Blockchain smartphones are exciting even if the HTC Exodus isn’t
It's a lot hotter when you get past noises like CryptoKitties and bitcoin, and into the real use cases.
The HTC Exodus can only be pre-ordered with bitcoin or Ethereum, going for 0.15 BTC or 4.78 ETH.
For some perspective, that's roughly the cost of one new smartphone.
Blockchain on the go
The exact blockchain-related functionality of the Exodus is still somewhat hazy, but it's said to include an onboard cold storage wallet that's protected from interacting with the Android OS.
In addition, HTC says it has a "social key" password recovery mechanism, where people can send fragments of recovery keys to trusted contacts, who can then piece them together to create a full recovery seed or password for the device or its onboard crypto wallet.
It's exactly like the old trope of a key to a treasure chest that's been divided and each part given to a guardian.
Interestingly, the foundations of this particular type of high-tech secret-sharing wizardry date back to Shamir's Secret Sharing from the late 70s. After so many decades, cryptocurrency might be the first time people have a real reason to start applying it and creating useable consumer-friendly applications based on it.
Spec-wise, the HTC Exodus offers combinations of numbers and words like "Snapdragon 845" that you can look at and say, "Yep, it's a phone."
What really defines a blockchain phone?
Blockchain phones seem to be defined solely by the onboard hardware wallet. It's nifty, but perhaps not exactly game-changing at a time when hardware wallets are as small and flexible as a credit card and can pair with any kind of phone.
Plus, the Exodus won't be alone. The Sirin Labs Finney blockchain smartphone has reportedly managed tens of thousands of pre-orders already, has plans for brick and mortar stores, and is due for launch in November after being delayed a few times.
At the same time, any smartphone will be able to access dapps and similar through systems like Status (SNT), which turns any smartphone into a light Ethereum node and allows access to a dapp store. The only real difference in that respect might be whether a phone comes with dapps like CryptoKitties pre-installed or whether you have to go to the dapp store yourself.
Dapp games like CryptoKitties are often seen as fun examples of how to "do the blockchain" and manage a wallet, and the Exodus is specifically focusing on these games as an approachable selling point for the non-crypto crowd. Of course, Exodus pre-orders are currently for crypto only, so it's really preaching to the choir.
But further down the line, these games will likely start fading into the background as the more practical and essential elements of dapps become commonplace, such as the following examples:
- The use of self-sovereign identity-related dapps that let one's phone serve as a reliable form of ID of any kind, while protecting user data
- Quick and easy peer-to-peer transactions anywhere. Tip people directly without needing cash and buy or sell excess mobile data, battery power or anything else which can be tokenised (ie. literally everything).
- Monetise data or spare resources, such as idle processing power or current weather information at your location, and access the same through micropayments or for free where applicable
- Connecting with IoT devices
- Use various quality-of-life applications, like Brave and BAT
- Access various cloud computing systems to expand the possibilities of a phone beyond what its hardware might allow
In this respect, the wallet element will probably be a crucial part of the phone, and once it's considered sufficiently essential, it will become standard for all smartphones.
Of course, that full and vital dapp ecosystem doesn't exist yet, making the onboard crypto wallet a fairly niche thing. But someone has to blaze that trail, even if the commercial benefits of being that trail blazer are still dubious.
Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author holds ETH, IOTA, ICX, VET, XLM, BTC and ADA.