There is a famous scene in The West Wing where a bemused politician's aid is told by a military official why ashtrays on nuclear submarines cost $400. "It's off the USS Greenville, a nuclear attack submarine and likely target for a torpedo," he explains. "When you get hit with one, you've got enough problems without glass flying into the eyes of the navigator and the officer of the deck. This one's built to break into three dull pieces. We lead a slightly different life out there and it costs a little more money." The scene could have been written about Tripleton's Enigma E2 secure phone…
Announced late last month the Enigma E2 is no ordinary phone, in fact according to its maker it is the world's most secure mobile phone. This is not due to an add-on or app, the E2's security is at a base level built into the hardware and using a custom secure operating system. The result is extreme with 1024bit RSA asymmetric encryption and 256bit AES symmetric encryption with a further two-way user authentication. Unsurprisingly military, politicians and high end enterprise are the intended customers, rather than those living in fear of the latest Facebook privacy leak.
Interestingly, given all this technology, on the surface the Enigma E2 looks like a handset you might buy for an elderly relative. This is because when the E2 isn't being uber-smart it is being extremely dumb. The specs read like a handset from a time when Nokia ruled the phone world: a 2.4in 320 x 240 pixel display, triband GSM (900, 1800, 1900MHz), a 3MP camera, microSD card slot, WAP 2.0 web browser, unified email inbox, FM radio and Bluetooth. There is MP3 and MPEG4 audio and video playback, but we can't see much of the latter being done on such a small screen.
The build quality is also nothing to write home about. The E2 is 100 per cent plastic with four different finishes and the faux-metal side band is a bit tacky. Furthermore the video and camera buttons on the side are small and the microSD card slot cover feels particularly flimsy. The screen is also very dull by modern handset standards and the low screen resolution feels jarring in 2012. At 94.5g and 115 x 50 x 14.7mm the E2 isn't particularly light or compact either.
Furthermore encrypted calls take their toll on the battery life with it lasting for only up to five hours of talk time, though standby is healthier at up to 250 hours. At least it charges over microUSB, though like the microSD card slot it has a similarly flimsy cover. As you might have guessed by these covers, the E2 isn't ruggedised to withstand additional impacts or to be water resistant.
Of course in theory none of this matters because, like the $400 ashtray, the value is in how it performs and what makes Tripleton's approach to the Enigma E2 so impressive is its simplicity. No passwords or codes are required, a user simply dials a number or selects it from the contact list and presses the secure call button (indicated by a key symbol). Should they wish to make a standard call they press the standard call button instead.