- Wallets have lost a battle against exchanges to attract users in crypto between 2013 and 2021 due to poor onboarding, on-ramping and lack of usability and safety.
- The emergence of dozens of wallets in the last few years and a 11-axis methodology to classify them. Several flaws for user adoption have been solved -swap, on-ramping, security features- but others are not yet widespread -bridge, native integrations, social log-in-
- Wallets should monitor simple usage metrics (weekly wallet usage time, number of clicks to buy crypto etc.), focus on building a best-in-class UX and develop defensability to prosper.
Wallet experience — A tragedy in three acts
Wallets could be the main gateway to the crypto ecosystem. But, centralized platforms has been favoured by users since 10 years mainly for three reasons:
Let say you’re curious about crypto but not too curious to spend 10 hours a week exploring it. How would you onboard web3 back in 2018?
You have two solutions:
- One way to do it is to sign up to an exchange platform. You register with an email as you’d do anywhere else on the web, might enter some KYC details (ok that’s could take some time). BOOM. Your account is created, you can start investing.
- You can also download a self-custody wallet. The preferred option is to download a web extension (WTF for 90% of people, look at your mom’s computer and look at the number of extension she uses).
Then, the extension ask you to keep safe a 24-words seed phrases that is tied to the money you are going to deposit in it. So you have to take a pencil and write by hand those words and conceal it as someplace that would not be found by anyone but you. There’s the rub. What is supposed to be a consumer product is super difficult to handle.
Now keyless and social login solutions exist (magic link, account abstraction, MPC), but it was a big problem back in 2022.
I’ve got dollars or euros, so now how i can invest in crypto?
It was a crucial problem back in 2018 and at this time, only centralized platforms could offer a way to buy tokens. The process was hazardous, full of fees, time-consuming, but exchanges supported it, not wallets.
Now, we have plenty of onramping solutions that exist and could incorporated into any interfaces: Ramp, Transak, Moonpay and many others.
3. Usability and safety
That’s cool, I was able to buy some cryptos, now what I can do with it?
Exchange platforms have minimal but essential functionalities: you can stake your money, swap it and bridge it to other chains, not much else.
In comparison, your wallet is empty. It displays your holdings and that’s all. Obviously you could go to any website to explore and use your wallet, but you need to be adventurous given the number of wallet exploits, scam websites, scam transactions that you’re facing.
World have changed. Now self-custody in exchange platforms seems like a great way to get your money robbed or invested in shady financial operations.
If mass adoption has not stricken yet, there are a various numbers of wallets in the ecosystem. We denoted a list of 150 products with their particularities.
Here we wanted to provide an overview of market landscape and wallets functionalities.
A study of wallet characteristics and their constant improvements
I took a look at 100 wallets in the ecosystem and I classified them along eleven axis.
- Product type
Software, Hardware wallets and specific sub-categories (exchange, institutional platform)
- Access or How can the wallet be accessed?
Desktop App, Web App, iOS, Android, elsewhere.
- Underlying technology: How is the cystody on the wallet ensured? Conventional private key, Multi Computational Party (MPC), Smart contract wallet.
More details on the differences are given here defining the concept, flaws and advantages of each solutions.
- Supported chains
- Connectivity: The ability to use the wallets in relation with other solutions such as Ledger, Trezor or Wallet Connect.
- Ramping: The ability to buy crypto with FIAT (on-ramp) and to sell crypto for FIAT (off-ramp) through third parties solutions.
- Security: Transaction simulation before execution, multi-signature process, approval checks and wallet social recovery.
- Swap/Bridge: Built-in integration to swap wallets on the same or a different chain.
- DeFi (collection, browser, native integration)
- NFT (collection, browser, native integration)
- Other characteristics (Gasless experience, Account Abstraction, Ability to spend (card or purchases), Multi-wallet, Open Source, Social login, Transaction builder).
- Number of wallets downloaded on Play Store andChrome Store
A majority of mobile wallets are available on both Android and iOS. 8 wallets are exclusively available on Android and not iOS. Only one shows the opposite (Ultimate.money) and its Android version will release soon.
In the study spectrum, the majority of wallets have a mobile-first strategy and no longer a web-alone or web-first strategy.
- MPC vs. Conventional vs. Smart contract wallet
Historically, self-custody meant a private-key held wallet.
MPC and Smart contract wallets appears a few year later and are still under-represented in the landscape.
However, the emergence of Account Abstraction will change the shape of wallet landscape in the future.
Keyless and gasless experience, transaction batching, social recovery will become the norm with a 100x improvement in User Experience.
- On-ramp vs. Off-ramp
Off-ramping is much less present than on-ramping. While I don’t have any official reasons, the main leads are: the greater difficulty for an on-ramping provider to provide a stable and efficient off-ramping service (Ramp just announced its off-ramping service while the company has been around since 2018), and maybe a lesser interest for wallets to see people taking money out of the ecosystem.
- Swap vs. Bridge
Built-in swap integration is something highly common in wallets today, but bridge between different networks remains scarce.
- DeFi native integration vs. DeFi browser
Many wallets are making an effort to integrate DeFi into their interface. Most of them do it through an integrated browser.
The browser experience suffers from two flaws.
While it is simple to implement, the experience is not the most intuitive for the user — I invest in a DeFi Pool on my protocol interface and I don’t see the result in my wallet interface — nor is it the most pleasant — the protocol interfaces are not adapted to a mobile version -
Only 32% of wallets in the scope integrate native DeFi functionalities. It allows them to create a more seamless user experience as well as place themselves in the middle of the transaction and generate brokerage fees or retro commissions.
For most of them, staking is the only offer but other integrations are emerging to offer an end-to-end built-in experience.
- Downloads on Play Store
19% of wallets under scrutiny have more than 1 million downloads. An equivalent proportion are quite confidential wallets (less than 10K downloads).
With only four wallets cumulating over 5 million downloads (Metamask, OKX, Trust wallet and Coinbase wallet), it proves that the goal is not to fight with each other but to enlarge the cake.
Please dm @octavionotpunk on Twitter for more details on other metrics of this study.
The future challenges for wallets
Wallets are undeniably one of the keys to the massive adoption of cryptos over the next five years.
As a wallet, here are the things I’ll be watching for to build a best-in-class experience:
- Simple usage metrics: How many clicks to set up an account? Average number of seconds to onboard yourself (from download to having crypto in your account)? How many time spent in the wallet vs. outside of the wallet on a weekly basis(wallet absolute use and wallet time domination)?
- Focus on UX: Some features could be rebuilt internally, some others don’t. External solutions could be helpful to build an end-to-end experience for users (Onramper for on-ramp, Li.fi for bridge, Valha for DeFi, Stelo for safety)
- Build defensability: 1)Build brand recognition. 2)Proof of reliability with security audit, transparent communication, hack history. 3) Orchestrating financial liquidity markets (Fireblocks) 4) Implementing features linked to the real-world (credit/debit card, coupons etc.)