he world's biggest aerospace company is jumping into the business of making high-security smartphones.
The Boeing Black smartphone Boeing
Boeing Co. BA +0.94% filed plans this week with the Federal Communications Commission for a smartphone dubbed Boeing Black, which is designed for defense and security customers and won't be available to average consumers. The phone is based on a modified version ofGoogle Inc. GOOG -0.02% 's Android operating system. It takes Boeing beyond the jumbo jets, fighter planes and satellites for which it is known.
Boeing is being stealthy about the project.Without publicly announcing the product, the company posted a description on its website. It said the modular construction of the phone's 5.2-inch-tall body would allow users to attach devices that add such features as advanced location tracking, solar charging, satellite transceivers and biometric sensors.
In Monday's FCC filing, Boeing detailed plans to keep the phone's technology secret, saying it will be sold "in a manner such that low-level technical and operational information about the product will not be provided to the general public."
The filing documents also said the phone, which is about 50% heavier than Apple Inc.AAPL +1.44% 's iPhone 5s and twice as thick, is designed to effectively self-destruct if tampered with: "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."
Boeing has provided few details about its planned secure phone, here are some:
Display: 4.3 inch (540x960pixels)
Weight: 170 grams
Networks: LTE, WCDMA, GSM
Chip: 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex-A9
It often is impossible to declare anything is truly secure, especially in an era of government snooping. Since Boeing hasn't made technical details of its design available, security researchers can't test its claims. But Western companies have a long history of making hardened communications gear for government clients. President Barack Obama, for example, has special encryption software on his Blackberry.
Boeing, whose Defense, Space & Security unit accounted for about 38% of its $86.6 billion in 2013 revenue, didn't discuss pricing, but said it will start selling the phone "soon." but did not elaborate. A person familiar with the device said it is expected to be ready by fall.
A Boeing spokeswoman said the Black will be assembled in the U.S.
The Boeing foray is part of a trend toward more-secure phones and software. Last month, Washington-based software firm Silent Circle and Madrid-based Geeksphone teamed up to launch the Blackphone, which they tout as a highly secure device that doesn't run on any traditional telecom carriers or operating systems. The Blackphone is available for order online for $629.
Other, more established players in the smartphone industry like BlackBerry Ltd.BB.T +1.83% and Samsung Electronics Co. 005930.SE -0.07% are working to improve the security of their products to win customers in the government sector. BlackBerry is setting up a technology center this year in Washington to work more closely with the Pentagon.
Rival defense companies also are working on related products, at a time when spending on cybersecurity is one of the few growth areas in the Pentagon budget.Northrop Grumman Corp. NOC +0.61% , for example, has developed a smartcard to secure communications from phones and tablets, as well as apps aimed at defense clients.
— Doug Cameron and Danny Yadron contributed to this article.
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