Now that blockchain technology is poised to disrupt almost every industry imaginable, it comes as no surprise that there is a device known as a blockchain phone.
What is a blockchain phone?
A blockchain phone is a smart mobile device which offers various blockchain-focused features. Such features include a digital asset wallet, as well as access to decentralized apps. Dapps are blockchain-powered applications.
Some blockchain phones can natively make calls, send messages, and manage files through the blockchain. Secure, low-latency communication can be achieved via Dapps as well. This way, users circumvent mobile carriers’ central switching systems.
Is there a way for you to invest in this incipient blockchain use case?
Some blockchain phone makers have issued their own digital tokens/coins. At least a couple have secured initial funding via ICOs. (Visit our initial coin offerings page for more on specific ICOs.)
More established manufacturers are publicly traded companies. Here’s a handy chart of some of the blockchain phones that exist today and their features.
|Pundi X XPhone||HTC Exodus 1||Sirin Labs Finney||Samsung Galaxy S10||SIKURPhone|
|Crypto Wallet||Yes.||Zion Mobile Wallet, "Secure Enclave" technology for private key protection, Social key recovery||Integrated cold storage crypto wallet, with physical Safe Screen activation||Samsung Wallet and Blockchain Keystore||SIKUR built-in cryptocurrency wallet|
|SIKUR built-in cryptocurrency wallet||Function X might look like a modified Android OS. Yet it is the heart and soul of the XPhone project.|
- Function X blockchain
|Android||SirinOS - modified Android, with enhanced security. Consists of:|
- Finney Wallet
- Cyber Security Center
|Android||Android 7.0 modified|
|Android 7.0 modified||The ethereum-like platform, where developers can freely distribute Dapps||Opera browser hosts a Dapp store||Users can access Dapps via dCenter, SirinOS's built-in Dapps curator.||Limited number of Dapps supported||Built-in browser. Only allows apps from SIKUR. No standalone apps supported.|
|Storage and processing||Not an in-house built phone. Theoretically, with Function X, any Android phone can become an XPhone.||Qualcomm SnapDragon 845, 6GB RAM, 128 GB storage capacity||Qualcomm SnapDragon 845, 6GB RAM, 128 GB storage capacity||Qualcomm SDM855 Snapdragon 855, 8 GB RAM, 128/512 GB storage||MediaTek MT6750, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage|
|Investor gateway||Pundi X's NPXS tokens||HTC Corp. stock||Sirin Labs' SRN tokens.||Samsung stock||SIKUR Company is a small Brazilian operation. Does not appear to be publicly traded.|
|Other features||Direct blockchain calls, messages, file management||8MP dual selfie camera, 16/12MP rear camera, in-wallet crypto swaps.||IP52 water/dust resistance||Security based on Trusted Execution Environments. Wallet feature missing on some phones.||Frugal-looking. Sort of a "low-end" blockchain phone, despite price.|
|Product status||Only 5,000 XPhones to ever be made. The physical phone is more of a technology demonstrator.||Mass produced. Can now be bought for fiat currency too.||Mass produced||Mass produced||Mass produced|
XPhone Is, in Essence, Function X
The XPhone is a bit of a special entry in the blockchain phone category. Its psychical manifestation (the phone itself) is but a generic Android phone. Unlike established manufacturers such as HTC and Samsung, Pundi X does not make its own phones.
Function X, the modified Android OS used for the XPhone, uses the Pundi X network. The Ethereum blockchain hosts PundiX.
Through Function X, users can place calls, send messages, and transfer files to other XPhone users. The consensus mechanism of the Ethereum blockchain verifies all these operations.
The XPhone lets users jump back and forth between “traditional” calls/messages and blockchain-based ones.
Pundi X can, in fact, decide to license out the Function X technology to other phone manufacturers. It can theoretically even elect to release Function X as an .apk, allowing everyone to turn their normal Android phones into an XPhone.
While the XPhone gave Pundi X’s NPXS token a short-term boost, it cannot really be seen as a major driver of NPXS price at this point.
HTC Addresses the Issue of Seed Phrase Recovery
HTC’s Exodus 1 is a fairly well-designed blockchain phone, which uses the Zion wallet to secure its users’ digital assets. Stopping one step short of providing actual cold storage, the Exodus relies on TEE (Trusted Execution Environments) for security.
The wallet itself is cut off from the rest of the operating system unless activated through special instructions. Thus, it remains safe even if the OS itself is compromised. However, keeping one’s private keys on a mobile phone may not be the best idea regardless. What happens if you lose your phone? Exodus’ social key recovery mechanism strews your 24-word seed phrase among five of your trusted contacts. You can theoretically recover it part-by-part from these contacts.
HTC already plans to launch a cheaper version of its Exodus phone, which will be capable of running a full bitcoin node.
The company plans to ship more than a million units of the phone within a year of its launch.
HTC has partnered with Opera to offer its Exodus users access to Dapps.
Finney Adds a Mechanical Twist to Wallet Security
To activate the built-in virtual currency wallet of Sirin Labs’ Finney blockchain phone, the user needs to physically slide up a Safe Screen. As long as the Safe Screen is down, the wallet is true cold storage. It is not connected to the internet.
SirinOS, used by the Finney, also features a Dapps curator called dCENTER. Users gain access to various Dapps through this feature.
The Finney’s main selling point is the digital asset conversion feature offered by its wallet. In-wallet conversion lets users exchange one crypto for another for a small fee. This way, users avoid exposure to the dangers of “traditional” exchanges.
Dude, Where’s My Wallet?
Samsung’s Galaxy S10 wallet may be a major step toward the mass adoption of digital tokens, but it is not firing on all cylinders yet.
The wallet apparently does not support bitcoin and the feature is missing entirely on some phones.
Even on phones in countries where it is available, the wallet does not seem to be any different from a run-of-the-mill downloadable crypto wallet.
Samsung Galaxy S10’s Dapp support is not very impressive either.
SIKURPhone seems like a budget entry in the budding world of blockchain phones. You would never arrive at that conclusion though, judging solely by its price.
The security-focused phone uses a dressed-down version of Android 7.0. It is most definitely not for the everyday user.
SIKURPhone does not support any of the “normal” apps. That means no Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It does, however, allow access to some of these services via its built-in browser.
SIKURPhone’s makers liken it to the Ledger hardware wallet. If the user loses the phone, it can be wiped clean remotely. The contents of its wallet can then be restored on a new device.
Based on the above, the mobile-based use case of blockchain may appear shaky. Blockchain phones can, however, become a major step in the mass adoption of virtual currencies.
As blockchain phones appearing on the market illustrate, blockchain technology is edging toward wider adoption across multiple industries, and it behooves investors to stay abreast of investment opportunities in this space. Subscribe to the Bitcoin Market Journal newsletter for more in-depth analyses of various promising blockchain use cases and investment opportunities.