A closer look at Black, Boeing's new self-destructing 'spy phone'

Finally, a smartphone for Agent Ethan Hunt


It’s hard not to hum Mission: Impossible’s famous theme song when talking about Boeing’s new smartphone, Black, which self-destructs if someone tampers with it. In an era when cyber spying—by China or the National Security Agency—is a real concern for corporations, it makes sense to have a phone that sacrifices itself to save your secrets.

Fittingly, Black was a closely guarded secret up until February, when Boeing finally unveiled its specs. Slightly larger than an iPhone, the 13-by-7-centimetre handset contains two SIM cards to allow it to access multiple cellphone networks. The company won’t say how much the phone will cost, when it’s being released or which wireless companies will work with it.

There is bad news, however, if you’re simply a security-minded layperson: Black will be made available exclusively to security and defence customers. That puts Boeing in direct competition with BlackBerry, which counts its security features as one of its few remaining market advantages. And Boeing already has a relationship with the U.S. government that might be better than BlackBerry’s, thanks to its manufacturing of military aircraft.

Super secure: Black, which runs a modified version of Google’s Android operating system, has a range of security features like data encryption and software authentication. Not to mention other goodies such as superior location-tracking sensors and solar charging.

Self-destruct feature: This tidbit was revealed in Boeing’s filing to the Federal Communications Commission. “Any attempt to break open the casing of the device would trigger functions that would delete the data and software contained within the device and make the device inoperable.”

Made in the U.S.A.: All phones will be assembled in the U.S., a fact that’s brought up twice in Boeing’s two-minute promotional video (below). The move may alleviate concerns over Chinese tampering; Taiwanese firm Foxconn, in comparison, makes both iPhones and the new BlackBerry Z3.