The What and Why of Blockchain-Enabled Smartphones
glance, pairing blockchains with smartphones may not appear to make much sense.
A smartphone is a real, physical thing; it can’t really be built using a
blockchain. And while many of the apps that run on a smartphone could be
powered by blockchain technology, so could those that are designed for PCs or
other platforms. Blockchain technology has no special role to play in mobile
increasingly common to hear people discussing blockchain-enabled smartphones.
What are they talking about?
of things, actually. There are several use cases for blockchain technology on
smartphones that are in various stages of development.
With Built-In Cryptowallets
the most obvious — but also least imaginative — use case for a blockchain on
smartphones is to create phones with integrated digital wallets. Such phones
would allow users to store their crypto assets on hardware devices, without
requiring them to carry around USB sticks or other wallet solutions.
one of the core selling points of Sirin Labs’ Finney phone, which will
reportedly debut in October 2018 and is being manufactured by Foxconn. (According to reports from earlier this spring,
Sirin Labs has also been in talks with Huawei, which could potentially be
developing a similar blockchain-based phone.)
addition to allowing users to store digital tokens on a hardware device, the
Finney, which will run a custom version of Android, will perform automatic,
behind-the-scenes conversions between different types of tokens so that users
can make online purchases seamlessly, without having to exchange tokens
speaking, automatic cryptocurrency conversion and purchasing functionality is
not really a smartphone-specific feature. You could write an app to do the same
thing on any platform. But by coupling this feature with an integrated hardware
wallet, Sirin Labs hopes to offer a holistic, out-of-the-box solution for
owning and using cryptocurrency.
Finney is not the only smartphone in the works with an integrated digital wallet.
A startup called Swiss Bank In Your Pocket appears to be developing a
smartphone that features its own hardware, called BitVault. Details and a release date for the BitVault are not yet
another recent blockchain smartphone development, Blacture announced in early May 2018 that it is creating Motif, “a blockchain-based phone
that pays you back.” The device will reward users with digital tokens in exchange
for performing activities like online shopping or sharing personal data.
has not yet revealed specifics about how the Motif rewards system will work, or
exactly which opportunities smartphone users will have to earn rewards. The
Motif phone will reportedly become available in fall 2018 for around $375.
Finney will reportedly offer a similar way for users to earn rewards by hosting
Wi-Fi hot spots through their phones and renting the connections to other
people. While the core idea behind this feature does not require the blockchain
— the owner of almost any modern smartphone could set up a hots pot and charge
other people to use it — a blockchain could add value by simplifying and
securing payments for Wi-Fi service.
technology could potentially unlock new ways of securing the data that is
stored on phones, as well as the data that cellular networks transmit between
the use case that Rivetz and the major Spanish telecommunications company
Telefonica are exploring. Similarly, Swiss Bank In Your
Pocket will use blockchain technology to enable secure phone calls from
smartphones on its BitVault phone, according to its website.
the most ambitious use case for the blockchain in the smartphone market
involves creating decentralized cellular networks that provide free cell phone
the goal of Mobilink-Coin (not to be confused with Mobilink, a Pakistani mobile operator). The company will provide
cell phone voice and data service that it purchases from telecommunications
companies and then distribute those services to Mobilink-Coin users at no cost,
provided the users participate at a sufficient level on the Mobilink-Coin
network. Mobilink-Coin will earn revenue from an ad platform, and the company
says that this revenue will be sufficient to offset the cost of telco service.
development has been clouded by scam allegations, and it is unclear when the
platform might actually launch. It’s a safe bet, however, that plenty of
smartphone users would find the offering of free cellular service enormously
attractive, should Mobilink-Coin succeed.
technology has a surprising number of use cases for smartphones. Those that
appear slated to arrive soonest will involve blockchain smartphones featuring
integrated hardware wallets and cryptocurrency payments systems. In the longer
term, the blockchain may also help to secure smartphones data and
communications — and it could potentially even save consumers hundreds of
dollars per year by eliminating their cellular service bills, although that
outcome seems less certain.