Lightning Showdown

A comparison between the onboarding and payment speed between a traditional fiat wallet and a lightning wallet.

The test is simple: compare the speed of onboarding to a new mobile payment account with a lightning wallet. This blog is a response to Pomp’s tweet and Anthony calling me to action!

Ok!

Sending a payment across the LN will always be faster than Visa because a Visa payment involves an auth with a third party. LN payments can be processed as fast as a TCP/IP connection between two peers. A single channel has been shown to process over 250 TPS, so the network can scale to no real upper bound.

But let’s consider the full picture, which involves onboarding for users AND merchants. Which is really faster? We’ll choose the fastest solutions in the space right now:

Mastercard Debit Card with Apple Pay

We’ll use UpBanking; a mobile-first bank in Australia that offers an Apple Pay option to a debit card. We can set up an account on mobile, and get activated in minutes.

Wallet of Satoshi

Here we’ll use WoS, a very simple custodial lightning wallet that has a fiat on-rail. Again we can set this up entirely on mobile.

BlueWallet

We’ll test BlueWallet with a sovereign LNDHub, as well as just using their custodial solution. We can onboard from on-chain bitcoin, using CoinMama to buy bitcoin from a credit card.


Debit Card w/ Apple Pay

UpBanking with Apple Pay
  1. Downloading App: 1 minute
  2. Setting up Account: 2 minutes
  3. Ready for Mobile Payments: 1 minute
  4. Adding funds with PayID: 1 minute

The account-making process requires submitting the standard KYC information, but validation is fast. The account is ready once KYC is done. 2 minutes is fast, but hey, I had all my docs ready. Registering with Apple Pay requires a number of additional steps, but can be done within a minute.

Funds were sent in from another bank account using PayID (a fast intra-bank payment solution for Australian Banks). Logging in, sending to the PayID registered, and receiving in the Up account took about a minute.

In total, a new user can expect to be up and running with funds (with information prepared) inside of 5 minutes. Not bad for 2019.

Wallet of Satoshi

Wallet of Satoshi
  1. Downloading App: 1.5 minutes
  2. Setting up Account: 3.5 minutes
  3. Ready for Mobile Payments: immediate
  4. Adding funds with PayID: 1 minute

WoS is not yet on the main Apple App Store since it is still in beta. It is available through the Apple TestFlight App, which requires a separate download. This is an interim problem only, and only took an extra 30 seconds to do.

Wallet of Satoshi does require KYC in order to buy with fiat, but like Up, uses an online identity validation service so it is done practically immediately. There were a few extra steps than Up, since verification is done from a mobile browser. Again, I had all my docs ready.

Once verified, a unique code is attributed, allowing you to use PayID to send in fiat. This again was fast, and involved sending funds from my other bank account.

All up the set-up process was about 5 minutes — comparable to Up.

BlueWallet

bluewallet.io

Sovereign Version

This was substantially tech-heavy, since it required setting up a LNDHub instance. I already had a Bitcoin and LND node running, so deploying a new LNDHub was about 20 minutes. Even using NodeLauncher to deploy a full node set up (4 hours minimum, usually 12 hours), or using a Casa Node (2 hours). I would say this is beyond the ability of most users right now, although I’m very interested to help get these set up times down with more drag and drop interfaces and automation. Neutrino may also help in future. Pierre Rochard is unstoppable and has promised us it will be down to 3 minutes this year!

For now, fully sovereign Lightning Wallets on mobile is out of reach, but I’m happy with the tradeoffs with custodial Lightning Wallets like WoS and BlueWallet.

Custodial Version

Getting a Lightning Wallet open with BlueWallet using their custodial solution is much faster. Many options to fill:

  1. On-chain bitcoin can be sent in after three confirmations~30 minutes
  2. Off-chain bitcoin can be sent in by sending from WoS — instant
  3. On-chain bitcoin can be sent in from buying off CoinMama with a credit card ~ 10 minutes. This requires KYC. It then needs to be moved to the channel ~ 30 minutes.

To be fair to this comparison, custodial Blue Wallet will always be slower than just using Wallet of Satoshi in Australia, but for international readers this may be the only option (for now).

Bitcoiner Builders: we need more ways to dump fiat for Bitcoin faster!

Summary

In summary, Wallet of Satoshi offers a comparable onboarding experience and speed as the leading mobile bank in Australia, with a setup time with funds in-channel of 5 minutes. Unfortunately non-custodial wallets are out of reach for mobile currently.

Now to payments!


Paying

The speed and convenience of paying using Apple Pay compared to Wallet of Satoshi will be compared.

Up + Apple Pay + Eftpos

Merchants simply need to support an Eftpos terminal, widespread in Australia. On my side I was using my iPhone set up with Apple Pay. The entire transaction is less than 20 seconds:

  1. Merchant set up: 10 seconds, mainly bound by their PoS interface
  2. Preparing device: 3 seconds, mainly bound from authenticating the payment (FaceID or TouchID).
  3. Paying: 2 seconds, measured from the time of auth to getting “Approved” on the Eftpos terminal.
Apple Pay with Up

Wallet of Satoshi + LN + TravelByBit

Using the funded WoS, merchants will need to support a Lightning compatible PoS. TravelByBit is widespread in Australia (200 merchants) and I found one easily in Melbourne. Zap PoS by Jack Mallers is expected to go live imminently as well.

  1. Merchant set up: 15 seconds, mainly bound by the TBB interface
  2. Preparing device: 5 seconds, mainly bound by finding and opening app
  3. Paying: 3 seconds: measured from scanning, sending and observing a green tick on their interface.

Note: The merchant is generally not fluent in the TBB interface and spends a bit more time inputting the payment. This can be improved!

TravelByBit Interface (Merchant)

Merchant Onboarding

Another consideration is the onboarding time for the merchants to Eftpos compared to TBB (or ZAP PoS).

Eftpos

Square offers an eftpos solution with an interface that accepts Apple Pay. Fees are 1.9% on all transactions, with the device shipped in “2–7 business days”. I can imagine that a bank-branded Eftpos machine would be fairly equivalent.

BTCPayServer

A self-sovereign merchant could probably set up their own payment processor using BTCPayServer in less than an hour (anecdotal evidence), which comes with a PoS solution. TravelByBit would probably be just as fast in setting up, and also doesn’t charge fees.

The clear winner in speed here is the Bitcoin solution. Merchants should be encouraged to adopt Bitcoin payments!!!

BTCPayServer

Summary

Just paying: Apple Pay is a couple of seconds faster than WoS. Should improve with better Wallet UX (NFC + Widget).

Full transaction: Apple Pay + Eftpos is a few seconds faster including Merchant set up time. Should improve with more PoS options on the market.

User Onboard: Almost comparable. UX can improve on the WoS side.

Merchant Onboard: Days faster for Bitcoin. Getting an Eftpos terminal will always be slower.

Paying merchants is only one aspect of Lightning. The real disruption of lightning is streamable micro-payments facilitating completely new business models around content and service delivery. Imagine paying cents for articles, online content, or sub-cents for bandwidth, streaming video etc.

Machine-machine payments will also be disrupted. Imagine a vending machine, electric scooter or coffee machine with self-serve lightning payments. All completely self-sovereign.

Real Growth

We may be in bear market by looking at CoinMarketCap, but head over to 1ml.com (1million nodes + channels + capacity countdown) and it is green day after day.

1ml.com

Very excited to be part of this industry and will continue to keep building and helping grow exposure for the incredible technology that is the Lightning Network.

Follow me Twitter: https://twitter.com/jpthor__