In the late 2000s, HTC blazed trails by bringing a smartphone to market, which was based on the Android operating system. Despite with the Android developer, now it wants to do the same with blockchain too. On Tuesday, this Taiwanese electronics maker unveiled the Exodus smartphone, both – a mobile connecting point to the world of decentralized networks, as well as a storage device for those that want to carry their crypto in their pocket.
According to Phil Chen, who has previously founded the Vive virtual reality product line of HTC and has recently returned to the business company to spearhead the Genesis project, the company wants to start with a distribution of the device in short order. Chen told CoinDesk that they are looking to ship by the end of 2018.
HTC is not the only company working on the blockchain-dedicated smartphone
While HTC is not the only company which is working on a blockchain-dedicated smartphone – Sirin Labs has recently raised $157 million in an ICO (Initial Coin Offering), to build the “Finney” – it is by far the largest company of its kind to undertake such efforts.
The way in which the product has been internally positioned indicated that HTC sees an influential role for decentralized technologies, particularly for putting the power to control the digital identities of consumer firmly in their own hands.
The associate vice president of VP new technology for HTC, Raymond Pao, said that it is going to be building the framework and phone which powers the decentralized web. He also told CoinDesk that he believes smartphones are going to be a critical component for the entire crypto ecosystem. This phone is going to act as the hub, he said, just like the PC did in the early days of the Internet.
He continued with saying that if we take a look at the industry, there are moving in two directions. One of the sides is 100% centralized so that the platform company knows all the details of the users. The value which the platform companies can provide is fully customized service to every single person.
The more the user shares with the platform company, the better-customized service the platform companies will provide. On the opposite side of this, there are the users that care about their private data more every day and want to own their information and identification. As the phone is one of the most personal devices that we use nowadays, he says that they want to work on the decentralized eco-system with the users that care most about their privacy.
Focus on usability
These efforts point to a deepening relationship between mobile devices and blockchains.
From the plethora of smartphone-based wallet apps to the capability to send cryptocurrency by way of SMS, it is a combination which has driven both innovation and, for unfortunate, theft.
But, putting the challenges aside, this Taiwanese electronics maker is pursuing what could be the next big thing for smartphone development.
While speaking to CoinDesk, Chen has explained that the goal was to build a product which would provide high-level security for digital assets that are stored in the device, but one which offers ease of use other crypto-wallets on the market lack.
Mainly, the Genesis is set to include a digital storefront for distributed apps, or dapps, additionally to a built-in-wallet. The idea is that this store is going to be connected to offerings around existing blockchain networks, which also include Ethereum. The phone is also going to have an API built into it so that the developers can create additional apps which are based on the integrated networks.
Indeed, HTC seems to be betting that the ubiquitous nature of the smartphone (some data from Statista indicates that almost 3 billion people today use smartphones worldwide) is a reasonable fit for the new technology, as it relates to greater control over someone’s information.
Chen explained that they really care about this portable identity, as well as users owning their identity and data, and they also believe that the phone is the best place for doing that.
Not doing it alone
One might think that HTC, being a dominant smartphone maker, is looking to jump into the market with guns blazing.
But, according to Chen, the Taiwanese electronics maker is taking a decidedly different approach, in that way reaching out to some projects such as Ethereum and DFinity, as it looks to integrate those protocols into the Genesis phone.
He explained that right now, they are talking to Ethereum, DFinity, and they want to run their clients to optimize for their nodes. They also want to be Switzerland for all protocols, Ethereum and so on, so the phone can do 20-30% of it regarding verifying. He added that at some point, somebody would need to build a mobile-centric protocol.
Chen went on to say that in the months that come, information about the Genesis is going to be slowly released, which includes white papers, specifications, and the like.
Chen told CoinDesk that they are also going to release some more white papers in the July-August time frame which have more of that, can have the phone be a node as opposed to mid-to-high-end savers.
Also, in a nod to the crypto community, a forthcoming pre-sale for the phone is going to accept cryptocurrencies as payment. Chen said that they are going to do a pre-sale, and they will accept Ethereum and Bitcoin for the pre-order.