HTC opens pre-orders for blockchain phone; payment in cryptocurrency only

An early-access version of the HTC Exodus, a blockchain phone, is now available for pre-orders and customers can only pay in cryptocurrencies Ethereum and Bitcoin according to their Tuesday announcement.

The phone costs 0.15 Bitcoin (ETC) and 4.78 Ethereum (ETH) or around  $975 although the price may change with changes in crypto prices in the future according to management. The phone will start shipping by December. The press release said the Exodus 1 is available in the U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, the U.K. and nearly 30 other countries.

The fact that the company is accepting cryptocurrency payments only means the company's main audience is cryptocurrency and blockchain community as well as core cryptocurrency audience and fans. Head of HTC’s blockchain initiative Phil Chen told news outlet SCMP that the company has had to "recreate and overcome many processes internally" and find new distributors in order to achieve the goal of only accepting cryptocurrencies as a form of payment for the phone. 

The company is also looking for developers to participate in the early-access version, which obviously will be used to test and get feedback from the blockchain community in order to improve the device.    

In Exodus, the company is targeting at making a device that will make cryptocurrency much more easier and secure to use. The primary focus is security of phone to allow secure storage of cryptocurrency and transactions. For instance, it contains a secure enclave where the owner can store cryptocurrency keys. The secure enclave according to the description is built onto the phone's chip and protected from the Android operating system.

The enclave uses technology made by  SoftBank's Arm Holdings to keep a customer's cryptocurrency safe. HTC's decentralized chief officer Phil Chen told CNBC that the enclave works like "a micro OS that runs in parallel with Android." The company built its own cryptocurrency wallet called Zion to make the phone work as a hardware cryptocurrency wallet. Of course, many recognize that a hardware cryptocurrency wallet beats all other types of wallets in matters relating to securing of crypto.

Chen said storing cryptocurrency on a "centralized" nature Android OS makes the funds more vulnerable to a hack since it is "fundamentally insecure." Customers of HTC using the phone can also use the Social Key Recovery process to restore their wallets in case they forget their keys or in case the device is lost. In this process, they are able to assign a few contacts as "trustworthy" and each of the contacts assigned as trustworthy can download a key management application. The process will split the user's recovery seed among these trusted contacts and if or when a phone is lost/stolen or keys forgotten, they will use these contacts to regain access to their wallets and funds.

He said the major companies such as  Google and Facebook, and in China, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are dominant because they own "our data" and that blockchain sees users owning and being able to personally manage their private keys, which is the starting point to owning their digital identity and being able to manage their data personally.

 There are thousands of cryptocurrency wallets today that work on desktops and mobile or other devices. Hardware wallets such as Ledger and Tezor are regarded as most secure because they come with extra security features and buttons and even allow offline transaction signing. They are pretty nice at it. The phone leverages secure phone ecosystem and other security features to improve the security environment of doing cryptocurrency transactions.

According to a senior IT consultant at Samsung Insights Joel Snyder, mobile phones come with hardware-based TEE which is a separate execution environment with its own memory and storage that is hard to breach for hackers. Thus they are significantly more secure in processing cryptocurrency payments than alternative devices and platforms such as desktop, laptops and the web.         

Being based on blockchain means it will run decentralized applications. Third party developers will also be able to use the application program interfaces (APIs), meaning the device can be used by them to protect customer keys and sign transactions. The company might also out a software development kit (SDK) for its wallet for partners who will help HTC expand its blockchain ecosystem. 

Other features are 16 megapixel dual main camera and an 8MP dual front camera with 4K video, six inch display with quad-HD+ resolution, Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

David Kariuki

David Kariuki likes to regard himself as a freelance tech journalist who has written and writes widely about a variety of tech issues that affect our society daily, including cryptocurrencies (see cryptomorrow.com and coinpedia.org); climate change (cleanleap.com), OpenSim and virtual reality (see hypergridbusiness.com). He is currently pursuing a MSc in Environmental Management at Open University. He does write here not to offer any investment advise but with the intention of informing audience, and articles in here are of his own opinion. Anyone willing to use any opinion here as advise to invest in crypto should obviously take own responsibility and accountability of their losses (or benefits) thereof. You can reach me at eqariu@gmail.com or david@cryptomorrow.com