The bulk of the Crypto industry is reeling from the market crash & rumors of projects going under. These are troublesome times but it seems the bear market is having no impact on innovation.
Earlier this week, Solana co-founder Anatoly Yakovenko, revealed plans to launch the first Crypto phone – the Solana smartphone.
This announcement came with the added launch of SMS – the Solana Mobile Stack – a full set of developer tools to make mobile-focused Web3 applications.
The announcements are surprising, interesting & merit a breakdown.
Hence, if you are interested in all things tech, Crypto & Web3, read on.
1. What do we know?
1.1. The Solana Saga
Solana aims to launch a smartphone device operating in the Android environment called the Solana Saga. The device will hit shelves in early 2023 & be priced at $1,000.
The blockchain has partnered with Jason Keats of OSOM products and it is understood that the previously announced OSOM OV1 will be rebranded as the Solana Saga.
The device itself will operate as a native Crypto wallet and have access to an app store developed using the SMS and boasting various dApps.
The key features are still sketchy but it is understood that this will be a cold wallet with direct connectivity to dApps instead of the present system of having a browser connect you through.
Thus, think of it as a crypto-native device with the UX of a software wallet & security of a hardware wallet.
1.2. The Solana Mobile Stack
The Solana Mobile Stack or SMS will be launched as a set of developer tools to help bring to market Mobile applications that directly link with the hardware wallet properties of the Solana Saga.
The idea is that this dedicated development environment will make it easier for applications to be made on user-centric protocols through this toolkit.
2. Why is Solana Getting Into The Smartphone Business?
2.1. Trouble With Apple & Google
The Crypto industry as a whole has had issues in the past in terms of engaging Apple & Google for their dApps to be listed on their play stores, a fact that the Solana co-founder made clear in his post-launch interviews.
In most cases, these bottlenecks are regulatory in nature and vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
A decentralized app store will help solve this problem and also nudge both giants to relax their rules on listing new Crypto dApps on their marketplace once they see the volume shift from Apple Pay & Google Pay to the Sol wallet built-in the Solana Saga.
2.2. Democratizing Access to Crypto
Bringing in new people to Crypto is a challenge, especially in decentralized environments, as the process isn’t straightforward to the layman. Imagine giving 1 billion people a hardware wallet with a set of instructions.
It is practically impossible to achieve any measured success in such an endeavor.
However, and as Brian Armstrong of Coinbase makes the case here, 1 billion people in the world use smartphones & shipping such a Crypto enabled device with superior UX would likely make bringing the next billion into this space a much easier task.
3. Potential – A Critical Analysis
3.1. Hardware Wallet Security & Software Wallet Utility
The Solana Saga & SMS will revolutionize the self-custody space by fusing the Mobile device & the physical wallet into a single device. At present, smartphones can only access hot wallets on-chain, which is a security risk.
Cold wallets have grown in acceptability as mobility has improved with time, given size has gotten smaller.
However, the need to connect them with a device to operate makes the process tedious. Integration of the wallet with dApps and other parameters like “tap and pay” & scan QR codes is expected to increase overall Crypto adoption.
At the moment details on security parameters in case you lose access to your phone are sketchy & that remains a major risk. The phone could be stolen, lost, damaged, or heat up & blow up.
How would the digital assets inside the device be recovered? If you could buy another device and put in your recovery phrase for getting access again to that wallet, then I believe the Solana Saga will essentially remain a software wallet only.
3.2. More dApps, High Privacy & No Ads
A full dApp store will increase overall Crypto adoption, as many dApps that are unable to list on the Apple and Google Play Store due to regulatory concerns & shady rules will find a home of their own inside the Solana Saga.
This, together with the in-built wallet, will increase access to dApps thus ushering in more crypto adoption. Politically, this could potentially checkmate Apple and Google to follow suit by becoming more Crypto friendly.
Most importantly, dApps will not record your personal data, keeping true to the spirit of decentralization. That means enhanced privacy & fewer ads.
This is a huge win for the privacy market & will have a damaging impact on the current state of play with applications on the Apple Store and Google Play which are not only selling user data but also killing the UX as they are riddled with ads.
The only hitch is that for all this to happen, enough developers have to take to SMS to build these apps that are not crypto in nature. Imagine a private no-ad Facebook or Twitter.
If not, they need to find ways in which they can be integrated into a Web3 environment with privacy conservation. Otherwise, all this just looks good on paper.
3.3. Transaction Signing Goes Native
Essentially, your sign-in to your wallet practically means you are past the login stage & it makes sense then to repeal the need for having you login to each app & website once again.
This is huge from the point of view that it would become extremely easier from a UX perspective to use mobile for transactions. Think of Signing in with Google.
One password for everything and no need for waiting for a 2FA to be emailed to you for each and every transaction. This would, in my opinion, make the Web3 experience reality as one could simply stay in the browser and make purchases.
No need for going to a different hosting service and entering your credit card details.
Again, while you are ready to pay in crypto, there has to be a willing counterparty on the other side too. Much of Web3’s taking off will require the producers of today to accept crypto as payment.
Otherwise, the Solana Saga cannot really have a crack at native transaction signing to go mainstream.
Simply, I can’t pay my Medium subscription in crypto if Medium does not accept it yet.
No one carries their hardware wallet around to a cinema or a concert. Hence, a crypto-native device such as the Solana Saga will be a boon to crypto ticketing and event management projects.
They could essentially feed off Ethereum’s idea of SBTs & make them go mainstream. This is huge in terms of creating a Web3 environment where you can use your phone to prove your identity.
Think of a ticketing booth when verifying an airplane ticket or on a website when applying for a visa. The identity is verified on-chain by the issuer of the SBT and all the counterparty needs to do is to verify the SBT itself.
There are more cell phones in the world than there are desktops. This is a case in itself for Crypto to move towards cellphones and away from desktops. Also, there is simply no way that we can imagine 1 billion people carrying hardware wallets with them.
The next best alternative is that we make them native to the other thing they carry – their cell phones.
I believe this is the thought process that inspired Solana to take a crack at this space.
However, for it to really take off & go mainstream beyond the dApps that help you yield farm, stake, or swap, there has to be a huge amount of effort to bring the counterparty infrastructure to Web3 and crypto.
I believe this is essentially the challenge that Solana and the community are taking on here for the long term. The phone is simply a taste of things to come. The effort it seems will be to push the mobile stack developer toolkit.
Let’s see how this turns out.