Blackphone, a privacy-centered smartphone, started shipping Monday to the device's first pre-order customers. The handset was developed in response to revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the NSA was spying on the phone records of Americans.

The $629 smartphone, the product of SGP Technologies SA, a Switzerland-based joint venture of Silent Circle and Geeksphone, was unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in February. The two companies announced that Blackphone would run a security-enhanced version of Android KitKat called PrivatOS that would give users protection and control over security issues without the typical compromises.

The joint venture touts Blackphone as having the features necessary to enable users to do all the things they need, as well as all the things they want, while maintaining privacy and security and giving users the freedom to choose their carriers, apps and locations.

Overwhelming Demand

There is overwhelming demand for the phone's focus on user privacy and the array of integrated features it offers for private communications, browsing, and cloud storage, according to SGP Technologies.

"Blackphone's arrival puts mobile privacy directly in the hands of professionals and consumers everywhere," said Toby Weir-Jones, CEO of SGP Technologies. "In a world where devices and apps increasingly offer features only in return for users' personal or sensitive information, the pent-up demand for Blackphone shows there is strong, international demand for our brand's devices and services that stand apart by placing privacy before all else."

Blackphone Features

Blackphone offers encrypted voice and video calls as well as text messages with attachments via Silent Circle, Silent Phone and Silent Text apps that are on the Blackphone. This allows users to communicate securely anywhere they find cellular or Wi-Fi connections.

The phone's Kismet Smarter Wi-Fi Manager prevents Wi-Fi hotspots from capturing the wireless connection history and other information that could be used to track the locations of Blackphone as well as their patterns of activity and data about sensitive office or home networks.

Users also have complete control over application permissions thanks to the Security Center, so they can make changes immediately without rebooting or reinstalling. And they also have the ability to remotely wipe the data on their phones. The Disconnect Search enables anonymous browsing. Blackphone also features Disconnect's Secure Wireless app, which is a smart VPN designed to prevent eavesdropping over Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

Blackphone Hardware

Blackphone sports a 4.7-inch 720p IPS display, 2 GHz, quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 4i processor with 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal storage, a microSD slot for external storage, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11n, LTE connectivity, 8-megapixel rear camera, 1.3 MP front-facing camera, and a 2000 mAh battery.

The company's online store will re-open on July 14 to accept new orders for the smartphone.