Launching just over a month apart from each other, Sirin Labs' FINNEY and the HTC Exodus 1 have both been touted as the world's first blockchain phone. While the former is endorsed by Lionel Messi, and the latter announced yesterday, December 5, it can now be purchased with Litecoin, does it actually mean anything to walk around with one of these in your pocket?
Not Your Usual Wallet
Both phones have hardware wallets that treat security in totally different ways. The Exodus 1 allows users to store bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, and some ERC721 tokens in its Zion crypto wallet, which secures private keys using a secure enclave, or trusted execution environment, cordoned off from the phone's Android operating system, making the contents therein unreadable to everything else on the phone.
FINNEY, on the other hand, uses a cold storage wallet accessible through the phone's "Safe Screen" – a slide-out screen that uses separate hardware and software and a different power switch than the rest of the phone. There, private keys remain isolated from the phone's internet-enabled native wallet until the user slides the safe screen out and initiates a transaction.
Making It Mainstream
In April, Sirin Labs posted on Medium to highlight the phone's purpose and the market it was reaching out to. The post outlined the low use of cryptocurrency among Americans and the high rate of smartphone ownership. Sirin explained that a crypto-compatible, easy-to-use smartphone could lead to mainstream adoption of blockchain technology.
A month later, HTC announced its development of the Exodus 1, also on Medium. Phil Chen, HTC's chief crypto officer, emphasized his hope that the Exodus would increase the user base for Dapps, as well as promote the growth and decentralization of the Ethereum and Bitcoin networks by making each Exodus 1 phone a node, specifically a light node.
More than a Smartphone?
Unfortunately, with both phones having just launched, and both not shipping until later this month, it isn't totally clear if these features will work within each phone, and if the different approaches will lead to mainstream adoption. At the moment, it feels like they're stuck in between being categorized a "smartphone" and "cryptocurrency wallet solutions" (and expensive solutions at that) – smartphones that just have cryptocurrency wallet and exchange apps that can already be downloaded on your average, non-blockchain phones.
At this year's Slush event, Chen presented the first phone HTC developed to use the Android operating system in 2008. He noted that a few months later, Satoshi Nakamoto mined the genesis block, and hoped the Exodus 1 would be the next step in what he called the "quiet revolution."
But the Exodus 1 and the FINNEY don't necessarily feel revolutionary. For now, they just feel quiet.