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Blockchain smartphones: Three major projects to keep your eye on

Is 2018 set to be the year of the blockchain smartphone? Here, we explore three interesting projects and movements from both established players and startups.

While 2018 has seen a number of new hardware offerings tackle the emerging cryptocurrency market, few smartphones have risen up to take up the challenge posed by the need for mobile devices with hot and cold wallet storage.

While some select devices have attempted to break into the market-space with blockchain-focused features, a new crop of smartphones looks set to steal the hearts and minds of consumers.


HTC’s Exodus

Scheduled for release in 2018’s third quarter, HTC has tipped that the Exodus will serve as a network node and will allow users to retain their identity and personal data through on-device storage. Additionally, the device will support a cold wallet storage solution for cryptocurrencies.

At present, the Exodus is set to receive support for Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. The smartphone has been further slated to support decentralized applications.

In a surprise announcement, HTC Corporation – the hands behind the forthcoming Exodus ‘blockchains smartphone’ – recently confirmed that Litecoin founder Charlie Lee has stepped aboard as an advisor.

The company’s ‘switch’ to blockchain comes after years of declining sales performance, and a decision to sell a part of its mobile development team to Google.

CryptoKitties– perhaps the most recognizable dApp – will also gain a mobile app presence on the company’s next flagship smartphone, the U12+, as well as aboard the Exodus.

The partnership will reportedly release only to US consumers in mobile app form – enabling users to create, breed, and sell digital cats on Ethereum. The digital cats, structured as ERC721 tokens, were single-handedly responsible for causing massive congestion on Ethereum’s network at the tail end of last year.

The news might well mark a resurgence for the game, given that only some 350 active users enjoy the title at press time.

Speaking on the development of the device earlier this year, HTC’s ‘chief crypto officer’, Phil Chen, commented that “We understand the potential of digital scarcity and uniqueness. With Exodus, HTC aims to be a general blockchain asset marketplace. We are here to invite all developers to distribute their blockchain game, collectible and NFT concept through us. We believe there is a paradigm shift and the pendulum is swinging back to ownership and the value of content.”

Sirin Labs’ FINNEY smartphone

Sirin Labs – the company behind the ludicrous Solarin smartphone – has turned its attention to a new venture; producing the world’s first Blockchain-ready smartphone in the form of the FINNEY.

The Finney is expected to go on sale in the first quarter of 2019, and will enjoy a lengthy development period throughout the course of 2018.

The handset, named in honor of Hal Finney, is slated as the first smartphone secure enough to house cryptographic coins. Sirin Labs claims that an ecosystem of products (including an all-in-one PC) will form an independent Blockchain network powered by IOTA’s Tangle technology.

The network will operate without mining centers and will use the SRN token as its default currency, while the handset itself will run on a proprietary operating system designed to support blockchain applications such as cryptocurrency wallets.

The device will only be available to investors who hold SRN, and the company has further released a white paper detailing its intentions to create ‘consumer electronics for the Blockchain era’.

Earlier this year, the firm officially concluded its Initial Coin Offering – which has raised a staggering $110 million USD.

Presiding over the announcement, Moshe Hogeg – CEO and Founder of Sirin Labs – offered that “We’re humbled by the great support of the crypto community in our vision… Blockchain technology won’t cross over to the mainstream until the user experience is fixed. Our successful crowd-funding provides us the resources to solve such issues and bring to market a safer and simpler experience for mass market adoption.”

Sirin Labs may well be the first company to steam ahead in the blockchain era – the company has asserted that its new ecosystem of products (including an all-in-one PC) will form an independent Blockchain network powered by IOTA’s Tangle technology.

Sirin Labs’ new products will leverage a network that will operate without mining centers and will use the SRN token as its default currency, while the handset itself will run on a proprietary operating system designed to support blockchain applications such as cryptocurrency wallets.

According to the firm, the Finney is expected to retail for the pricey sum of $999 USD, and in terms of general specs will pack in a 256GB internal memory as well as a 16-megapixel primary camera.

While it remains unclear as to whether prospective purchasers will clamor to get their hands on the expensive handset, Sirin Labs has claimed that over 25,000 units have been pre-ordered.

The company has previously revealed its plans to sell its new products through eight new retail stores located in Vietnam and Turkey, and accordingly aims to ship 100,000 to several million units in 2018.


Huawei’s quiet moves

While Chinese technology giant Huawei has yet to publicly announce an endeavor into a blockchain-based smartphone, the firm has recently proceeded with a number of initiatives which might one day bear fruit.

Huawei itself presently stands as the third largest smartphone manufacturer, globally – though the firm might be better known as the stewards behind the Honor marque in the United States.

Earlier this year, a new report has revealed that the Chinese giant could be readying its own bid into blockchain technology – the company is reportedly seeking to license SIRIN OS – the proprietary operating system developed by Sirin Labs – with the view of implementing both the operating system and support for decentralized applications (or DApps) on Android.

SIRIN OS would launch with the view to support blockchain applications such as cryptocurrency wallets, and would introduce support for a physical security switch and a ‘behavioral-based’ intrusion prevention system.

Huawei, similarly, is not exactly a stranger to blockchain – the company recently outlined a submission to use a blockchain to record digital rights management with China’s State Intellectual Property Office.

The move – which could a be potential signal for either a proprietary blockchain-backed smartphone or, at the very least, a wider acceptance for dApps – was complimented by the fact that Huawei recently released a proprietary Bitcoin wallet app to Chinese users.

The new application is the first reported cryptocurrency application to be available on any Huawei devices, and is significant for the fact that the Google Play Store is banned in China – leaving consumers either without access to Google apps and services, or forced to ‘side-load’ banned applications.

At the time of the announcement, the vice president of Huawei’s services, Jaime Gonzalo, said in a statement that this is “the tip of the spear of mobile payments, [they] expect to see massive growth in global cryptocurrency adoption habits in the near future”.