The subject of cell phone security haunts every major mobile player, but none so defiantly throws down the gauntlet to data thieves like the smartphone startup QSAlpha and its Quasar IV "cipherphone."
A self-funded project launched Tuesday through Kickstarter-like Web site Indiegogo, the Quasar IV runs on a security backbone of hardware encryption that promises to only share data -- e-mail, phone calls, and texts -- with others who have a "trusted" identity using the same Quasar IV smartphone.
While the cybersecurity specs command the show (and more on that later), the strangely named Quasar IV is specced out with top-of-the-line Android goods.
Built on Android 4.3, the supersecure device starts with a 5-inch 1080p HD display, then adds to that a 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU and either 64GB or 128GB encrypted local storage options. You'll also get 128GB encrypted cloud storage on top of that.
The Quasar IV will also pack in 3GB RAM, a microSD card slot, and a 3,300mAh battery. Mobile photographers aren't forgotten. There will be a pair of 13-megapixel Sony cameras (translation: augmented reality and processing tricks), and a whopping 8-megapixel front-facing camera.
With NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, and IP57 military specifications for waterproofing, the Quasar IV has certainly plucked nearly every most-wanted feature from an Android-lover's wish list.
More about security
Multiple puzzle pieces snap together to create the Quasar IV's security story. At the center of it all is encryption software the company calls Quatrix (rhymes with "matrix").
In a nutshell, there's the Quatrix software, which is packaged into an operating system called QuaOS. There's also the encrypted hardware chip that QSAlpha has specifically designed to protect your identity key and all sensitive data -- even from covert surveillance programs, the company hints in a video.
Renders and photos show that on QuaOS, the phone's Android underpinning all but disappears with new passcode layouts and other interface motifs that make Android look visual and completely unique.
You'll find explanations, equations, and charts detailing authentication and verification at the company's Indiegogo page if you'd like to dive deeper.
Not so fast
As amazing as all this security rough-and-toughness sounds, at least some question QSAlpha's claims. Tech site Ars Technica reached out to two cybersecurity experts for their views, and the responses were blunt.
More security experts and cryptographers will no doubt weigh in on this startup superphone as it gathers steam toward its release date.
Pricing, availability, and outlook
As a grassroots startup, the QuasarIV's eventual life depends on microfinancing. Indiegogo members can donate anywhere from $5 to $20,000.
A contribution of $495 will get you the 64GB version of the Quasar IV when the phone becomes available. Pay $665 to receive the 128GB version and various other perks. QSAlpha has set a target delivery date of April 2014.
Beyond this initial financing stage, QSAlpha says it has "secured a relationship with a well-known OEM phone manufacturer to bring the product to the market."
Other outlets have reported that the company's original Kickstarter page from earlier this month (before it moved its campaign to Indiegogo) claimed the OEM was the world's largest, which makes me think Samsung has perked an ear. Backing from Samsung makes sense, especially in light of the company's own interest in security,
Since QAlpha's security system does its thing with phones bearing the same system, a specialized handset like the Quasar IV lends itself to group purchases by government and corporate groups...or by international black ops networks, perhaps.
In the company video, Steve Chao, QSAlpha's founder and CEO, says that Quatrix was inspired by the feudal Japanese martial art of Ninjitsu. In that case, data thieves, you've just been issued a serious challenge.