Launched in South Korea, the Quantum 2 smartphone has a quantum random number generator chip built in.

By Daphne Leprince-Ringuet 

Developed together with SK Telecom, the Galaxy Quantum 2 is the second quantum-equipped smartphone released by Samsung.    Image: SK Telecom

Samsung is launching a new smartphone equipped with quantum cryptography technology, which promises to deliver a new level of security to consumer applications like mobile banking. 

Developed together with South Korean telecoms giant SK Telecom, the Galaxy Quantum 2 device will be — at least for the foreseeable future — only available to the South Korean public, and is the second quantum-equipped smartphone released by Samsung.  

With a 6.7-inch display, a 64MP main camera, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ chipset, the Quantum 2’s feature set matches some of Samsung’s flagship smartphones, with the additional security of quantum cryptography for some of the device’s services. 

The Quantum 2’s predecessor, called the Galaxy A Quantum, made its debut last year in South Korea, as the world’s first 5G smartphone with integrated quantum cryptography technology. Like the new Quantum 2, the Galaxy A includes a quantum random number generator (QRNG) that’s designed to secure sensitive transactions against the most sophisticated attacks. 

Developed by ID Quantique, the QRNG comes in the form of a 2.5mm-by-2.5mm chipset that leverages the unpredictable properties of quantum particles to generate completely random numbers. This is key to making cryptography keys more robust: the more random a security key, the harder it is to use logical mathematics to crack the code. 

Most classical systems rely on number generators that are deterministic, which means that it’s possible, with enough compute power, to figure out what makes up the cryptography keys that protect sensitive data on a device.

ID Quantique’s system, on the other hand, uses an LED light source that beams photons onto a CMOS sensor. According to the laws of physics, the behaviour of photons as they are picked up by the sensor is random, and can therefore be translated into a key that’s completely unpredictable. 

In the Galaxy A Quantum, those unhackable keys are used to protect various transactions, for example by generating stronger one-time-passwords during two-factor authentication. QRNG also increases the security of storage for sensitive data such as biometrics, which is needed to authorise payments through SK Telecom’s Pay app, for example.  

SK Telecom also lets users create “quantum wallets” on their phones, where useful identity documents like licences, insurance claim documents or even graduation certificates can be encrypted with QRNG. 

The new Quantum 2 smartphone extends the number of services that can be secured with quantum encryption. SK Telecom’s services like T World, Pass and T Membership, as well as mobile banking services with Shinhan Bank and Standard Chartered Bank Korea will be provided using QRNG. 

“The Galaxy Quantum 2 includes more quantum-secured applications than ever before, bringing applications and services to a new level of security in the mobile phone industry,” said Grégoire Ribordy, CEO and co-founder of ID Quantique. 

The ID Quantique chip’s capabilities will also work automatically with apps that use the Android Keystore APIs, which means that developers will have the opportunity to access the technology to develop more apps that support quantum cryptography. 

It’s hard to tell how much excitement the news of quantum-secure services on a smartphone will generate among consumers. The technology seems rather niche from a user’s perspective, and the Quantum 2’s predecessor has, so far, made little impact outside of South Korea.

That said, according to SK Telecom’s latest statistics, the Galaxy A Quantum sold more than 300,000 units in the first six months following its release, figures the company described as among the highest sales volumes for Galaxy 5G smartphones released that year in South Korea — with numbers comparable, for example, to sales for the S20 and Note 20. 

It’s worth noting that the Galaxy S20 and the Note 20 recorded drastically lower sales than previous generations due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. 

SK Telecom nevertheless confirmed that discussions are ongoing to expand the lineup of quantum-equipped smartphones, with plans to open the technology to new applications, including to services provided by Samsung Card. 

“With the Galaxy Quantum 2, we have successfully expanded the application of quantum security technologies to a wider variety of services including financial and security services,” said Han Myung-jin, vice president and head of marketing group of SK Telecom. “Our efforts will continue to keep expanding services that are safely and securely provided via the Galaxy Quantum 2.” 

Pre-orders for the Galaxy Quantum 2 will open in South Korea from April 13 to 19, and the device will officially launch in the country on April 23.