Ledger Nano X: Ledger reveals next-gen Bluetooth hardware wallet
It's both a continuation and a considerable shift from previous editions.
The Ledger Nano S is the world's best-selling cryptocurrency hardware wallet to date, but it's probably also about time for an upgrade. Ledger is delivering that upgrade, and just announced the next-gen Ledger Nano X at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
In its simplest form, the older Leger Nano S is essentially a high-security USB stick that holds private keys, to plug into your computer when you want to sign off on a crypto transaction. By contrast, the new Ledger Nano X is a stick with bluetooth functionality, which lets it interface with the upcoming Ledger mobile app. The most immediate difference is that you'll be able to use the Ledger Nano X with mobile, rather than just with a laptop.
Beyond the mobile functionality the new Ledger Nano X also has a redesigned interface, a larger screen and six times the storage capacity of the old Ledger.
The device itself is expected to ship in March with pre-orders starting any day now. There are still varying dates given for the app release, for iOS and Android, with CoinDesk and Mashable saying 16 January, and TechCrunch and PCMag saying 28 January. Its price tag is expected to be US$119.
When you remember that the Ledger Nano X was revealed at a consumer electronics show, and think about its finer points next to the nearest equivalents currently on the market, there might also be some other crypto curiosities to consider.
Opinion: The long run
The Ledger Nano X won't be the first Bluetooth mobile hardware crypto wallet to hit the market. That honour went to the undeniably swish CoolWallet S, released in 2018.
But despite being the only two Bluetooth hardware wallets out there, they are still far from identical. Ledger's biggest strength has always been its accessible price tag, while the CoolWallet S is a more high-end piece of engineering, managing to be the size and shape of a standard credit card but carrying a higher price tag as a result.
Despite their differences though, they might be moving in similar directions and envisioning a future where hardware wallets are for much more than just cryptocurrency. Instead, hardware wallets might be a practical way of securely signing any kind of blockchain data transfer. For example, by using the private keys on your hardware wallet as proof of identity when casting a vote on your mobile phone.
The Ledger Nano X's increased storage capacity relative to the Nano S might also be a testament to this long term objective, allowing it to start serving as something of a central device for a wide range of other apps. Keys themselves are tiny, but the apps around them are much larger, and Ledger says it made the decision to require each protocol for Ledger to have its own app too.
The near future
The additional oomph in the Ledger Nano X and its other upcoming brethren might help reduce the chances of mishap by preventing users from accidentally losing funds by trying to send the wrong cryptocurrency to an incompatible address. For example, you would typically lose money by trying to send bitcoin to a Bitcoin Cash address because they're not compatible. But with an actual app for each coin you might be able to get warnings to prevent users from doing that. That kind of thing could be over the horizon in the short term.
The mid future
Then in the medium term, these kinds of developments could also see hardware wallets positioned as a viable alternative to mobile 2-factor authentication. SIM swapping is simply too easy to pull off, and there's already a very real need for new alternatives to mobile 2FA. In practical terms, this might simply look like someone using their hardware wallet to sign into a cryptocurrency exchange, for example.
The far future
This could be increasingly important over time, especially if blockchain technology starts pushing intermediaries out of various systems and people are left with a new need to verify themselves peer to peer.
For example, you might cut costs by pushing Uber out of the taxi business and replacing it with an autonomous system that connects drivers and passengers directly. But then you're facing new challenges such as working out how to securely handle payments between passengers and drivers without Uber to act as a handler, how to better secure that new system against remote account hacking and how to manage it all in a way that prevents people from scamming each other too much. Here hardware wallets might offer a lot of options that smartphones alone can't, such as a system where a rider and driver both verify their physical presence in the vehicle at the start of a ride.
And while it's still early days, the announcement of the Ledger Nano X at a consumer electronics show might indicate how ubiquitous hardware wallets could be one day.
As Ledger CEO Eric Larchevêque said, "When you have more than a million customers you are really in consumer electronics." The future might already be well underway with developments like the Ledger Nano X.