lockchain technology has received mainstream attention over the last few years already, yet the understanding of it by the general public is still a bit fuzzy, to put it lightly. To many, it’s interchangeable with cryptocurrency, and most notably, Bitcoin. Even though the technology has broader applications than that, cryptocurrency remains the most popular application.
To further deepen that connection, big technology companies like Samsung and HTC have now thrown in their chips with a new product offering: the blockchain phone. At first glance, it may look like another company slapping a new buzzword on their new flagship, but it is much more than that. So what exactly is a blockchain phone?
While specific feature sets can differ between models and devices, blockchain phones are mainly designed with a heavy focus on cryptocurrency and decentralized apps.
The first point is relatively easy to envision: a phone built with the enhanced security needed to keep your private keys and cryptocurrencies safe. Along with that some go as far as to allow you to mine cryptocurrency or run a full bitcoin node right on the device.
Smartphones have been able to process mobile payments for a while now, so this takes it a step further with it being able to act as a hardware crypto wallet that can also verify transactions from the phone itself.
Traditionally, the data you store in apps like Facebook or Instagram is stored on the private servers of huge tech companies, making all of that information centralized. Blockchain has the potential to turn that paradigm on its head through mobile apps that run on public, peer-to-peer networks. Just as Bitcoin is a decentralized cryptocurrency, the mobile apps of the future can be thought of decentralized apps, or dapps. That could also lead towards an ecosystem that makes up the decentralized web, or “Web 3.0”.
This thought process could be what also contributed to HTC’s creation of their blockchain phone, the HTC Exodus. As Phil Chen, decentralized chief officer at HTC, puts it: “Our position is that there’s something deeply wrong right now because people don’t own their digital identities; they don’t own their digital data; they don’t own their personal data.”
The First Blockchain Phones
So who are the pioneers into this new frontier of mobile technology? HTC has the HTC Exodus 1s, with its 6" Quad HD+ display, a Snapdragon 845 processor, and a beefy 3,500mAh battery. It also features its Trusted Execution Environment (TEE). The TEE temporarily isolates the operating system while signing transactions in order to secure your data. And in case you lose a key, there's also a social key recovery feature that lets trusted contacts come together and help you recover it.
Samsung’s Galaxy S10 now also supports Bitcoin thanks to an update made to the phone after launch. The update also includes functionality for Ethereum, LEO Token, and a host of other cryptocurrencies. Along with that, Samsung now has a dapp ecosystem and its own Trusted Execution Environment.
The Finney phone by Sirin Labs has a design that’s unlike most other smartphones you can think of. Specifically it has a cold storage wallet that is an entirely separate piece of hardware from the core device. You activate it by sliding that part of the phone upwards when you make a transaction, to reveal the second “Safe Screen” with your critical information.
It may be a while before blockchain phones become commonplace (if they ever do), but even these options right now present exciting possibilities for how we use blockchain in our daily lives.