Sirin Labs Solarin Hands-on in-depth review - Emperor's new clothes

Sirin Labs' Solarin costs upwards of £9500 and its manufacturers have said it is the most secure phone in the world, an encrypted profile aside, its technical specifications are very middle of the road and the form factor- although premium looking is very bulky. Is this a case of Emperor's new clothes?

 Sirin Labs Solarin Hands-on Review - Emperor's new clothes
4.5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,6/1/2016 8:45:27 AM

9

out of 10

Performance

10

out of 5

Look and feel

8

out of 5

Ease of use

10

out of 5

Features

10

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Has a secure profile for texts and calls | beautifully built | Great display | Very good audio capabilities

Cons:

Incredibly expensive | Would expect more for the money | Runs Android 5 | Not Dual-SIM | security features not robust enough

By Sunetra Chakravarti

It was a bizzarre phone launch. Not because of what it was but because of what it aspired to be. Tom Hardy and Leonardo Dicaprio chose to hide behind their hats and left as quietly as they had arrived. Word was that  they were there to show support for the founder Moshe Hogeg, in whose previous venture Dicaprio had invested in... Whatever it was, it was very strange. 

And it wasn't just the press conference that was odd, looking at the spec sheet, I had the unshakeable feeling that it was all a case of Emperor's new clothes.

Look and feel

Make no mistakes, Solarin does look the dog's b******* but that premium look comes at a price. It is heavy- and weighs 243g, making it almost as heavy as a tablet- probably down to the titanium sides on the phone and the sloping glass and leather on the back. Yes, you read right- the back is leather, but not the aluminium foil like thin number on the back of the LG G4, this is the proper stuff. However, it doesn't feel like leather and at first glance I thought it was textured fabric (it wasn't).

Gorilla Glass 4 covers the display which curves over the side, a lot like the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge but the display doesn't, leaving it feeling like a slightly wasted effort. 

 

 Camera, audio and display

Sirin Labs told us at the launch that the Solarin has the best camera on a phone in the world. They have probably not heard that megapixels don't equate greatness, and I would take their claims with a pinch of salt because the camera seemed laggy when I tried it out at the launch. It could just have been because it was not the final product but the results from the 23.8-MP snapper wasn't as amazing as I was expecting it to be.

The primary camera comes with a four-tone flash and the phone also boasts a flash on the front-facing camera for those club selfies at Annabels.  

The display on the phone is a 2k one even though it is capable of recording 4k videos. Playback was pin-sharp  owing to the 5.5-inch IPS LCD screen with a ppi of 536.

Sirin Labs are super proud of the audio capabilities on the phone as well- there are three bass-boosting speakers on the phone and they all link to an amplifier to give good audio output. 

Processor and software 

Powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 processor with X10 LTE and Wi-Fi, the user will be guaranteed blistering fast speeds and LTE compatibility. On offer is up to 450 Mbps downlink and up to 150 Mbps uplink speeds, coupled with support for 24 bands LTE compatibility.

A very heavily skinned version of Android 5.1.1 is on board and the Solarin converts into a super secure phone for texts and messaging in a shielded mode. 

It comes with WiGig (802.11ad) multi-gigabit Wi-Fi technology that offers speeds of up to 4.6Gbps, enabling near-instant cloud access, and synching of photos, videos and media, wire-equivalent docking and high-quality, low-latency video streaming.

It also packs Quick Charge functionality so the 4000 mAH battery wont take more than 2 hours to go from 0-100 percent. Colour variations include Fire Black Carbon with Titanium/DLC and yellow gold options, midnight blue carbn and Crystal White Carbon.

Most secure phone in the world?

Sirin Labs called their first smartphone Solarin, the most secure phone in the world. At the launch, we were told that international business consumers were the target audience and that they were the ones who were in most danger of and most worried about getting their phones hacked into. And to demonstrate exactly how easy it is to hack phones, one was hacked into live at the press conference...

Solarin runs on Android 5.1.1 but it comes with the mobile device equivalent of a panic room. a pinhead-sized sensor next to the camera lens at the back needs only be tapped once for the phone to go into secure mode. When it does, the user is only able to text or call other Solarin phones- even the screen looks like something out of the movie-Matrix.

Solarin also uses chip-to-chip 256-bit AES encryption, thatt's otherwise used by the military worldwide to help its target customer who, according to the manufacturer are business leaders and partners in financial companies, CXOs and have access to vast amounts of confidential information and have to travel for business a lot. The company further claim that the encryption on the Solarin is the most robust to be used outside the murky world of MI5 and their ilk. 

 Early verdict

I am not super rich, I don't know how they live. However, I do know that they enjoy snapchat, instagram and Twitter as much as the next person and from time to time click on spurious links in their emails which lead them to being hacked like Jennifer Lawrence. Will the Solarin help protect them from these? Maybe they will, maybe they won't. 

But what it will do is give scores of bankers, entrepreneurs and tycoons immense peace of mind, and that is quite something.

Without road testing the phone, I cannot say for sure how secure it is, but if it does live upto its claims, it will open up a new frontier in premium smartphone ownership and usage. This phone is no Vertu with its super-premium materials, 24/7 concierge on tap and sapphire crystal screen but what it says it offers is something which most of us covent these days- privacy.

As I said before, I am not a millionaire but if I am expected to pay upwards of £9,500 + VAT, I would expect more than Android 5.1.1 and Gorilla Glass 4 on top of the phone. Just sayin'

Specifications

Price: From £9500 + VAT

Operating System: Android 5.1.1

Dimensions: 159.8 X 78 X 11.1 mm

Weight: 243g

Resolution: 2540 x 1440 538 ppi

Display: 5.5-inch IPS LCD with PFS LED backlight

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 Octa core; 2GHz. GPU: Adreno 430

Camera: 24-MP with Auto focus, Optical image stabilization. 8-MP selfie cam with OIS and aperture: f/2.0

Memory: 128GB RAM: 4 GB; no expandable memory 

Battery: 4000mAH

Fingerprint sensor: Yes

Misc: Gorilla Glass 4, Quick Charge 2.0; IP54 water and dust resistant; hot swap