The $14,000 Solarin smartphone was a failure, maker lays off a third of its staff


Last year we told you about the Solarin, a privacy-oriented Android smartphone with a hefty $14,000 price tag (or more than $16,000 with taxes), wondering whether a market for it even exists. If we're judging by the recent troubles of its maker, Sirin Labs, it appears there doesn't, as the company has reportedly laid off a third of its staff, and is looking to pivot in a new direction going forward.

The Solarin wasn't purely a victim of its own price, mind you – at the time of its release, it was equipped with the already obsolete Snapdragon 810, ran Android 5.1 Lollipop late into the Marshmallow era, and had a few other hardware problems unfitting of such a high-priced device. Its big selling point instead was its secure mode, where only encrypted messaging and outgoing phone calls were allowed, but such features exist in other phones, too – just take a look at Silent Circle's Blackphone line, for example.

And that is not to say there isn't a market for ultra-expensive phones: companies like Gresso and Vertu have been doing it for years, and with (relatively) great success, too. What's different is the target user: where other high-price phone makers choose style over substance, adorning their devices with high-quality leather and gemstones, Sirin Labs hoped it could capture the untapped market of rich privacy buffs, but ultimately failed in the execution. Granted, the Solarin, too, was made out of expensive materials, such as titanium and technical leather, but they were never the focus of its marketing, which almost exclusively focused on its security instead.

While initial reports claimed the Solarin itself was discontinued, Sirin Labs claims it will continue producing the device for at least a year, and will also support its existing users. However, after laying off 30 of its 90-people staff, it soon plans to begin re-hiring engineers for its future products, for which it will "pursue a different direction." What that might be, however, is still a mystery.


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8 Comments

1. Phonehex

Posts: 768; Member since: Feb 16, 2016

Had to happen!

2. BradyCrack

Posts: 835; Member since: Dec 29, 2015

I would be interested if they focused on design and a lot on specs. Maybe like what oneplus does but a MUCH more premium market?

3. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Honestly I think it is a victim of its price, not so much the lower specs, people that would want an ultra privacy phone would probably gladly give up highest end specs, but yeah..not for that price, you can mod existing phones with rooting them and whatnot to get increased privacy.

5. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Precisely. Simply with XPrivacy + DisableService (both readily available on the Play Store for rooed devices), you can control access to internet and other resources on the device, no need to get separated from your cash like a fool...

6. TerryTerius unregistered

There was an article on here a few days ago literally saying that Vertu has sold hundreds of thousands of phones last year, despite the fact that their minimum price is 6K. If you're talking about people willing to modify existing devices and so on, that's absolutely not the same market they were going for.

7. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

Well, the Vertu phones aren't really privacy-centric like this Solarin smartphone is... but more about design luxury and gemstones. So, comparing the success of these two handsets isn't relevant. Not to mention disparity in brand recognition between Vertu and Solarin. As MrElectifyer pointed out, rooting your Android and installing Xprivacy and DisableService, along with other privacy-related stuffs can pretty much earn you the privacy which this Solarin smartphone prides itself in.

8. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

As Trojan_horse points out, those are more brand / luxury minded then privacy, and people will gladly pay obscene amounts for something that looks very deluxe, even if it isn't.

4. sun0066

Posts: 282; Member since: Feb 12, 2011

Just surreal !!!

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