarcasm isn't appreciated. Relax.

21. zunaidahmed

Posts: 1185; Member since: Dec 24, 2011

The better way would be to both keep a digital and physical backup. Papers when haddled with care, can last for ages without any issue, I have seens books from the 19th century last without an issue. CIA to this day, still uses papers for classified documents because hacking is way more easier these days than breaking into pentagon in person and stealing some documents. How donI know this? Google it ; )

22. TerryTerius unregistered

That's exactly what I was suggesting.

26. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Electronic equipement can be shielded against EMP. Data corrupted or stolen can happen with paper ( burned and physically stolen ) Plan B can exist as several backup on several servers. :)

29. TerryTerius unregistered

Generally speaking, physically entering a building and stealing some documents is far more risky and involved than compromising someone's digital security. Example: compromising a bank's network is a safer bet than physically robbing a bank. It's pretty difficult to get shot through a monitor. Again, give me a reason why having physical copies alongside your digital back ups is something we should not do. At no point did I say we shouldn't have digital backed ups.

33. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

It's more of a matter of preference. I personally hate physical paper with a passion. I've gone totally paperless, be it for personal use or when I receive physical handout documents in a meeting/lecture, thanks to my Surface Pro + OneNote + MiWand Portable Hand Scanner. Only things I keep physical copies of are certificates (like my Diploma/Electrical Engineering Certificate), passports, and indisposable memories in photos (which I display all around my home). The rest, I keep only digitally (until someone else wants a physical copy, then I print it), and have it in at least 3 places; on my Surface Pro, my OnePlus One, my 8TB RAID 10 QNAP TS-470 Pro NAS, my 128GB/200GB MicroSD cards, and my 2TB Samsung Portable T3 SSD.

25. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Terry what you say can be turned around as well. What happen if your paper document all burn down because the building got burnt? If my data server crash i know they usualy have 1 if not 2 or more backup so i am protected. Even better is the server i use have several backup of my files in different data cluster around the world. So in a way you are right but in a way i am as well so i dont see it as more danger to be online. As for nuclear bases... :https://ivarfjeld.com/2010/11/01/us-nuclear-missiles-in-danger-of-being-hacked/ so sorry its can be compromised.

28. TerryTerius unregistered

You basically made the exact same comment the other guy did, you just took more words to say the same thing. I am very much aware it can be turned around. But that still doesn't give any kind of reason as to why having a physical back up is a bad idea. I literally never said that we shouldn't have multiple digital back ups of our information. I simply asked what the issue was with having physical copies as well.

31. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

Well backup data on several server is easier and simpler than printing and copying on physical paper. What if its thousands or more page?

11. grbrao

Posts: 294; Member since: Nov 23, 2012

That tells a lot about our present day phones security..... u want security or entertainment? both wont go together...

24. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

If you took time to read there is over 40 preinstalled apps used by most smartphone user. Also for business they can custom the suit of app with any app you want. The point is to remove the human element of the person using the phone so no security can be removed and nothing modified. Truly the most secure phone possible.

5. Planterz

Posts: 2120; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

This'll fail hard.

7. tabVision

Posts: 26; Member since: Jul 16, 2015

I think the simplest solution is to create OS on top of android 6.0(or even android N) and remove WIFI and 3/4G capabilities it will be much safer and much easier to implement

8. GreenMan

Posts: 2698; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

My Nokia 3310 says; HELLO!!! BTW, If one cannot possibly install any apps, period... Why not use Windows 10 Mobile instead? More encrypted and less spying... But then again, one can't 'strip it off' because of its 'closed source' nature...! Hmmm... Why not use Nokia S40 or even S30 (Nokia 3310, 1100 anyone?)

12. TerryTerius unregistered

I am genuinely curious as to why you believe any of those older Nokia phones can't have their transmissions intercepted.

27. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

This phone is 20 time more secure than windows phone. Also as this will be used mostly for business they can ask for specific apps. Can your nokia open PDF? Edit them? Can its open excel or other office related documents? Can its have several email account? I could continue for a long time so GreenMan sorry you are gameover :P

30. xq10xa

Posts: 810; Member since: Dec 07, 2010

Looks like an Nexus 5X and an Honor 5X

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