Regardless of how it all works out commercially, HTC will go down in history as the first company to market a blockchain phone. The HTC Exodus 1 is available for preorder right now. Anyone who has .15 BTC, or 4.78 ETC can reserve their Exodus 1, and secure the first smartphone on the market that will cater to cryptocurrency users.
The Exodus 1 doesn’t quite live up to the ideas that were circulating in May, when the phone was first announced. At the time Phil Chen, who is HTC’s chief decentralized officer, said that the Exodus 1 would allow users to, “own your own identity,” and act as a node for bitcoin trading. Fast-forward to today, and none of that materialized.
Despite the fact that some of the hoped for features didn’t make it to production, the Exodus 1 does pack some innovations that are useful for crypto users. Instead of using a true ‘cold storage‘ system, the Exodus 1 has a quarantined section of ARM-based processors, which are called ‘TrustZone’, where crypto keys will be stored. This is probably a better solution than a software wallet, which would probably be susceptible to attacks against Android OS.
The Exodus 1 is Basically a Beta Test
The team that built the Exodus 1 freely admits that the phone, “Is not for the mass market yet.” The non-blockchain components that are built into the phone are respectable.
The Exodus 1 sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with 6GB of RAM onboard. 128GB of storage should give users loads of room for pics and music, and a 3,500 mAh battery will probably give users average performance for a flagship smartphone that runs Android Oreo. It has a 6-inch HD+ display with an 18:9 aspect ratio.
Image © HTC
The 16-megapixel dual rear cameras and 8-megapixel dual selfie cameras are more-or-less standard at this point, and most flagship phones can easily match its full 4K video at 60 FPS.
All that said, the price in cryptos translates into around $950 USD at the time of writing. There are some phones that offer a Snapdragon 845 processor with 6GB of RAM at around a third of the price.
As Phil Chen said after the preorder was announced, “The first step is to empower and educate the consumer to own their own keys,” and, “From there, that will help expand the blockchain ecosystem and lead to people owning their own data and digital property in the near future.”
A Step in the Right Direction
The blockchain and crypto space are new. It is true that bitcoin has existed for a decade, but as a form of widespread payment, it is at the cutting edge of monetary technology. The idea of a smartphone holding private keys isn’t as straightforward as it may seem.
HTC created a system that allows an Exodus 1 owner to spread their recovery keys over a group of friends, who are all given a portion of the recovery key, via an algorithm. What HTC calls ‘social key recovery’ is no doubt a novel solution, but it is also far from perfect.
According to says Matthew Green, who is a cryptographer at Johns Hopkins University, “When enough of your friends lose their data, your key backups will become unrecoverable,” but he also said that HTC’s system is, “…certainly theoretically feasible. Whether or not it will work well in practice is the real question.”
The economics of the project are also a big question.
At nearly $1,000 USD, HTC’s blockchain smartphone isn’t cheap. The features it packs are groundbreaking, but there are other phones like Sirin Labs’ Finney could keep potential buyers on the sidelines. If HTC is willing to accept some losses as a part of their R&D process, this program could yield some positive results in the future.