When people think about blockchain technology, most tend to picture cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. For many, the technology has created a new way to own digital property and invest through decentralized finance; and represents, still, a possible way to get rich quickly. However, there are many uses we are just beginning to anticipate. For instance, blockchain-enabled mobile phones can support wallets and apps and provide better security.
The initial wave of blockchain or Web3-based based phones launched around 2019. One of the first crypto-phones made was the Exodus 1, a 'bank in your pocket' mobile device that was Binance-chain-ready. It wasn't alone; anticipating a growing need, Electroneum created an Android smartphone that could mine crypto. Even Samsung (a leading Android development company) decided to make its Galaxy 10 capable of storing private keys. More recently, HTC has also updated the Exodus to its 1S version, a much more appealing device with ample power, larger batteries, and dual cameras.
Things are now picking up pace. In June 2022, the CEO and co-founder of Solana, Anatoly Yakovenko, announced the launch of its Android smartphone Saga, a Web3-based device that promises to make crypto mobile. Yakovenko also presented SMS, or Solana Mobile Stack, a Web3 layer built on the phone. This new device and, more importantly, the new powerful SDK can help Android-based phones truly embrace the blockchain.
Why Mobile Devices Are so Important for Crypto
There is little doubt that we depend heavily on our phones. In most countries around the world, many of our activities develop around them. We use them for work, to play - and of course, to communicate with others. However, you will have to pull out your laptop if you are chasing a cryptocurrency opportunity. There aren't many mobile devices that can help you transact and manage your coins, at least not as efficiently or securely.
What Solana Mobile Stack is trying to do goes well beyond a phone. Solana Labs is not only providing a new set of libraries that can be used for new wallets and apps running on Android. They are also creating a fund to help app developers create a thriving market.
We have seen companies attempt similar enterprises before. The problem is that they didn't offer an entire environment for blockchain; they were usually restricted to specific uses or platforms and not particularly powerful (the Exodus 1 phone was a limited-edition release, more of a niche product, and an initial concept with many shortcomings). Solana does differently, in this case, in that they work in a hugely exciting environment to help developers create rich mobile experiences.
A Web3 Experience on Mobile
Let's quickly go through some of the most relevant concepts that make this (and other flagship Android mobile phone announcements) necessary. First of all, Web3? On a crypto phone? For Solana? What do these things mean, exactly?
What is Web3?
You can think of Web3 as a vision for a new, better internet. One that incorporates, embraces, and empowers cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and DAOs, among others. If Web1 was a read-only version of the internet where you mostly absorbed information, and Web2 a read-write one (think social media platforms where you can share user-generated content), Web3 intends to give users ownership. Web3 is decentralized, permissionless, trustless, and allows native payments and private key management.
What Can you Do With a Web3 Phone?
If you own a blockchain or Web3 phone, you will be able to download apps that can help you manage your digital assets and cryptocurrencies. For example, you could download apps that serve as trading platforms and NFT marketplaces. It's also likely that most, if not all, of these phones, will include hardware security measures to keep your possessions protected. We can expect some flagship phones to at least incorporate some of these features in the coming years.
Solana is one of the largest blockchain cryptos we have. The coin has a large throughput (65,000 transactions per second) and very low fees - making it a favorite among many crypto-enthusiasts. In addition to developing the Saga smartphone, the Solana Foundation has also announced the creation of a $10 million fund to launch a new mobile ecosystem for apps and wallets. This can motivate more developers to create rich functionalities for blockchain phone users.
The Solana Mobile Stack SDK
The Solana Mobile Stack (created by Solana Labs) allows developers to build Android applications that interact with the Solana network. For example, you can build rich experiences like wallets and apps using libraries, samples, and reference implementations.
The stack includes:
- A mobile wallet adapter (or protocol specification for connecting apps with wallets using mobile devices)
- A seed vault (or system that provides secure key custody to wallet apps)
- The Solana Pay for Android protocol (which combines payments)
- And the planned Solana dApp Store (an alternate app distribution suited for Solana ecosystems).
How Web3 Can Help Blockchain and Crypto Join the Big Tech Leagues
The launch of Solana Labs' Android smartphone Saga is just one step toward bringing blockchain into the big tech league - the one currently inhabited by Apple, Microsoft, and Android.
We should consider the importance of a mobile-centric approach to blockchain, as bringing more Web3 options for these devices can help popularize decentralization. In the last few months, the crypto industry has seen a price downturn (unsurprising since this is the nature of the technology since its inception). Currently, Web3 phones might still not appeal to enough people for mass adoption.
Instead, native android app developers and crypto enthusiasts hope that the SMS platform (and the other decentralized app developments we can expect to see in the coming years) reaches the most dedicated users. They are the ones that understand self-custody best and can encourage others to grow Web3 technology beyond the desktop.