After selling most of its smartphone business to Google last year, HTC is trying to return to its former glory by riding the cryptocurrency hype cycle and announcing today that its blockchain-powered phone, the Exodus 1, is available for pre-order and will ship to customers in December, a little over 6 months after it was revealed.
However, noblesse oblige, potential buyers can only pay for the device using either Bitcoin (0.15 BTC) or Ethereum (4.78 ETH) cryptocurrencies, which comes out at around $960 as of this writing.
The phone is based on the Taiwanese company latest flagship device, the U12+, launched last May:
- Android Oreo (8)
- 6-inch Quad HD+ display
- 16-megapixel and 12-megapixel dual main camera and an 8-megapixel dual front camera
- 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
- 3500mAh battery
- IP68 rating (dust resistant and waterproof)
- No audio jack
However, what really makes the Exodus 1 a blockchain-capable device is the phone’s built-in “Secure Enclave” which uses the processor’s trusted zone technology to securely store the user’s private key in its Zion digital wallet that is used to transact and sign digital contracts on the blockchain.
“A built-in multi-crypto wallet is a great thing for the more than 30 million people around the world with a digital wallet today,” said Marco Graziano, the CEO of Visible Energy and inventor of Blockduino. “It also means that with the Exodus 1, you will not need a separate hardware wallet like a secure USB key to store your cryptocurrency offline.”
HTC also solved the excruciating case of losing your private-key information that gives access to your crypto funds, either when the phone gets lost, stolen, or damaged beyond repair, with its “Social Key Recovery” process: You pick 3 to 5 friends that will each have a piece of the recovery key who will then be contacted to bring back your digital wallet.
HTC also intends to release a software development kit (SDK) so third-party developers can write secure applications on top of its secure Zion wallet.
The Exodus 1 will be available in 34 countries, including the U.S., Taiwan, Hong Kong (but not mainland China which has a stricter cryptocurrency policy), Singapore, New Zealand, the U.K., Austria, Norway, and other “European countries.”
Atherton Research’s Take
HTC is not the first to announce a blockchain-capable smartphone – Sirin Labs was first with its Finney blockchain-phone – or even the first to ship one, that honor goes to the relatively unknown startup Sikur which is currently shipping its Sikurphone based on Sony Experia phones. Both companies are using their proprietary operating system on top of their hardware.
However, the Taiwan-based consumer electronics company, which launched its first Android smartphone 10 years ago in partnership with Google and is the creator of the popular Vive virtual reality (VR) headset, is among the very first to build a hardware-based secure crypto wallet using an off-the-shelf Android device that leverages ARM’s Trusted Zone technology.
Although the Exodus 1 could appeal to some of the 30+ million digital wallet users as well as early-adopter blockchain developers, we believe the window of opportunity is quite short – 6 to 9 months – as larger smartphone manufacturers could quickly jump on the cryptocurrency bandwagon by leveraging the same ARM technology, if the demand is there.