Smartphone-Blockchain Love Affair — Continued?
Depicting the latest developments in the crypto-phone market
Readers of the Distributed Economy newsletter might recall — in our first edition we unveiled how earlier this year the smartphone industry shyly started to tinder with blockchain technology: Sirin Labs launched the Finney blockchain phone, HTC the Exodus and Samsung introduced the Galaxy S10 with an integrated crypto-wallet. In addition, the $80 dollar Electroneum crypto-phone and the phone from cybersecurity software company Sikur are on the market. We analysed who might fall in love with these phones and looked at the development in the blockchain device market in a dedicated article.
So what’s new? Well, the love affair got somewhat more intense over the past two weeks. According to Sina finance report, China Telecom announced a whitepaper on 5G at the end of August, which includes plans to introduce a blockchain-enabled 5G SIM card.
Several decentralized applications (DApps) are going to be built around the ‘5G blockchain SIM card’. This includes apps for identity verification, financial asset management and secure access to legal documents. A potential use case for digital identity verification is anti-theft management for stolen phones. Here, blacklists of phones based on anonymized IMEIs (International Mobile Equipment Identity) are created and managed with blockchain technology. When a mobile device gets blacklisted, telecom operators, smartphone manufacturers and end-users can immediately receive the information and disable the stolen device. Korea Telecom and Deutsche Telekom are working on similar projects to prevent hacks and track stolen phones.
China Telecom’s blockchain-enabled 5G SIM cards will provide support for Ether as well as ERC20 tokens and will be compatible with all types of smartphones. What’s maybe most important about the project are the plans to turn smartphones into decentralized nodes of a blockchain network. If the endeavor succeeds this network can easily include millions of users considering that China Telecom currently serves already more than 300m mobile subscribers. With a corresponding node count, the network and phones might become highly prone to cyber-attacks.
On top, 5G SIM cards and in particular electronic SIMs will not only be installed in smartphones, but any kind of connected device in the future. This is why leading telecom carriers currently explore how blockchain technology could prove an effective means to monitor and ensure network security in large scale deployments of the Internet of Things in 5G networks.
Overall, China Telecom’s plans are ambitious and a launch date for a working product hasn’t been announced yet. So some patience is likely required before the first working product and application will be available. However, China Telecom is not alone when it comes to the latest crypto&phone love affair, even not in China. In the first week of September, the Chinese crypto-currency exchange Huobi, with daily trading volumes above $700m one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world by volume, announced the launch of the “Acute Angle” blockchain phone.
The Acute Angle is made by Whole Network, a startup that Huobi invested in. The device can be purchased with Huobi’s native token HT at a price of around $515, which is more affordable than i.e. Sirin Labs’ pioneering blockchain phone ‘Finney’, which was launched at $1,000. Targeting cryptocurrency traders, the Acute Angle has built-in crypto-trading features like push trade notifications, a DApp wallet, and an optional cold-storage plugin. Owners will be rewarded with tokens for activities like watching ads, downloading apps, inviting friends and sharing content — a similar concept to that of the Brave browser and the Basic Attention Token. It’s seemingly intended to build a blockchain enabled ecosystem around the Acute Angle. The phone is currently available in China, a Q4 2019 launch is planned for Southeast Asia. And this is only the first of a series of blockchain phones likely to be brought on the market by Whole Network. There are plans for 5G enabled devices as well.
In addition beginning of September Wallstreet Journal reported that Samsung is launching the “Klaytn Phone” in a joint effort with Kakao, South Korea’s largest social media network. The “Klayton Phone” is a Galaxy Note 10 with a preinstalled cryptocurrency wallet and a DApp store. The name of the smartphone originates from Kakao’s blockchain network Klaytn and buyers will get a certain amount of “Klay” tokens as cryptocurrency. Note that earlier this year Samsung not only launched the Galaxy S10 with a cryptocurrency wallet and decentralized apps but already announced plans to enable budget Galaxy phones with DApps to reach more price sensitive market segments.
Since Samsung became serious about blockchain, it is no surprise that the Korean LG, as a local and international competitor of Samsung, is jumping on the band wagon as well. Korean media outlet Chosun reports that “LG is likely to respond to Samsung’s innovation initiative” and is going to launch Blockchain-friendly phones soon.
But that’s not all, the ball really started to roll in September. Pundi showcased the ‘Blok on Blok’ blockchain phone at IFA fair in Germany, which can switch between Android and blockchain mode. Under Android the so called BoB offers all functions of regular smartphones. Once in blockchain mode, BoB operates on the Pundi X distributed ledger and users can make end-to-end encrypted calls and send encrypted messages to other BoB phones. What’s special about the BoB phone is its modular design. Users can customize components of the hardware according to their preferences and replace old components with new whenever needed.
The Pundi blockchain phone is positioned as a second phone for users and expected to be released end of 2019 at a price of $599. Price–wise this is in the range of Huobi’s Acute Angle, but cheaper than the HTC’s $699 Exodus 1, the other mid-range blockchain device.
HTC didn’t stand still either and announced at September 16th a partnership with the crypto wallet provider Bitcoin.com. The Exodus 1 now comes with a Bitcoin Cash wallet app pre-installed. The partnership is far reaching, so that Bitcoin.com amongst others plans to sell the Exodus 1 and all future versions in its online store. The Exodus 1 might be followed by HTC’s second-generation blockchain phone the Exodus 1s soon. According to HTC the 1s will be capable of acting as a full node for the bitcoin network, and will be offered at a very competitive price of $250-$300.
Finally it’s worth noting that US carrier Verizon was recently granted a patent for a blockchain enabled virtual SIM which makes currently used physical SIMs obsolete. Records of virtual SIM certificates and International Mobile Subscriber Identities will be stored on a blockchain in this patented approach.
Overall, the recent events lead us to 3 conclusions:
1. Building partnerships or holistic eco-systems becomes key for growing blockchain (phone) adoption. This includes interlinking blockchain with 5G and IoT technology as part of a wider convergence stack that will likely also comprise AI and automation going forward.
2. Reaching out beyond the very niche segment of affluent crypto early tech adopters to a wider audience needs devices with mid-range or even ‘very-wide’ range price points.
3. As heavy weights like Samsung, China Telecom and Verizon with access to tens of millions of customers enter the space, the blockchain & smartphones blockchain love affair gets serious.
More on blockchain ecosystems, partnerships and alliances in the telecom industry soon.
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Originally published at http://www.untitled-inc.com on September 10, 2019.