But you practically need a smartphone to get by in society, so which phone at least manages to be the lesser of all the evils? TCL shutting down production of BlackBerry devices certainly doesn't help, either.
So to find the most security-hardened phones, we looked for key factors like encryption strength, biometrics, hardware-assisted security, VPN availability, and security patch timeframes. Our research narrowed the list down to four great phones, so let's discuss how well each of these devices protects your privacy. Our first requirement in choosing these phones was that they all had to be available for sale in the United States from a major carrier or manufacturer. Secondly, for a phone to make this list, it had to be encrypted by default to ensure that your data is protected against external access.
Another requirement was that the phones all offered granular permission management, which allows you to revoke an app's permission to access certain features like your camera and microphone. Then, to ensure that your data remains safe even when your phone is lost or stolen, we only selected phones with anti-theft protection. We looked for phones that included extra security features beyond the standard OS-level stuff — for example, strengthening the hardware or adding a security center. With these features, we know these phones took a more dedicated approach to protect your security.
With that in mind, we eliminated many popular phones that too heavily relied on Android's basic built-in security features and Qualcomm's generic hardware security module. We left these devices off the list since the higher-end option was more future-proof. After eliminating the phones which didn't meet our requirements, the finalists were ranked based on how well they scored in the key comparison points above, and with that, the following phones rose to the top.
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Last year, our second-place phone was the Google Pixel 3 XL. It only lost to the BlackBerry Key2, a phone built for enterprise and security, but not much else. Fast forward to , and TCL has stopped selling BlackBerry phones , allowing this year's Pixel 4 XL to slide into first place as the best option still standing. Let me start by saying that when it comes to privacy and security, it doesn't matter if you get the Google Pixel 4 or 4 XL. There are no additional protections found in either variant, so opt for whichever phone best fits your hand size and budget.
At the heart of the Pixel 4 XL's security is the Titan M chip, an enterprise-grade security module based on a similar chip used to protect Google's cloud data centers. It handles all sensitive transactions such as mobile payments and apps targeting the StrongBox KeyStore API added in Android 9 , and it's physically separated from the SoC to further protect it.
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The map of your face used in the new 3D face unlock feature is also stored in the Titan M. When using this method of authentication, the new face capture is compared to the stored version in the Titan M security chip, minimizing any tampering opportunity. Even the lock screen passcode is verified within the Titan M. To ensure Titan M remains uncompromised, its firmware will never be updated unless you input your passcode.
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It even protects against bootloader tampering, the firmware in charge of starting up Android. Rollback protection, a feature that prevents hackers from downgrading your phone to an older and less secure version of Android, is also provided by the Titan M. Google has been aggressively hardening Android's security for the last few years. One of the biggest updates came in with Android 9, which included more than 12 major changes that specifically target privacy and security.
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Android 10 has only expanded on this with improved location permissions and additional protections that change how apps can interact with your personal data — for example, apps can no longer read your clipboard under any circumstances. New to the Pixel series this year is 3D face unlock. With Android 10's native support for facial recognition, you can use this technology to authenticate yourself for sensitive transactions such as payments. As with Face ID, Google's facial recognition is more secure than other biometrics thanks to the detailed mapping of your face.
You might think a phone made by Google shouldn't be considered a top pick for privacy, but none of the Pixel's extra features beyond those included with stock Android give Google any more access to your personal data.
As with any phone or computer, if you use Google services, Google may record a history of that activity. But security is where this phone really excels. With Google's hardware- and software-based protections, you are relatively safe on the web. You're even protected against spam calls thanks to the AI-powered Call Screen features. Thanks to three years of full OS updates, protection will only get better over the life of the phone.
Samsung has a long history of catering to enterprise users. To tap into this larger market segment, they had to improve their devices' security beyond the basics provided by Android. The result was Samsung Knox , a combination of hardware and software to provide deep-level protection that starts at the SoC. And while regular consumers don't have access to many of these features, they are available for any company you join with a BYOD policy. Samsung has joined Apple and Google in creating their own security chip specifically designed to manage sensitive transactions and isolate private data.
It is in this chip that Samsung manages Samsung Pass, Secure Folder, and many of its numerous security features. This key is unique to each device and is used, alongside the Secure Boot key, to detect any tampering with the operating system or bootloader. It is because of these keys that it is nearly impossible to flash custom software on the Galaxy S20 Ultra Exynos variant without tripping the Knox Counter, a hardware-based flag that activates once you attempt to load any custom recovery or firmware.
Once tripped, Knox is no longer available as the security and protection advertised by Samsung can no longer be guaranteed. Knox also includes Samsung Defex, a patch to the kernel that prevents root from being granted to apps even after root was successful. So even if you trip the fuse and forgo access to Knox, Knox is still protecting you. Real-Time Kernel Protection tracks kernel changes and prevents the phone from booting if any tampering has been done.
Samsung is one of the few Android phones that will wipe your data upon subsequent failed login attempts. When enabled, after 15 failed attempts, the phone will automatically factory reset itself to protect your data from the intruder. With the Galaxy S20 Ultra, you get the power of Knox to protect you each day.
Its extensive protection covers you even if you manage to root the device, something few other OEMs offer.
At its core is Android 10, the more secure and stable version of Android yet, that keeps you safe when using apps or browsing the web. A cell phone tracker app can be downloaded for an attractive price. Want to know all features, our apps provides? Check each app separately and decide which suits you best. For more detailed information, please check out all our FREE mobile GPS tracking apps, which will be a perfect choice for individual use or fleet management tracking.
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