We aren't military grade hackers so we can't try to smash our way through the encryption, but we can tell you more about the three core elements which make it work: Digital Identification, Authentication and Voice Encryption. Digital Identification is ensured as the E2 actually uses a second, highly secure 'Crypto' SIM card locked deep into the body of the phone that is used to authenticate each user in a secure call and any unauthorised attempt to access this card will result in its self destruction (yes, we're in Mission Impossible territory here).
In terms of Authentication, the Crypto sim uses 1024bit RSA, an encryption that has never been broken, and has 1077 possible key combinations. This pairs the two handsets in the call and the call itself is protected by 256bit AES encryption which is uniquely generated for each call using a hardware random number generator. The result is ITSEC certified end-to-end call encryption, but as you may have guessed by now, the sizeable caveat is to make these calls requires both users to have an Enigma E2 handset.
In terms of practical performance, we were highly impressed. When making an encrypted call it adds about five seconds to the dialling time and roughly the same in completing the handshake between the two devices when the incoming call is accepted (a process indicated by short beeps before a long beep confirms you are connected). Considering the levels of encryption and key generation going on this is impressively fast.
In addition to this call quality is exceptional between E2s. The handsets use 'CrystalSpeech' noise cancellation (developed by ARM) to remove background noise and while encrypted calls are typically associated with crackling lines and long delays in our tests there were virtually no delays and the call quality put most smartphones to shame. This is no doubt helped, by the lack of interference from other antennas found in these phones such as GPS, 3G, WiFi, etc but the results are no less impressive. Furthermore Tripleton claims future software updates will see the E2 gain encrypted text messaging and MMS. Handy, but would such customers risk using them?
All of which brings us to the Enigma E2's biggest issue: price. Each handset costs a whopping £1,320, roughly three premium smartphones, and you will require two to make encrypted calls. We understand we are in $400 ashtray territory here and the potential customers for such devices will likely have no problem paying whatever is required to keep their conversations quiet, but we do feel in light of this Tripleton took some cheeky shortcuts. Most obviously the handset itself, at least externally, uses build materials and a screen we would expect on a £50 model on pre-pay. Meanwhile the packaging is basic, the bundled earphones with integrated mic are as cheap as the those found in most budget handsets and even the microSD card supplied is a jaw-droppingly stingy 2GB.
Then again, as we said, the Enigma E2 gets it right where it counts so will the intended audience care? We suspect not…
Never has the word 'niche' been more applicable. On the surface Tripleton's Enigma E2 has the looks and build quality of a £50 pre-pay handset, but costs £1,320 with two required for encrypted conversations. This really should be improved for the cost as should the cheap bundled headset and miserly 2GB microSD card. Yet to focus on these issues would miss the point, the E2 offers world class encryption which is both obsessive in its detail but simple to use and call quality is exceptional. Those who need this know it, will pay for it and likely care little about anything else.