How Crypto Phones Are Popularizing Web 3.0 & Blockchain Tech
Most individuals are practically inseparable from their smartphones and take them wherever they go. Having a mini-computer in your pocket with the ability to stay connected has become the norm.
As crypto enthusiasts search for ways to mainstream cryptocurrencies, crypto phones offer an exciting gateway to Web 3.0 and blockchain technology. Web 3.0 is the next generation of the internet that uses blockchain technology as a foundation, enabling secure and affordable transfers of value over networks.
In this article, we’ll explore what crypto phones are, including their history and early launches, as well as promising recent projects. We’ll also explore some of the key features that make these products exciting.
What Is A Crypto Phone?
A crypto phone is a blockchain-centric device that combines a smartphone's standard features with support for crypto, the metaverse and decentralized applications (DApps). For example, a crypto phone can allow users to store private keys securely, mine crypto, participate in the metaverse, or run blockchain network nodes.
Crypto phones offer a variety of features that make it easier for users to store and use their cryptocurrencies. This innovation aspires to bridge the gap between web3 and the masses.
History of Crypto Phones
Taiwanese smartphone giant HTC ushered in this new era with the launch of the first crypto phone, the Exodus 1, in October 2018. This genesis model featured a crypto hardware wallet and could run a full Bitcoin node, among other capabilities.
In December of the same year, Israeli Sirin Labs launched the “first open-source, ultra-secure blockchain smartphone,” Finney. These new-generation devices showed the tech world the possibilities at the intersection of mobile and blockchain technology.
Since then, several smartphone makers have forayed into this nascent market with their own iterations of these cutting-edge devices of varying capabilities and price points.
But are they really worth the hype?
What Makes Crypto Phones Worth Trying?
Unlike your regular smartphone, crypto phones are designed to offer cryptocurrency and blockchain functionalities in addition to their regular features. For crypto enthusiasts, crypto phones are an easily accessible portal to the decentralized web, popularized as web3. The web3 ecosystem consists of blockchain-based apps that look like regular mobile apps but are not owned or controlled by massive tech corporations (in other words, centralized).
Crypto phone makers believe that the popularity of smartphones and any consumer dependence on them will be an ideal platform to make web3 mainstream.
Here are a few key benefits of trying crypto phones:
Built-in security features. Most come with built-in hardware wallets (or cold storage), the safest way to store digital assets. Users can access their crypto on the go without fear of security breaches. Encryption makes it harder for hackers to access your data.
Native access to decentralized apps (DApps). Although regular smartphones may allow you to download DApps, crypto phones have them built in, which offers less friction for users to try them. You can transact between your crypto phones’ built-in wallet and DApps seamlessly and safely.
Cutting out app stores. DApps aren’t just useful for cryptocurrency enthusiasts — there’s a lot of potential for businesses to use them, too. For example, imagine a restaurant chain running a loyalty program that rewards customers based on what they buy, or an online car dealership that doesn’t charge transaction fees.
The problem with centralized platforms such as Apple App Store and Google Play is that they take a cut of every sale. If you sell $100 worth of goods, the platform takes 10% of that amount. In addition, the platform charges a fee to developers who want to distribute their products. DApps eliminate this issue — and tend to be cheaper and faster than traditional apps.
Convenient access to cryptocurrencies. Crypto phones make it easier to store and use cryptocurrencies. Their hardware wallets allow you to store your coins securely, and DApps give you the option to use your crypto quickly and easily.
Privacy. Crypto phones have features to keep your data private. This can include encrypted messaging and the ability to hide your location.
What's New With Crypto Phones in 2022?
Since their introduction in 2018, crypto phones have failed to take off as expected. However, new projects like Polygon’s Nothing have reignited interest in crypto phones. Here are a few of the new kids on the block that are making waves.
Nothing Phone (1)
The Polygon network is making its debut in the crypto phone market with the spectacularly designed mid-range Nothing Phone (1). Partnering with phone maker Nothing, the Ethereum scaling solution hopes to bring web3 to the wider smartphone audience.
Nothing Phone (1) offers features to help users seamlessly access DApps and games on the Polygon network. It also adds crypto secure storage and payment functionalities and uses the Polygon ID, a new blockchain-based identification system that uses zero-knowledge cryptography. The Polygon ID is a decentralized and self-owned identification system that allows users to verify their identity without having to entrust their data to big tech companies where it could be compromised by third parties.
The Nothing Phone (1) will airdrop non-fungible tokens (NFTs) titled “Black Dot” to reward its community of investors. NFT owners will enjoy benefits such as early access to products and event entries.
Even with its eye-catching iPhone-like looks, reasonable specs and Polygon-powered web3 integration, the Nothing Phone (1) has a decent price tag of about $479.
If there’s one device that’s brought back the crypto phone and blockchain tech hype, it’s the Solana Saga. As a crypto phone under development by Solana Labs in partnership with OSOM, the Solana Saga boasts features that set it apart from mainstream smartphones.
The device features a “seed vault” to store private keys, Solana Pay for QR code payment, a mobile wallet adapter, and a DApp store.
Additionally, the Saga also includes the Solana Mobile Stack (SMS), a web3 software development kit. The SMS will enable developers to build extra features to further enhance the web3 experience for Saga users.
