After two and a half years of research and development, and $72 million (£50m) in funding, the Swiss startup with Swedish and Israeli roots, Sirin Labs, has launched Solarin, which it calls “the most secure phone ever”.
Hosted at One Marylebone, a Sir John Soane-designed church that is now a hire venue, the dark-curtained room was filled to capacity by the time Countdown’s Rachel Riley came on stage - half an hour late - to kick off the launch. Apparently Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy were there too to add some star power, but I arrived on time and didn’t see them.
It’s no surprise that that the launch of a top-end product comes with its fair share of hyperbole - co-founder Moshe Hegog said: “I think it’s the best phone ever made, it is for sure the most secure phone ever made.”
Stealing a page from Kanye West’s coterie of influences, Hegog said: “When we look at Tesla we like the things they have done. They inspire us to build super technology and then figure out the price further down the road. So why did we start Sirin Labs? To push the boundaries of technology, we wanted to change the rules.
“One of my favourite saying is by Picasso: 'Learn the rules like a pro, so then you can break them like an artist', and that is what we have tried to do here.”
The target audience for the device looks to be somewhere between mildly paranoid Fortune 500 execs and business travellers, to Eric Packer from Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis.
As CEO Tal Cohen told the audience: “They are business leaders, entrepreneurs, partners in financial firms and basically people that have a lot of confidential information and a lot of communication needs. They travel for business a lot. They appreciate quality. They aren’t fooled by style over substance.”
“There are certain things they wouldn’t compromise on, like applications they couldn’t live without, they never want to drop a call, they don’t want to wait for Wi-FI or wait too long for a file to download.”
When it comes to the USP of the Solarin - security - Hegog said: “The most important asset today is information, it’s our privacy, and it is frightening to see how exposed they are.”
The actual security spec of the phone is hard to pin down, maybe because that is the company’s secret sauce, maybe not. Either way we will have to wait for the firm to have a track record until we can really say.
At around £9,000 more than the Blackberry Priv, which Blackberry boasts comes with its own robust security, I would want the phone to come with a personal bodyguard and Captain America’s shield.
We do know that the phone has biometrics incorporated with a fingerprint reader, which comes with its own security concerns, and there is a 'Security Switch' located just above the camera which allows for fully encrypted calls and messages.
The phone ships with Zimperium mobile threat protection, which “thwarts the broadest array of advanced device, network and application mobile cyberattacks, without impairing usability,” according to the company. Sirin Labs has also worked with KoolSpan to integrate chip-to-chip 256-bit AES encryption, leading to the claims of “military-grade” security.
Solarin phone specs
Vice president of product at Sirin Labs, Fredrik Oijer, came on to discuss the specifications of the phone. He said that his move from Sony’s Xperia team was driven by a desire to work somewhere where he wouldn’t have to "compromise on quality".
The phone runs a heavily customised version of the Android 5.1 software and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor with X10 LTE and Wi-Fi. It also has WiGig multi-gigabit Wi-Fi incorporated, offering speeds of up to 4.6 gbps, which Oijer claims allows for downloading an HD movie in “under five seconds”.
The curved 5.5-inch 2k resolution display is made from the ultra-durable Corning Gorilla Glass 4 and the phone has a 23.8 megapixel camera. The phone also has three bass-boosted speakers capable of 90 decibels of sound, which seems a tad excessive for a smartphone. Battery life wasn’t specified.
The founding team at Sirin Labs is made up of three men. Cohen is an Israeli entrepreneur who has held positions at companies like Google and McKinsey & Co, as well as a stint as a contributor for Forbes magazine in Israel.
Then there are the money men, serial investors Moshe Hogeg and Kazhak petrochemical mogul Kenges Rakishev. They co-founded the Israeli VC fund SingulariTeam - which pumped in the best part of $72 million to fund Sirin Labs, along with funding from Chinese social networking service Renren.
Rivals in the secure, high-end phone market include the aforementioned Blackberry Priv, which retails at around £180 depending on contract; Silent Circle’s Blackphone, which retails at £719; Bittium’s Tough Mobile and Archos’ GranitePhone, which are both priced on a request basis.
The Solarin start from £9,500 plus VAT either online or in the Sirin Labs Mayfair (obvs) store from today (June 1) and Harrods from June 30.
The handset is available in four variants: black leather and titanium, black leather and diamond-like carbon, black leather and yellow gold, or white leather with diamond-like carbon.