World’s most expensive Android smartphone:
Lo and behold, a smartphone so laden with privacy features that it carries a price tag of £9500. Meet the Solarin from a new Israeli company called Sirin Labs. It is the world’s most expensive Android smartphone at the moment. Its £9500 price tag converts into about $14000 or around Rs 9.26 lakhs, excluding local taxes.
It is of course targeted towards millionaires and business executives with insider secrets to hide. But to be more specific, it’s meant for those who are willing to let go of any amount of money if it means owing a smartphone heavy on security. The company’s founders don’t want to be associated with luxury brands like Vertu or Gresso.
The high price of the Solarin has to do with its technology and not its appearance. It’d somehow be easier to believe the makers have a genuine desire to protect their device from the nouveau riche and brand snobbery if Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, weren’t reported to be in attendance at the launch.
In terms of hardware, the Solarin is not superior to current-gen flagships from bigwigs like Samsung and HTC. But its Android software has been furnished with chip-to-chip 256-bit encryption that is similar to the kind used for military purposes. Added to the mix are other security features made possible by Sirin Labs’ partnerships with the experts from Koolspan and Zimperium.
The Solarin has been fitted with a 5.5-inch Quad HD display, and is powered by a large 4000mAh battery. The latter lends the unsavory bulk to its frame. The makers have pushed inside it the last-gen Snapdragon 810 processor rather than the new 820 model, never mind the former’s overheating glitch. 4GB worth of RAM and 128GB memory space are also on offer, apart from a 23.8MP rear camera.
Connectivity and security:
On the connectivity front, the Solarin promises 450Mbps downlink and 150 Mbps uplink speeds owing to Qualcomm’s X10 LTE modem and support for 24 different bands of 4G LTE. It is also claimed to offer ‘far superior’ Wi-Fi connectivity compared to standard mobile phones with 802.11ac 2×2 MU-MIMO (multi user multiple input, multiple output) and WiGig technologies.
Admittedly, the latter is limited by its inability to penetrate obstructions like walls and ceilings. Let’s talk about security now. The Solarin uses 256-bit encryption, as mentioned above. It allows for remote wipe and lock functionalities, and constant protection from hackers. Apart from this, it also has a special switch on its back for real-time voice and message encryption.
Turning on this switch disables some basic phone features including Bluetooth. But a couple of aspects of the device seem to contradict its boast of being heavily focused on security. For one, a fingerprint reader on the rear enables the user to unlock it. As we’ve seen several times in the past, biometric sensors can be fooled without too much trouble.
Sirin Labs has chosen to power the Solarin with Android Lollipop, instead of the latest Marshmallow OS. To its credit, it has rolled out the smartphone with the latest security patch aboard. Still, there’s the fact that Android belongs to Google. It’s open to errors, backdoors and design problems which may come its way owing to this.
Most people are convinced iOS is much more secure than Android. But in an interview with Engadget, Sirin Labs’ co-founder and president, Moshe Hogeg, is happy to disabuse readers of this widely accepted notion. Hogeg claims it’s very easy to hack an iPhone (gasp) and that he’s seen it done with his very own eyes. The former Israeli soldier might just be talking about Cellebrite.
Cellebrite is an Israel-based security firm rumored to have been approached by the FBI and Department of Justice for the San Bernardino investigation, after Apple refused to cooperate. On the subject of what Sirin Labs will do if Google is forced by governments to add a backdoor to make surveillance easier, Hogeg said his team would be able to deal with the issue.
Hogeg is confident in his belief that it’s more important to focus on whether a smartphone maker has put its best efforts into building a device which is tough to crack, than to reflect on the idea of every handset being ultimately vulnerable. Nothing is unbreakable, he admits. But the time and resources needed to hack into the Solarin are discouraging enough, according to him.
Appearance and build:
The Solarin is not a pretty smartphone. Its design does not provoke the aesthetic sensibilities. It doesn’t have a tantalizingly futuristic air about it. If we were searching for a word to describe its appearance, ‘meh’ would just about sum it up.
It’s clear that the renowned Karim Rashid who’s been credited with the design, wanted to give it a utilitarian look, judging by the conspicuous Torx screws on the frame and minimal accents. If there’s one thing mildly irritating about the facade, it’s the rear.
The camera lens, flash unit, security switch and fingerprint sensor peek out at you from what looks like a shapeless blob, at first glance. Perhaps it’s this area’s vague resemblance to the top of a can of Coke that bogs down the already unappealing backside.
At any rate, Sirin Labs promises potential clients that the build of the Solarin is solid. It flaunts a metal matrix composite chassis, the kind usually used in the aerospace industry. Its overall structure is reinforced with titanium for durability.
The 5.5-inch screen on the front is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 4; so is the camera lens on the rear. No hard buttons adorn the face of the Solarin whose top and bottom edges slope gently to meet the back panel which similarly mirrors the curves.
Hogeg is proud to reveal that the Solarin is largely machine-made, while subtly hinting at a distaste for luxury ‘handmade’ smartphones like those from Vertu which are more about form than function. Now we’re wondering whether the device is actually worth £9500.
Price and availability:
As we’ve already mentioned, Sirin Labs demands a starting price of £9500 (before taxes) for its smartphone. Those who have the money to splurge on it can choose from four different options. All of them have faux leather back panels in black or white, and show off different accents on the sides and the camera area.
The cost of the handset translates into almost $14000 or around Rs 9.26 lakhs. Hogeg has specifically stated that it’s not a phone for terrorists. Who else cares so much about their privacy, they’d be willing to fork out this much for the sake of privacy? Businessmen, top government officials and rich people with dirty secrets, right?
The Solarin can be picked up only in London via Mayfair (34 Bruton Place) in exchange of £9500. Harrods (Knightsbridge) will start selling it from June 30. It is available in the following design variants –
• Crystal White Carbon Leather with Diamond-like Carbon
• Fire Black Carbon Leather with Titanium
• Fire Black Carbon Leather with Diamond-like Carbon
• Fire Black Carbon Leather with Yellow Gold