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.

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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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