Solana Saga will rely heavily on the Solana Blockchain for its web3 functionality. The phone’s makers hope that the Saga will ride the popularity of the mobile phone to spread mass adoption of crypto and blockchain.
The Solana Saga will start shipping in Q1 of 2023 at a cost of about $1,000.
HTC Desire 22 Pro
After kick-starting the crypto phone era with the launch of the Exodus 1 model in 2018, HTC is back again with yet another crypto smartphone. This time, the new device promises to offer an immersive metaverse experience through its proprietary Viverse Ecosystem.
The HTC Desire 22 Pro is an Android-powered mid-range crypto phone that hopes to lure users with its affordability and VR functionality. Users can stream content directly to the VIVE Flow headset to hook up to the VIVERSE platform, a metaverse that’s built on AI, VR and blockchain technology.
In addition to a rich metaverse experience, the HTC Desire 22 Pro features secure Vive wallets to store digital assets such as NFTs and cryptocurrencies, and the Vive market, where users can spend their crypto
The phone started shipping on August 1, 2022 at a retail price of about $400.
What Happened to 2019's Blockchain Phones?
Manufacturers of crypto phones hoped that these devices would usher in the next era of mobile connectivity and portability with integrated blockchain technology. Their success has varied, with the phones created by large existing phone brands generally having more staying power.
Sirin Labs Finney
Sirin Labs was one of the initial companies to announce a blockchain phone, naming it after the late cryptographer and Bitcoin pioneer, Hal Finney. It runs on Sirin OS, a Google-certified modification of Android with cyber protection, a wallet, a DApp store and token conversion. Users can independently verify wallet transactions via a unique sliding Safe Screen that activates its cold storage wallet.
However, sales of the Finney were lower than expected, and Sirin Labs had to lay off a quarter of its workforce. The chief executive of Sirin Labs was actually sued by phone manufacturer Foxconn International Holdings Ltd. for unpaid bills related to manufacturing Finney phones. The Finney phone remains for sale online.
The most affordable crypto phone by far, the Electroneum M1 is designed for people in emerging economies. The phone is priced at $80 and can mine crypto, even in offline mode. Despite the low price tag, it comes with 4G connectivity, dual sims and 8GB storage, as well as front- and rear-facing cameras. Launched by UK-based digital payments firm Electroneum, the M1 uses the firm’s cloud mining technology.
The phone targets people in developing countries with low incomes by literally offering a phone that can pay them back. It’s possible to earn up to $3 a month in ETN tokens. Electroneum partnered with mobile network operator Cellcard in Cambodia, and managed to sell out of the Electroneum M1 provided in two hours.
Samsung started selling the blockchain-enabled KlaytnPhone in 2019. It was developed with Ground X, which launched the Klaytn blockchain and is a subsidiary of the popular Korean messaging app Kakao. As the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer, Samsung was a widely recognized brand entering the crypto phone market. Kakao is South Korea’s most popular instant messenger, which also gave the partnership a solid reputation in South Korea.
The phone looks similar to a regular Galaxy Note 10, but it shows the Klaytn logo, comes with free KLAY tokens and has a cryptocurrency wallet, as well as embedded blockchain apps. The KLAY BApp (blockchain application) partner program brought in developers such as mobile game firms, mainly because gaming commands a huge market in South Korea.
HTC Exodus 1
In 2018, Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC revealed plans for the flagship Exodus 1 phone, which could double as a crypto hardware wallet. To safeguard customer cryptocurrency, SoftBank Group's Arm Holdings designed a separate micro-operating system that runs parallel with Android. It could also mine Monero coins by 2020.
The Exodus 1 had a 16 megapixel dual main camera, a six-inch display with quad-HD+ resolution, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, six gigabytes of RAM and 128GB of storage. HTC even teamed up with Binance to release a limited edition version of the Exodus 1 phone.
HTC Chief decentralized Officer Phil Chen reported that Exodus 1 sales met company expectations, and released subsequent versions such as the HTC Exodus 1s, which became the first-ever smartphone able to run a full Bitcoin node.
Should You Buy a Crypto Phone?
Buying a crypto phone is an important purchasing decision, given the amount of use mobile phones get. The chief considerations include the phone’s functionality and price tag, as well as its crypto features. Standard phone functionalities aren’t likely to exceed those of existing smartphones on the market. However, the key crypto support features that may tip the scales include security, built-in cryptocurrency wallets and mining capabilities.
Buying a crypto phone may help you secure your cryptocurrency, make it more accessible to use and even help you earn crypto on the go. Industry reports expect blockchain technology to contribute as much as $1 billion to the telecommunications sector in the next five years. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, given the interest blockchain technology has generated. The rise of the crypto phone could add to mass adoption and allow crypto wallet ownership to go mainstream.
With decentralization being a prime boon of crypto phones, it’s unsurprising to see mainstream smartphone owners being lured to crypto phones because of their strong focus on security and privacy. As the best crypto phones will bring Web 3.0 applications to users’ attention, this may certainly be one way that crypto projects will reach a wider, more mainstream audience.
As the cryptocurrency and blockchain industries continue to grow, it’s likely that we’ll see more crypto phones on the market. These phones will probably have even more advanced features and functionality as they aim to meet the needs of an increasingly digital world.