VinVarSoft has launched StealthTap, a keyboard app, that can add encryption to any message, enabling the receiving party to decrypt the message. Messages forwarded can be unlocked by any user with the keyboard, although the company mentions that in the next release it will enable personal unlocking, i.e a locked message can only be unlocked by the intended recipient.

Founded by Vinay Kanamarlapudi and Varun Medapuram, the app is available on both Android and iOS. As of now it supports five languages, including English, French, Italian, Spanish and German and uses AES-128 encryption to encrypt and lock messages.

How it works: On activating the keyboard, users can type regular text, then hit the lock icon on the top left side. This encrypts the message and appends text prompting the recipient to download the keyboard. To decrypt it, the receiving user needs to copy the message, open up the keyboard (by hitting the messaging box) and hit the unlock icon at the top right corner. Once the keyboard is set to unlock, any encrypted messages copied are immediately shown in plain text in the window below.

What we thought: Frankly, we felt appending the text prompting to download the app should have be optional, the messages get too long with the added text (it is removable manually), filling up the screen unnecessarily. A user only need to be prompted the first time to download the keyboard, and that too only if they don’t have it. Additionally, it makes it amply clear to anyone reading the message what they need to do to decrypt to text.

This brings us to a second issue we found with the app. Anyone can unlock the message as long as they use the correct keyboard. So while the app is useful for hiding the message, anyone can read it if the phone is in their hands. To avoid this, users can set a pin, which this is a paid feature costing only $1. We think this should have been the basic functionality of the app, the ability to hand over the phone to others without having to worry about someone being able to read the encrypted messages.

Note that the inability to let only the intended recipient decrypt the message somewhat devalues the entire value proposition of the app, even with the paid option. An enterprising person really wanting to read the message on a PIN enabled keyboard can simply forward the encrypted message to themselves and decrypt it using StealthTap on their own phone.

Overall, we feel that while the idea is great to keep certain conversations private, the app could use a little more polish and could do better by letting users set the PIN for free, and maybe charging them for personal unlocking.