Don't even think about downloading apps for the privacy-focused UnaPhone Zenith

unaphone zenith privacy smartphone
Security-focused smartphones aren’t anything new. After all, the likes of the GranitePhone, the Blackphone and its sequel, and even the BlackBerry Priv already exist in the smartphone market for those who crave privacy above all else. Even so, the UnaPhone Zenith tries to differentiate itself from the rest by making itself more accessible to the masses and through one interesting, and potentially deal-breaking, quirk.

Powered by a 2GHz octa-core processor and 4GB of RAM, the Zenith certainly isn’t lacking for power. The Zenith isn’t lacking for storage, either, with the handset coming with 32GB of native storage and supporting up to an additional 256GB through the MicroSD card slot. Up front sits a 5.5-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 resolution display, with an 8-megapixel camera right above it. Around back sits its 13MP rear-facing equivalent, with the Zenith’s camera software able to record video from both cameras at the same time.

Where the Zenith begins to show you its true colors is with its software, which UnaPhone calls UnaOS. In an attempt to achieve the highest level of privacy possible on a smartphone, UnaOS completely forgoes everything from Google apps to frameworks. The privacy-focused operating system also encrypts storage by default, with the Zenith itself unable to be identified by carriers. In addition, to dissuade any tampering with the Zenith, tinkerers cannot achieve root privilege or unlock the bootloader, so don’t expect to be able to run alternative software on the handset.

Finally, in a move that could dissuade some would-be buyers, UnaOS does not let you install any third-party app, whether it’s from Google or other developers. While some will lament the inability to download Android apps for the Zenith, it does help mitigate possible attacks through apps and further cement UnaOS’ locked-down nature. Along those lines, the Zenith comes with 40 preinstalled apps, all of which have been curated by UnaPhone and range from email to virtual private network (VPN) apps. According to UnaPhone, each of the 40 preinstalled apps are signed with individual keys that allow them to work on the Zenith. In other words, because third-party apps won’t be signed with these specific keys, they won’t install on the Zenith. The company did say it would poll users after the Zenith’s release about what apps they are most interested in.

Speaking of release, the Zenith is currently available for pre-order through Indiegogo. Would-be customers will have to put aside at least $439 to get the Zenith, which, if everything goes according to plan, will be released this September. At that price point, the Zenith manages to undercut its competitors by a sizable margin, though you’d have to be willing to bank on an idea rather than a finished product.

Product Review

The Nokia 3.1 is disappointing in almost every way

HMD Global is back with a new Nokia phone in the U.S., the Nokia 3.1. It's a frills-free phone with an attractive price tag. But can it compete with other similarly priced budget phones?
Mobile

Google tracks your location — even when you deny it permission

Google is tracking your location -- even when you tell it not to. According to an investigation by the Associated Press, Google services on both Android and iPhones store location data, regardless of whether privacy settings claim…
Product Review

From water cooling to a supercapacitor, the Galaxy Note 9 overflows with tech

The Galaxy Note 9 is here, and it’s jaw-dropping how much tech Samsung has outfitted inside this phone -- granted, it’s one of Samsung’s largest phones ever thanks to its 6.4-inch screen. Here’s our Note 9 hands-on impressions.
Mobile

Grab your fork and dig in: Android 9.0 Pie is now being served

It's time to dig in, as the new version of Android is here: Android 9.0 Pie. Is it worth getting excited about? You bet! Here are all the new features you'll want to try out in Android 9.0 Pie.
Product Review

The gorgeous Oppo Find X plays hard to get, but is it worth the chase?

Is the Oppo Find X the most beautiful smartphone we’ve ever seen? We think it’s right up there, but because it’s an import-only phone, you’ll have to put in some effort to get one. Is it worth going the extra mile?
Mobile

Third-party call recording apps no longer work with Android 9.0 Pie

There is a lot to love about Android 9.0 Pie. But as users update their phones, they noticed an annoying new issue: Google removed a workaround an Android 9.0 Pie that developers used to power third-party recording apps.
Mobile

Motorola launches its iPhone X clone, the Moto P30, in China

Motorola may be planning to launch a new series of smartphones called the P30, P30 Note, and P30 Play. Leaked photos show the P30 has a similar design to the iPhone X, complete with a screen notch.
Mobile

Motorola says 8 of its phones are set to receive Android 9.0 Pie

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Mobile

Protect your titan with the best Samsung Galaxy Note 9 screen protectors

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is one of this year's best phones. But what if you break the screen? Thankfully we've got the best Samsung Galaxy Note 9 screen protectors to keep that 6.4-inch screen safe.
Mobile

Google is updating Android Go with Android 9 Pie Go Edition

Android Go is a lightweight version of Android that promises to improve the user experience on devices with low-end processors or 1GB of RAM or less. Here's everything you need to know about Android Go.
Social Media

Spice up your Instagram videos by adding your top tunes to the soundtrack

Have you ever taken a beautiful video, only to have it ruined by some jerk in the background yelling curse words? Here's a list of apps you can use to add your own music to Instagram posts.
Mobile

T-Mobile partners with Live Nation, Pandora to offer customers more perks

T-Mobile made a few other announcements today: Not only has the carrier partnered up with Live Nation to provide offers, but customers will also be getting a free year of Pandora Plus.
Mobile

This is how Google will improve the quality of Wear OS apps

Google wants to improve the quality of Wear OS apps, and to that end the company has announced that the review process of Wear OS apps for Google Play is now mandatory. Criteria for Wear OS apps include that they work as expected.
Mobile

Is Google launching an A.I. fitness coach for smartwatches?

Google is reportedly working on a health and well-being coach for Wear OS devices. Known as "Google Coach," the assistant will be able to suggest workouts, meal plans, and more, based on a user's activity.