Sirin Labs Finney hands-on review

Fascinating Finney phone is crypto in a nutshell: Exciting, but also terrifying

The Sirin Labs Finney phone tries to bring a complicated new technology to the masses, but can’t overcome obstacles outside of its control.
The Sirin Labs Finney phone tries to bring a complicated new technology to the masses, but can’t overcome obstacles outside of its control.
The Sirin Labs Finney phone tries to bring a complicated new technology to the masses, but can’t overcome obstacles outside of its control.

Highs

  • User-friendly software experience
  • Attractive design
  • Secure Android operating system

Lows

  • Limited mainstream appeal
  • Expensive
  • Specs disappoint

I do not own any cryptocurrency, I have never bought any, and at the moment I have no pressing plans to buy any either. Think that makes me the worst person to try out the Sirin Labs Finney crypto-phone? No, it makes me the ideal person, because hardcore cryptocurrency fans have likely already got an opinion about the unusual device. It’s regular people like me that have to understand it, and be convinced by its potential — if it’s going to be a success down the road.

That’s the disclaimer: Success down the road. The Finney phone is ahead of its time. It’s a niche device with limited, if any, mainstream appeal right now. If cryptocurrency becomes mainstream, will the Finney phone be the device on which we will use it, and how easy will it be? It’s a surprisingly complicated question, so let’s start with how easy it is to use. This was a real surprise, as cryptocurrency is confusing and complex for the newcomer, and the thought of carrying out transactions on a phone was not a pleasant one.

Superb user experience

The user experience team that worked on the Finney’s wallet app has delivered on its promise to create an incredibly user-friendly system, which makes payments simple — just like they should be. Paying a bill, or sending money, takes only a few steps. It starts out with scanning a QR code, entering the amount, and then verifying the details using the slide-up Safe Screen cold storage wallet. This is the Finney’s standout design feature, and what keeps your money safe and secure. The hardware is separate to the phone’s hardware, and isn’t connected to the internet until it’s necessary.

It’s a touchscreen that’s actually slightly fiddly to use, due to its placement at the back of the body. The screen is very bright though, and it also shows a QR code when you want to send or receive money from another Finney phone. Confirming payment addresses and amounts are carried out on the Safe Screen, where your password is entered. The fiddly nature of the screen may make entering a long, complex password annoying.

The app leads you through the payment process quickly, and it took about 60-seconds to complete a payment. Not Apple Pay fast, but similar to paying with a credit card. Elsewhere in the app all the transactions are neatly listed, as are all balances, and it’s always obvious what the next step is when in the middle of a process. It may sound simple to do this, but it’s not. Getting a mobile payment app right is hard, yet Sirin Labs has cracked it on the Finney.

Security and software

Genuinely, if you have a crypto-wallet stuffed with currency, using the Finney to pay is no more complicated than using PayPal, or Venmo. That said, we did not experience the more complicated process of loading your crypto wallet, which currently requires access to a computer, and the use of an exchange. We did see transfers between devices, and how to exchange one cryptocurrency for another on the device; any more in-depth, or highly technical tasks were not demonstrated. We approached the phone like a regular person, not a cryptocurrency expert.

Getting a mobile payment app right is hard, yet Sirin Labs has cracked it on the Finney.

The Finney uses Sirin OS, which is Sirin Labs’ ultra-secure version of Android 8.1. It was fast, smooth, and pleasingly, visually similar to stock Android. The device itself feels well made and expensive in the hand, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Sirin Labs monstrously expensive Solarin phone from 2016. The motion for popping up the Safe Screen takes some effort, and you’re unlikely to be sliding it up and down absentmindedly — which is a good thing as when it’s open, it’s connected to the internet and ready to carry out a transaction.

The Solarin phone taught Sirin Labs plenty about security, and Sirin OS on the Finney is similarly safe. It’s a big selling point. We also like the DApps store, where you can earn money by learning about new apps. At launch, Sirin Labs expects apps to offer a total of around $300 in returns, and told Digital Trends this can be amassed in less than 10 actions. In other words, you won’t have to watch 300 10-minute videos to earn that $300. The intention is to continue striking up these partnerships, and may ultimately allow you to recoup the initial price of the phone.

Unremarkable phone, wider concerns

That’s the good stuff, and there is far more of it than we initially, and skeptically, feared. However, this is no ordinary phone, and there’s a lot more to consider before even thinking about buying one. For most people, there is no compelling reason to get involved with cryptocurrency if the most daring financial decision they’ve made is to use Apple Pay at Starbucks. Without this, the Finney phone is only attractive to those who are already involved, and even then, how many need 24/7 access to their crypto-wallets? Also, simple cold storage wallets — by which we mean those not attached to a phone — can be purchased for less than $100, making the $1,000 Finney a harder sell.

Sirin Labs Finney
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Sirin Labs is banking (sorry) on cryptocurrency becoming more mainstream, because without this, the Finney will only ever be a niche device. We already know this isn’t going to happen overnight, and should it eventually do so, the Finney phone is likely to be out-of-date. It’s actually barely up-to-date now, with Android 8.1, a single 12-megapixel camera, 6GB of RAM, and the current-but-soon-to-be-replaced Snapdragon 845. Viewed solely as a smartphone, it’s not worth the asking price.

