The smartphone market is slowing significantly with low-price smartphones from Chinese manufacturers causing problems for Apple and Samsung. Despite this, a startup is planning to launch an entirely new device with an eye-popping pricetag: up to $15,000 per phone.
Backed by $72 million in venture capital, Sirin Labs, an Israeli-British start-up, will next month launch its first smartphone — called Solarin — which promises features unavailable from any other smartphone on the market, with a focus on privacy and security.
Promising to bring customers “tomorrow’s technology, today” Sirin Labs says that it is aiming its smartphones at customers who don’t consider price to be a factor when choosing a new product.
“Unlike mainstream technology companies where price is paramount, Sirin Labs doesn’t need to wait a couple of years before bringing the most advanced technology to its customers.” CEO Tal Cohen said in a statement. “We can offer them tomorrow’s technology, today. Cost doesn’t influence our decision making; optimal functionality and quality do.”
The company says its core target audience are those who value “privacy, connectivity and uncompromised quality” over everything else, meaning Sirin Labs is not attempting to emulate the likes of Vertu who sell phones with relatively mundane technology features but with premium materials like leather, gold and diamonds.
Sirin is focusing on security as the big selling point of its first smartphone, hoping that incidents like the recent Apple-FBI case will focus the minds of executives around the world on the need to secure communications. Since the demise of BlackBerry which was a leader in enterprise communications, a number of companies have been seeking to fill this gap in the market, with Silent Circle's Blackphone — which costs $799 — currently among the leading option available on the market.
The idea for the new phone came about after Kazakh businessman and petrochemical mogul Kenges Rakishev had his phone hacked. He contacted serial Israeli venture capitalist Moshe Hogeg who, in 2012, had set up the Singulariteam investment fund. Hogeg previously developed the social app Yo which only allowed users to only send messages to each other containing the word “yo.”
The final member of Sirin Labs founding team was former McKinsey consultant Cohen, while additional investment was raised from Chinese social networking service Renren, which boasts 160 million users. The company has offices in the U.K., Israel, Switzerland and Sweden with 85 full-time employees, together with 150 engineers working on research and development projects for the company.
The price of the new smartphone, which will be launched at the company's flagship store in Mayfair in London on May 17, has not been revealed. But Hogeg has given some indication of what the price tag will be when it does go on sale.
The Israeli businessman told Reuters the phone would go on sale for under $20,000 but was more specific when talking to TechCrunch, telling the publication that the price is “in the neighborhood of $10–15k per phone.” Hogeg compared Sirin Labs to Tesla, saying Elon Musk's electric car company started out selling very expensive cars but has gradually brought the price down. “Sirin is not about luxury, it is about advanced technology which in turn results in high-end products,” Hogeg said.