In Depth

Sirin Labs Solarin: What can the £9,500 phone do?

It's an ultra-secure handset for high-flying executives, but how does it shape up when put to the test?

Shadowy venture start-up Sirin Labs has unveiled its new smartphone - a £9,500 device said to be the most secure mobile in the world.

Ultra-high price smartphones aren't new – Vertu has been selling four and even five-figure devices for some time – but Sirin Labs say its Solarin handset is much more practical than a mere luxury good. As such, it is targeting high-flying executives who need to carry sensitive data on a daily basis.

The phone is on sale from today, through Sirin Labs and Harrods. But what do you get for more than nine grand?

Security

Data protection is the Solaris's headline feature, with the company claiming it has "military grade" security.                                                                                                                                   

It runs Android Marshmallow but is accompanied by Zimperium software, the "most advanced privacy technology currently unavailable outside the agency world", says Sirin, which claims it can stop an array of mobile cyberattacks.

The company has also partnered with KoolSpan to integrate 256-bit encryption – the "military grade" aspect of the device. The security suite is activated via a switch on the back, which enables fully encrypted messages and phone calls.                                                                                          

"For most people, this is probably overkill, but for high-flying execs, celebrities, and spies, this could be the perfect phone," says T3.

Tough, but big design

The Solarin doesn't make use of a thin design by today's smartphone standards: the device is 0.39ins thick, with a 5.5ins display - the exact same size as on the iPhone 6S Plus, but a 2K IPS LCD unit housed behind Gorilla Glass 4.

A combination of titanium and leather panels make up the casing, supported underneath by a metal matrix composite chassis, which is used in the aerospace and defence industries. It gets IP54 dust and water resistance, which means that despite its tough looks and ability to shake off a four-foot drop onto concrete, it lacks behind the Samsung Galaxy S7 for waterproofing capabilities.

There are four different trim options – three of them black leather with either titanium, carbon, or yellow gold highlights, alongside another phone using white leather and carbon.

Huge camera specs

The camera specs jump right off the page – the Solarin uses a 24-megapixel main camera with laser autofocus, four-tone flash, 4K video-recording capabilities and optical image stabilisation shooting from an f/2.0 lens. Users also get an 8MP selfie camera with its own LED flash and optical image stabilisation capabilities.

Speaker hardware seems pretty serious, too. There are three bass-boosted speaker modules linked to a "smart amplifier" for managing distortion when the volume is cranked up.

What's it like to use?

The Verge has had a hands-on and says there are one or two pitfalls.

The security suite is impressive and the ability to switch full encryption on and off is a welcome feature, it says. But weighing in at almost nine ounces (250g), the Solarin is a hefty device "and you'll feel every last milligram of it. It's unwieldy and unpleasant to hold because of its bulk."

Part of the reason the phone is so cumbersome is the huge battery – the Solarin uses a 4,000mAh cell and it isn't necessarily powering the latest hardware. The phone has a Snapdragon 810 chipset and while mated to 4GB RAM, it's last year's model. Major manufacturers such as Samsung skipped over the 810, claiming it is prone to overheating, although this is something Sirin Labs says it has fixed.

The Verge is also not entirely convinced by the camera, neither. While on paper its specs are huge, in performance it is "unimpressive", producing some "blurry" and "overexposed" shots.

T3 rounds up by calling the Solarin a phone that "won't be to everyone's tastes", but says it's a very exciting device nonetheless, a "brief glimpse" into the future of more mainstream devices.

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