Now up for sale, Taiwanese electronics giant HTC has released a new mobile phone tailored with a hardware wallet to hold certain cryptocurrency assets, including bitcoin. Most notably, unlike its predecessor, the Exodus 1, HTC’s Exodus 1s is capable of holding the entire bitcoin ledger.
[Ed note: Investing in cryptocoins or tokens is highly speculative and the market is largely unregulated. Anyone considering it should be prepared to lose their entire investment.]
The new phone houses the ability to run a complete bitcoin node, HTC decentralized chief officer Phil Chen told me in an interview.
Running a full bitcoin node, in this case, does not mean mining bitcoin, Chen said. The new HTC device has the ability to hold the entire bitcoin ledger of transactions utilizing an SD card in the process, purchased separately, which is inserted into a slot on the phone.
Hacking is common in the crypto industry, so owners must take extra precautions when storing and using their digital assets. Released in 2018, HTC’s flagship crypto phone, the Exodus 1, hit the market touting several built-in features to protect users’ cryptocurrencies.
The ability to run a full bitcoin node on HTC’s 1s allows for added privacy and control. This means the entire record of bitcoin transactions is held on on the device, which currently takes up approximately 260 gigabytes (GB) of memory, growing by 60 GB each year, according to a statement provided to me.
Simplified Payment Verification (SPV) wallets are common in the crypto space as they only download part of the validation information, relying on third party websites holding all the information to confirm transactions. These wallets can be more convenient as they require less memory, although they are not as self-sufficient and private as full nodes.
Chen noted running a full bitcoin node is a key aspect of the crypto space. “It plays a really important role in the whole bitcoin ecosystem,” he said. “It allows you to relay transactions, confirm transactions, validate transactions, and it’s basically one of the best ways for anybody to contribute to the whole security of the network.”
Regarding the general topic of running a full bitcoin node, Jimmy Song, an author and developer in the cryptocurrency space, also noted several benefits.
“[Y]ou are sovereign over which software you run and don’t have to trust a third party, which would be a security hole,” Song said to me in a messaging chat. “[Y]ou also get privacy since you can query the entire blockchain without revealing what you’re searching to anyone.”
When asked about the cons of running a full node, Song referred to the technical aspects required. “[I]t costs something in cpu/bandwith/storage,” he said.
On the software front, the Exodus mobile phone works in tandem with its own wallet app, named the Zion Vault.
HTC Exodus 1 Performance
Chen was not able to share specific numbers regarding sales for HTC’s first crypto-friendly phone, the Exodus 1, although he did speak positively of the device’s performance in the market. “It’s been encouraging, which is why were launching a second version,” he said. “It was targeted toward developers in the beginning,” Chen added. “I think now people are beginning to understand what this thing is,” Chen said, adding that HTC is still early to the party in terms of teaching the market about the technology and product.
Priced around $250 (U.S. dollars), the new 1s also comes in at a cheaper price point that its predecessor, which cost approximately $700, Chen noted.
Possible Plans For Other Full Nodes
The Exodus 1 and 1s phones can hold multiple cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin and Binance coin, Chen said. Each of these assets has its own ledger, although the 1s does not have the capability to run a full node for assets other than bitcoin at this time.
Chen noted full nodes for other assets may be possible in the future as computing power and storage availability continue to increase, becoming less expensive and more accessible.
Chen, however, pointed to bitcoin as HTC’s primary focus on this current full node mobile endeavor. “We’re going to learn a lot, how people will be running this on mobile,” he said. “This is the first time that people will be able to run a full bitcoin node on mobile,” he added. “It would run on a daily basis.”
“We’ll certainly learn a lot of how people will interact with bitcoin, what they do with a full node, and we want to apply those learnings to future other public blockchains,” Chen said.
At launch, the Exodus 1s is only available for sale in Europe, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emrites (UAE), with more locations to come in the future, a statement said.
Standard Smartphone Crypto Security
In general, standard smartphone cryptocurrency storage does not come without risks, as noted in an August 2018 article from The Next Web’s Hard Fork branch. The article referenced a blog post in which Samsung said, “smartphones have the best security for blockchain and cryptocurrency.” Samsung also mentioned in the post that longer-term holdings should be stored offline.
In response, The Next Web contacted multiple security professionals on the topic, concluding that “while smartphones could be a good short-term storage solution, there are a plenty of risks associated with storing cryptocurrency on handsets.”
Contrasting other smartphone options, the Exodus 1 and 1s have specialized features and capabilities tailored toward cryptocurrency storage, although time will tell if a device that, by nature, is meant to be online, can be as safe as other cryptocurrency storage methods.
The Next Web’s article referenced an applicable quote from bitcoin engineer Jamison Lopp. “As the old security adage goes […] complexity is the enemy of security,” Lopp said.