There’s a very strong chance Sirin Labs isn’t that bothered, as Finney isn’t the most important part  in its plan — it’s Sirin OS. The software is being shopped around to hardware manufacturers, in the hope they will build crypto-phones based on it. Licensing, and potential control of the burgeoning mobile crypto space, is where the money is, along with a likely value boost for Sirin Labs own SRN token, especially if developers and other firms adopt it as a payment method.

Cryptocurrency gamble

Sirin OS, in our limited time using it, is impressive, and we imagine there will be interest from manufacturers. The phone is secure and attractive, while the slide-up Safe Screen is slick and eye-catching, as well as being functional. It’s still a chicken and egg situation though, as without the opportunity or desire by regular people to easily buy and use cryptocurrency, demand for such a phone will be low.

If you have a crypto-wallet stuffed with currency, using the Finney to pay is no more complicated than using PayPal.

This leads us on to the biggest, and most concerning problem, which has nothing to do with Sirin Labs or the Finney phone at all. It’s the volatility, complexity, and uncertain future of cryptocurrency. Playing with it today is a gamble, and not something to be taken lightly. If you have no experience, but are tempted to buy the Finney phone and start experimenting with cryptocurrency, we’d recommend doing plenty of research before making the final decision.

Want some evidence? The day after the Finney phone’s announcement, Sirin Labs SRN token fell in value by 17-percent. Often when the stock market reacts to a new product, the value of the company rises, particularly if it’s a positive and well-received move. The fact Sirin Labs token did the opposite tells you everything you need to know about cryptocurrency and its unpredictability.

Sirin Labs Finney is a fascinating conundrum of a product. While the phone is relatively unremarkable, the software and secure cold storage wallet genuinely has potential, and it effectively taps into a niche but passionate and growing community. It’s possible it’s the future of payments and banking, or at least a glimpse of one potential future, but it also may not be due to how rapidly the world of crypto changes. As it stands there are way better smartphones that will be more immediately useful to spend $1,000 on.

Product Review

Montblanc Summit 2 offers smart functionality but still looks good with a suit

Montblanc’s Summit 2 is the first smartwatch to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor. It’s feature packed, with GPS, NFC for Google Pay, and a heart rate sensor, but it also has the classic timepiece look.
Emerging Tech

This cryptocurrency wallet for kids isn’t nearly as stupid as it sounds

So you’ve taught your 6-year-old child to read, write, and play nice with others. What’s next? Give them a base understanding of cryptocurrency, of course. This Kickstarter aims to help.
Digital Trends Live

Cryptocurrency investor Ian Balina sees a comeback for cryptocurrency in 2019

We chatted with crypto investor Ian Balina on what the future is for cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin. He also gave us three things to look for when we are investing our own money.
Wearables

These are the best smartwatches for everything from fashion to fitness

Tempted to buy a smartwatch? If so, then the growing number of great models available means you've got plenty to choose from. But which one should you pick? Here is our list of the best smartwatches.
Mobile

OnePlus's 5G phone should arrive in May 2019, may cost up to $850

OnePlus will be among the first companies to put the new Snapdragon 855 processor into a phone, and will also release a separate and more expensive 5G phone in 2019 with the help of U.K. network EE.
Mobile

Santa Claus is coming to town. Get ready with these Christmas apps

Like it or not, Christmas comes but once a year. Thankfully, we've got a list of the best Christmas apps to help get you into the holiday spirit, just in case you want to call Santa or become a Christmas elf.
Product Review

The Black Shark gaming phone takes a big bite out of your free time, but the software sinks it

The world is being treated to an ever-increasing number of high-powered gaming phones. With so many great options already out, is there room for another? The Black Shark thinks so. But is it any good? We find out.
Gaming

Xiaomi’s Gamepad 2.0 turns the Black Shark into a mini Switch

Chinese phone manufacturer Xiaomi has introduced the Gamepad 2.0 for its Black Shark gaming phone that launched earlier this year. The new gamepad is similar to the Switch Joy-Con, with one piece attaching to each side of the phone.
Mobile

Google makes it easy to donate to charity straight through the Play Store

As we head into the holiday season, Google announced a new feature on Google Play that makes it a little easier to donate to charity. Through the new page, you'll be able to choose from a range of charities to donate to.
Deals

REI clearance sale extends discounts on Garmin, Fitbit, and GoPro devices

Beyond the things you typically expect to find at REI — like tents, skis, and jackets — there are tons of great deals on quality tech foryour outdoor adventures. From smartwatches to action cameras, here are the best tech deals.
Mobile

Sprint’s 5G rollout: Everything you need to know

Sprint is building its next-gen 5G network in preparation for a 2019 rollout, but it's taking a decidedly different approach than some of its competitors, including Verizon and AT&T. Here's everything you need to know.
Mobile

The Galaxy S10 may be announced before MWC, sell for up to $1,750

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Deals

Amazon slashes price of 2018 iPad to under $250 in time for Christmas

Whether you love Apple or prefer Android, this 2018 iPad 32GB tablet deal is rather tempting. If you're still on the hunt for gifts, then this deep discount from Amazon makes now an excellent time to pick one up.
Wearables

How to use the ECG app, set up irregular rhythm notifications on the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch Series 4 is the best smartwatch iPhone owners can own, and it just got even better with the addition of the ECG app and ability to identify irregular heart rhythms. Here's how to set it all up.