Blockchain-enabled cryptocurrency smartphones: an overview of the most popular models

Blockchain-enabled cryptocurrency smartphones: an overview of the most popular models
Now the Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus has launched a survey called OnePlus Blockchain Research, in which the company wants to find out how customers feel about the crypto sector.

In the survey, respondents answer questions about their investments in cryptocurrencies, how they use crypto exchanges and wallets, and whether they would like to buy or create an NFT. The move indicates that OnePlus may be gearing up to launch its own cryptophones. If this happens, the Chinese smartphone maker will follow the lead of Samsung and HTC, which are already releasing cryptophones with support for crypto and blockchain technologies. In light of this, we figured out how cryptophones are arranged and made an overview of the most popular models on the crypto market.

How do cryptophones work?

A cryptophone is a smartphone that supports blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies. Unlike ordinary smartphones, which only allow installing blockchain applications (dApps), cryptophones have all the functions necessary for a holder of cryptocurrencies. Including even full-fledged hardware wallets that can work independently of the device itself.

The specific functionality depends on the cryptophone: some only store private keys, others allow you to run a full Bitcoin node or even mine cryptocurrencies. However, mining cryptocurrencies using a cryptophone is just a PR move. So far, the capacities of cryptophones are not even enough for them to pay off through mining.
What's going on in the cryptophone market?

Smartphones are the most popular digital devices. Unsurprisingly, developers are trying to integrate blockchain development into them - this could significantly increase the use of the technology.

The first hype around cryptophones began in 2018. Then the plans in this direction were announced by many leading manufacturers and companies: Samsung, HTC, Huawei, Lenovo, LG and IBM. But smaller companies also talked about the possible launch of innovative mobile devices, such as Sirin Labs, Pundi X Labs, Sugar, ChiQ, and Vivo, among others.

So, if in 2018 there was not a single cryptophone on the crypto market, then by 2019 Blok on Blok, Exodus, Galaxy 10, Finney and Electroneum were available to crypto holders.

Unfortunately, the excitement did not last long. So, for example, Lenovo and LG companies no longer remembered their plans to launch cryptophones (LG completely abandoned the production of smartphones). And HTC, after the launch of Exodus blockchain smartphones, decided not to develop their line.

Today, there is no news about high-profile projects in this market. A rare exception: Huawei announced last October that the Mate 40 cryptophones will support the digital yuan, the national digital currency of the People's Bank of China.

Nevertheless, experts believe that the cryptophone market has a future. Thus, analysts at Data Bridge predict that the cryptophone sector will grow by 42% by 2027. Experts also note that now the market is dominated by North American companies, but by 2027 the preponderance may go to the Asia-Pacific region.

Among the factors of the growing demand for such smartphones, it is worth noting the increasing spread of cryptocurrencies, as well as the growth in the volume of venture funding in this sector.
Popular cryptophones in 2021
Let's consider the most popular cryptophone models.

Blok on Blok (BOB)
Blok on Blok is the most non-standard cryptophone in our review. It is modular - when ordering, you can choose your own configuration from separate parts, which, upon receipt, will need to be assembled on your own.

Blok on Blok is developed by blockchain payment company Pundi X Labs based on Function X blockchain network and Android operating system. A prototype called XPhone was introduced back in 2018. The XPhone looked like a classic smartphone, but in 2019, the developers decided to rebrand, releasing a modular cryptophone under a new name.

Blok on Blok could be the first smartphone to work entirely on blockchain in the decentralized internet. This will provide users with complete privacy and will allow to mine FX (the internal cryptocurrency of the Function X network) and host the network nodes. Also, users will be able to switch between blockchain mode and Android mode, which will allow using Blok on Blok as a regular smartphone.

According to the developers, Blok on Blok will be powered by a mid-range Snapdragon 660 processor, 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. Other technical details are still unknown.

Moreover, due to the coronavirus epidemic, Blok on Blok has not yet gone on sale. Several times the device has been pre-ordered, but so far not a single cryptophone has reached users. Blok on Blok is expected to retail for around $ 600.
Blockchain-enabled cryptocurrency smartphones: an overview of the most popular models

Blockchain-enabled cryptocurrency smartphones: an overview of the most popular models

HTC Exodus
In October 2018, major Taiwanese electronics manufacturer HTC unveiled its first cryptophone, the Exodus 1. It includes a built-in hardware wallet and the ability to run a full Bitcoin nodes. At the time of release, the Exodus 1 was priced at $ 250.

Exodus has a separate Zion module - it is separate from other parts of the smartphone and is completely protected from viruses and remote hacking attempts. Basically, Zion is a cold hardware wallet like those offered by Trezor or Ledger. The only difference is that this wallet is in the phone.

Zion uses a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE), a software environment that runs independently of the host OS and other applications on the device. It is difficult to hack or disrupt its work in any way. TEE allows you to store user information, for example, private keys, and work with it without transferring it anywhere. When a request for data processing comes from the outside (for example, to make a transfer with cryptocurrency), TEE executes it, but reports to the external environment only the final result of the operation, and not the information that it stores. For this reason, TEE is considered a promising solution for blockchain scalability - after all, it allows recording only the final transaction data into the blockchain, and not the entire computation process.

Exodus also has a private key recovery feature that allows you to distribute it among trusted contacts. In other words, if the Exodus user loses the private key, he can recover it.

