Smartphones for Cryptocurrency Owners
We expect blockchain and digital currencies to have a significant impact on how we use our phones, including how we make and accept mobile payments. There are now hundreds of utility tokens, typically launched using the ERC-20 standard on the Ethereum blockchain, that provide users access to specific, usually decentralized, networks or services. It’s possible one-day soon our phones will become always-on nodes for Bitcoin’s Lightning Network, routing peer-to-peer payments between and among people and we’ve never met. In the meantime, traders and investors speculate on the future by buying these coins, and there are dozens of apps for holding cryptocurrencies on any Android device. Assuming you use one that is reputable, these software wallets function perfectly well as hot wallets for walking-around money. Bitpie, for example, has built-in exchange functionality for managing your crypto investment account, and Coinomi supports a variety of altcoins.
For bitcoin, we recommend:
- Eclair. It’s simple and includes early support for establishing payment channels and transacting on the Lightning Network, which will theoretically allow Bitcoin to provide instant, low-fee transactions at scale. Eclair is password-encrypted and uses a standard 24-word BIP30 seed, so if your device is lost, stolen, or wiped, you can restore your wallet easily.
- Samourai. Already the most feature-rich wallet with particularly strong features related to setting fee levels.
- Mycelium. Includes support for watch-only addresses and a “Local Trader” function for finding people to transact with.
But all that’s just software. There is a new generation of smartphones coming focused on cryptocurrency payments and security. Aside from including quality wallets, phones built for crypto will likely offer custom hardware features and OS-level crypto integration. HTC’s Exodus, to be released later in 2018, is probably the most mass market example, though buzzword-heavy taglines like “blockchain powered” or “the first native blockchain phone” make us skeptical the device’s crypto-centricity is much more than a marketing gimmick.
The Finney Phone
Israeli company Sirin Labs is expected to release the Finney, another made-for-crypto device, in November. The phone was funded via a $150 million initial coin offering last December at the peak of the ICO frenzy. If you have been unlucky enough to hold the company’s SRN token, you’re likely not doing so well–the token is down 90% from its ICO and even more from the post-ICO runup in January. According to presentations by Moshe Hogeg, Sirin Labs CEO, SRN will act like an in-phone reserve currency, allowing users to seamlessly convert between whatever token is required of whatever decentralized app they are trying to use. Color us skeptical that SRN’s functionality is anything more than useless justification for a cash grab ICO.
Putting aside the ridiculous token–and yes, you do need SRN if you actually want to pre-order the Finney–the $1,000 device will have specific features relevant for storing and using crypto, most uniquely a second-screen “safe display” that activates via hardware switch, emerging from the top of the device, and seemingly lives in a more secure hardware “zone” separate from Android. We assume this will function similarly to popular hardware wallets like the Trezor and Ledger.
Here are the Finney’s expected specs:
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
- 6” 18:9 Display
- 128GB Storage
- 6GB RAM
- 12MP / 8MP cameras
- 3280mAh battery
Sirin Labs has published a 33 page whitepaper detailing everything from device specs to its global marketing plan. What we know about the HTC Exodus on the other hand has dribbled out over the past few months. Aside from the company’s vision statement of “creating the world’s first phone dedicated to decentralized applications and security,” there are several bit of news that make us excited that the Exodus might be real, most specifically a tweet from Charlie Lee, the well-respected founder of Litecoin; in it, he says that he is advising HTC and that the device will “support” Litecoin and Lightning Network on Litecoin “natively.”
Beyond this, HTC is promoting the use of DApps, or decentralized apps, which have their back-end code running on a peer-to-peer network, on the device and has discussed plans to create its own blockchain (similar to SRN, perhaps) on which users could trade cryptocurrencies among each other.
It’s good to see innovation in the space, and it will be interesting to see which OEM is able to to make the experience secure and user-friendly enough to help drive crypto adoption.