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What Is a Blockchain Smartphone and Should You Buy One Now?

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Image Credit: @davidshares

You’re in the market for a new smartphone. There are all the usual suspects; Huawei, Samsung, Apple, and so on. But a new trend caught your eye: the blockchain smartphone.

What is a blockchain smartphone? Should you bother buying one? And how do they compare to a regular smartphone?

Here’s what you need to know about blockchain smartphones.

What Is a Blockchain Smartphone?

The sudden interest in blockchain smartphones isn’t the work of dark crypto forces bringing more buzzwords to the table. Major smartphone manufacturers are integrated blockchain, and cryptocurrency features directly into their hardware. The integration varies between manufacturers, as you might expect. The phrase “blockchain phone” is also thrown around liberally.

For example, the Samsung Galaxy S10 includes a secure storage system for private cryptocurrency keys. Does that make it a “blockchain smartphone?” In comparison to Pundi X’s Blok on Blok, no, because the latter has a core functionality that uses the blockchain, whereas Samsung is accommodating cryptocurrency users.

Therein lies the difficulty in defining a blockchain smartphone. It is different things to different people.

What Are the Benefits of a Blockchain Smartphone?

The base-level for a blockchain smartphone is an integrated cryptocurrency wallet and the accompanying security. Turning a smartphone into a secure hardware wallet is a core step toward universal cryptocurrency adoption. The majority of non-crypto users don’t want to bother with buying a separate secure hardware wallet, like a Trezor or a Ledger. It is an extra expense and additional piece of hardware to carry, however small the hardware is.

Blockchain smartphones should, in theory, interface easier with DApps. There are already a few ways you can interface with DApps from your smartphone, such as Metamask or mobile crypto wallets with DApp support. With closer integration between regular mobile operating systems like Android and iOS and blockchain technology should come increased security, better sharing opportunities, and the regular “non-crypto” smartphone owners beginning to make use of DApps or blockchain utilities.

In the long term, blockchain smartphones will make use of exclusive apps that only other blockchain smartphones can use. A prime example of this is the Pundi X Blok on Blok, which when switched into blockchain mode can communicate with and download files from other Blok on Blok devices, creating a miniature private blockchain network within the wider internet.

Blockchain Smartphone Examples

There are already several blockchain smartphones on the market. Their adherence to blockchain varies between manufacturers, meaning there is a variety of implementations on the market. Here are a few blockchain smartphones currently available.

1. HTC Exodus 1

The HTC Exodus 1 caught headlines when HTC announced the smartphone would integrate a private cryptocurrency key vault, as well as integrations for DApps.

HTC Exodus security and privacy comes from the HTC Zion all-in-one wallet. Zion is a combined exchange, marketplace, payment processor, DApp portal, and crypto-collectible wallet.

“All that, in one app?” I hear you say. Well, yes—and Zion is indicative of how the major smartphone manufacturers envisage cryptocurrency use and adoption.

The HTC Exodus and Zion wallet will also use distributed social key recovery. Zion breaks down and encrypts your recovery phrase, then sends it to a list of trusted contacts. If you lose your phone or otherwise, your contacts can help you recover your Zion wallet. Furthermore, the HTC Exodus uses a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) to safely secure your keys and stop any malicious code executing.

2. Samsung Galaxy S10

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is a standard smartphone with some cryptocurrency and blockchain integration.

Every Galaxy S10 will automatically generate a cryptocurrency wallet which supports up to 33 tokens, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Binance Coin. The first-generation Galaxy S10 launched in March 2019 with support for Ethereum storage and transaction processing. However, Bitcoin was conspicuous in its absence. The second-generation Galaxy S10 launched in August 2019 with support for the world’s largest cryptocurrency.

A core component of Samsung’s crypto integration is the Samsung Blockchain Keystore. The Keystore “puts consumers in control of their data,” using an isolated Trusted Execution Environment (TEE). The TEE ensures your private keys remain isolated on the device. Not even the Android operating system can access the private keys without explicit permission.

Aside from the TEE, the Samsung Galaxy S10 integrated wallet allows access to several DApps, including Pundi X’s X Wallet, crypto game My Crypto Heroes, and social media DApp platform, Berry Pick.

3. Sirin Labs Finney

From two smartphones integrating cryptocurrency and blockchain to one taking it a step further. Sirin Labs’ Finney blockchain smartphone (named after blockchain pioneer, Hal Finney) comes with embedded cold storage, allowing you to lock away your cryptocurrencies while still making cryptocurrency transactions.

The Finney extends the functionality of the base Android operating system into Sirin OS. Sirin Labs Sirin OS comes with extensive security enhancements, such as the Cyber Security Center and the dCENTER. The Cyber Security Center includes app whitelisting, individual app locking, TrustCall (encrypted peer-to-peer calls), Proton Mail, and a host of other security and privacy-focused apps.

The Safe Screen cold storage is a separate 2″ PMOLED screen which remains offline so long as the secondary screen remains shut. Once you slide it up, you can use the cryptocurrency wallet. However, other reviewers note that the small screen is fiddly for

Sirin Labs Finney is eye-catching, too. You access the cold storage via a slide-out screen, the overall design is sleek, and the screen has a higher pixel density than the 6.1″ iPhone XR. It is a tidy package.

Are Blockchain Smartphones a Gimmick?

I don’t think blockchain smartphones are a gimmick. Like many things blockchain and cryptocurrency, blockchain smartphones are at the genesis of their development. You only have to look at how Pundi X is already pushing the meaning of “blockchain smartphone” forward with their Blok on Blok modular device. (Read more about the Pundi X Blok on Blok here!)

The core thing to take from the sudden avalanche of blockchain smartphones is that major manufacturers are taking blockchain and cryptocurrencies seriously. And because those major brand names are taking it seriously, the rest of the world will follow suit.

Wondering what is holding blockchain back? Here are the five major blockchain issues the industry is working to solve.

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Gavin Phillips
Gavin is the SEO Manager and a Senior Writer for Blocks Decoded. He’s been invested in Bitcoin since 2010 and has contributed to several crypto and blockchain publications, including Envilope. Gavin loves real-world applications of blockchain technology, such as Civic and uPort, and how blockchain technology can help protect privacy. Gavin is also a Senior Writer for MakeUseOf.
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