To launch a Bitcoin node, you will need a high-capacity microSD card - according to the recommendation of HNC - from 280 GB. The price of such a card, depending on its speed, varies from $ 20 to $ 80. However, this function is more of a marketing trick than a real advantage of the smartphone: it must be constantly kept connected to the network and to the charging cable.

In addition to the Zion wallet and Bitcoin node launch capabilities, Exodus 1 also offers a small selection of decentralized apps that can be downloaded to Zion via the Opera Dapp Store. Otherwise, the Exodus 1 is a pretty budget cryptophone with a 720p by 5.7-inch display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 chip and a 13MP main camera.

In November 2019, HTC released two more cryptophone models: Exodus 1S - with minor technical improvements, and Exodus Binance - a joint project with the largest crypto exchange on the market. Exodus Binance has received built-in support for the Binance DEX decentralized exchange in Zion. The price of these devices is about $ 700.

Since the fall of 2019, no new devices have entered the market, and there are no rumors about them. Obviously, HTC's interest in the blockchain space has subsided. The company was probably not satisfied with the sale of cryptophones. However, NTS continues to release updates for them - perhaps it simply does not have the resources to restart the project right now.
Samsung Galaxy S10
In February 2019, the South Korean tech giant released one of its flagship smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy S10, with the built-in Samsung Blockchain Wallet. In 2020, Samsung has added a crypto wallet to the Galaxy S20 as well.

In the fall of 2019, in its native South Korea, the corporation, in partnership with the country's largest mobile services platform Kakao, also released the KlaytnPhone blockchain tablet - in other countries this line is called the Samsung Galaxy Note 10. The Kakao blockchain is available on the device, and each buyer received a native KLAY token.

The Galaxy S10 and S20 wallet and private keys are stored in Samsung's own Knox security platform, isolated from the rest of the system. Samsung Knox can only be accessed by entering a PIN or fingerprint identification. Additional data protection is provided by the Snapdragon 855 processor working with TEE.

Popular coins are available in Samsung Blockchain Wallet: BTC, ETH, LINK, USDC, TRX, as well as ERC-20 and TRC-20 tokens. In addition, there is a whole line of dApps on the Ethereum and TRON blockchains, which includes games, social media and financial applications. Third-party developers have access to the Samsung Blockchain SDK platform, which provides dedicated APIs for dApps.

Unlike other cryptophones, the Galaxy S10 boasts a great screen and camera, top-of-the-line performance, and a stylish design. The Samsung device is the most technologically advanced blockchain and cryptocurrency smartphone on the market today.

However, only residents of certain countries can access the Samsung Blockchain Wallet. So, for example, the wallet is presented in the USA, UK and Canada. But in Russia Samsung Blockchain Wallet is not yet available.

In May 2021, Samsung allowed users to import cryptocurrencies from third-party hardware wallets into the Samsung Blockchain Wallet and announced plans to bring cryptoasset support to most Galaxy smartphones. The possibility of adding a dApp to the official Galaxy Store is also being discussed.

Samsung is the clear leader in the cryptophone sector. Formally, the company did not release a specialized device, but only added support for cryptocurrencies to several of its smartphones. But Galaxy 10 and Galaxy 20 are used by over 16 million people, and Samsung Blockchain Wallet is set to 1 million of them. At the same time, the Exodus blockchain wallet is used by about 50,000 people.
Finney is the brainchild of the Israeli-Swiss blockchain startup Sirin Labs, named after the famous bitcoin pioneer Hal Finney. In 2017, the company managed to raise $ 157.8 million for the creation of Finney, which was one of the largest ICOs. Finney entered the market in December 2018 and has since sold for $ 999.

Finney runs its own operating system, SIRIN OS. The cryptophone also has a built-in hardware crypto wallet that can operate separately from the device itself. The wallet is activated by sliding the back panel up - another screen appears, where the balance of the crypto wallet is displayed. There are also several dApps available, in which purchases can be made using the native SRN token.

For three years, Sirin Labs has not created a new generation of its cryptophones - probably the sales of the devices are not very successful. In the spring of 2019, the company had problems: it cut a quarter of its employees and delayed payments to them, and also delayed payments to the Finney manufacturing plant.

Electroneum M1
The Electroneum M1 is a budget blockchain smartphone that is primarily intended for residents of emerging economies - its price is only $ 80. Because of this, the device cannot boast of a powerful technical filling, but it provides its users with cheap access to an alternative financial system.

Electroneum M1 is developed by blockchain startup Electroneum and first hit the market in February 2019. It comes with a built-in Electroneum app that allows you to store and exchange cryptocurrencies, as well as connect to the cloud mining Electroneum Token (ETN) to make a couple of dollars a month.

We have no sales figures for Electroneum M1. Currently, neither the company nor third-party vendors are selling a cryptophone.
Who needs cryptophones?

Cryptophones are still niche products. It is cheaper and safer for advanced cryptocurrency holders to buy a simple hardware wallet - current devices cannot offer any additional functionality. Now it is rather an experiment for those who are ready to test new things. But this does not mean that the situation will not change in the future.

Obviously, small manufacturers cannot compete with tech giants like HTC and Samsung, because they do not need to create good smartphones from scratch - they just need to add support for cryptocurrencies to already perfectly working devices.

Some consumers have a request for privacy and data management. Large manufacturers see it and try to satisfy it. We think that soon we will see more blockchain experiments from tech giants. They already have an audience and technical capabilities. As the use of cryptocurrencies grows, so should the demand for cryptophones.

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