Tech

Precursor's a pocketable dev tool that's open about everything

The smartphone-sized device is hyper transparent, super-secure hardware for the creation of safe, encrypted apps.

Bunnie

To use the team behind Precursors own words, the smartphone-like device "looks like a phone, acts like Palm Pilot, and is much more than both." It's a dev platform that pocketable, and prizes transparency and modularity, so you know exactly what you're using and can be sure whatever you create with it is totally secure and backdoor free.

The screen, keyboard, innards, and bezel are all replaceable, and there's no built-in microphone. For added security, the Wi-Fi is hardware sandboxed, there's "a self-destruct option for some encryption keys," and the case lends itself to tamper-evident sealing.

Precursor's creators recently launched a crowdfunding effort to build the device, which they envision serving as a framework for secure applications, which in turn should give users peace of mind.

The device — Both smart and simplistic, the Precursor is more about security than aesthetics. An LCD screen and Blackberry-esque keyboard adorn the front, but it’s really what’s inside that counts. The battery yields up to six hours of active screen time and days of standby time — not much by today’s standards, but more than similar devices, and ports let users add things like LTE modems they may need for testing whatever they're building with it.

The CPU can be upgraded and customized thanks to two field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) on the board. The level of accessibility provided is impressive without the use of pricey, hardwired silicon, so the device manages to be fairly affordable at $512. The Wi-Fi-compatible device can easily run password managers, encrypted messaging apps, cryptocurrency wallets, and other security-based applications.

Why would you want one? — Though the Precursor isn’t poised to replace your smartphone, it offers control over your most secure data. You can put your faith in Microsoft, Facebook, or Apple that they’re walking the walk when it comes to their anti-back door stances, but law enforcement can still find a way into most popular devices.

While it might not be flashy, Precursor lets you know exactly where your information stands because you’re in charge of it instead of the government or a Fortune 500 company. If you're a developer looking to build secure solutions on a budget, without the costly tools required to verify most third-party solutions, the Precursor is designed with you — and your needs — in mind.