The concept for Blockchain phones was first presented in 2017. Cryptocurrencies are wildly popular with investors, but are also causing some deep contemplation in the more conservative enclaves of the financial world. Blockchains, the technology which facilitates cryptocurrencies holds a great deal of promise for everything from financial markets to the secure payment of government welfare programs. When evangelists say Blockchain could change the world, they’re not wrong.
There is a problem, however with the practical use of cryptocurrencies as the technologies stand. Cryptocurrencies can be hard to transact. The process of ‘mining’ coins takes time and can use a prohibitively expensive amount of electricity. The problem is ‘too hard’ for many mainstream consumers and busy business owners. Somehow, cryptocurrencies need to be much easier to use.
Enter Blockchain phones. Two well-funded startups are currently in the process of building new types of handheld devices. This new sort of phone will have new components, designed to will help typical users pay for things in cryptocurrencies, just as they might pay for their groceries with Apple Pay – with a wave of their phone.
Blockchain phones will have many of the same features that we’re used to seeing in phones and have come to rely on, cameras, memory, the ability to email and run apps. Likewise, if you are using the phone on the move, both communication and cryptocurrency transaction tasks will require an internet connection over the cellular network, so you’ll need a cellular network connection.
Development of a Blockchain phone can include either having the hardware made, and proprietary software added to it for the cryptocurrencies, or simply a suite of newly developed software being added to existing phones. Some Blockchain phones work in conjunction with their own crypto-coin which gives the architects of these phones the capability of removing some of the obstacles which can make coins hard to use – for example, one has removed the requirement for coin mining in the transaction flow.
Security is key to any financial transaction but the security elements that are being built into Blockchain phones can be used in other apps, too. Blockchain phones can provide secure messaging capabilities, cryptocurrency wallets, secure browsing facilities and so on. The manufacturer’s Blockchain sits underneath these capabilities to ensure that encrypted messages and files are sent only between the parties which should have access to them.
Who is Making Blockchain Phones?
There are two main rivals fighting it out to own the market. Sirin Labs are second to market but have a better-considered product in the ‘Finney’ – named after one of the pioneers of the industry. Sirin has their own cryptocurrency and is developing an app store to work in conjunction with their new hardware. An incredible 25,000 have already been pre-ordered their phone.
BitVault is the main alternative. Its product is similar to the one produced by Sirin Labs although BitVault is already in the market and has been since the end of 2017. With Blockchain and cryptocurrencies being pretty much the Wild West of technology now, the small time to market that BitVault has over The Finney could be all it takes.
Bringing it All Together
Building an entirely new hardware platform to facilitate Blockchain transactions, as both manufacturers here have, is not just overkill, it’s misleading. The terms Blockchain, Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency and so on are so new to a lot of people that they are struggling to fit the concepts together. Establishing a new phone type for this sort of niche could give some the impression that the device was going to conduct bitcoin mining, for example, which is not the case a new phone brand also misses the point.
The problem these Blockchain phone startups are trying to solve is a legitimate one. Cryptocurrencies are currently illiquid assets – that is, it can be hard to transact with them. If crypto is ever going to be a real part of the world economy, people need to be able to use it in their day to day lives. As to whether we need an entirely new piece of hardware to do that, we will see. A better solution would appear to be to take the propitiatory software, the Blockchain and the cryptocurrencies which sit under these phones and add them to existing devices – the Androids and the iPhones which already populate the world.
It seems likely that we will be using Blockchain and cryptocurrencies in the future. It also appears likely that we will be using our phone to pay for things. Whether the final form of this idea is manifest in phones manufactured by the two Blockchain pioneers we’ve covered here, remains to be seen.