HTC Blockchain Phone: Marketing ploy or a useful tool

  • The Exodus 1 can only be bought using cryptocurrency and will cost 0.15 bitcoins or 4.78 eth
  • HTC held 10% of the smartphone market in 2011, but its share price fell to around 1%.
  • The wallet is contained within a “secure enclave”, a separate area on the Exodus 1’s chip

HTC has unveiled its blockchain-focused smartphone, the Exodus 1, which can only be bought using cryptocurrency.

The Taiwanese technology company has developed its own wallet, Zion, to enable the phone to function as a hardware wallet.

The company says the phone is a step towards people owning their data.

The wallet is held within a “secure enclave”, an area on Exodus 1’s chip that’s separate from the OS.

“Think of it as a micro OS that runs in parallel with Android,” HTC decentralised chief officer Phil Chen told CNBC. “It basically is a wallet, but the wallet, what it does is hold your private keys.”

Private keys are lines of code meant to be known only to the owner allowing them access to their funds.

Extra Layer of Security

Having this area of the phone separate is due to HTC’s decision that Google’s OS is “fundamentally insecure with a centralised system,” Chen says the separation adds a layer of security.

HTC held 10% of the smartphone market in 2011 but has since fallen to 1% as a result of rising competition from the likes of Samsung and Huawei, leading to job losses.

The Exodus 1 is an example of the company focusing on new technology to recapture ground. It is available for pre-order at a price of 0.15 bitcoins of 4.78 ether tokens (around $960 US).

HTC said it developed its cryptocurrency wallet called Zion to make its new phone function as a hardware cryptocurrency wallet.

Why a Blockchain Phone

Blockchain can be thought of as a tamper-proof digital ledger that records transactions and other data across a distributed network.

“The dominant companies in our world today are Google and Facebook, and in China, BaiduAlibaba and Tencent, because they basically own all our data,” Chen said.

“The reason why you do a blockchain phone is for everybody just to own their own keys. Everything starts there. You start owning your own keys, then you can start owning your digital identity, then you start to own data.”

HTC’s new phone will run decentralised applications, digital programs that operate on the blockchain. 

It comes with a “Social Key Recovery” function that lets a user regain access to their funds if they lose their private key via trusted contacts.

The Exodus 1 also includes a 16-megapixel dual main camera and an 8MP dual front camera with 4K video and a six-inch display with quad-HD+ resolution as well as a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and six gigabytes of RAM along with 128GB of storage.

Though HTC is taking orders now, the Exodus 1 is expected to be shipped early December. 

Chen denied the company is cashing in on the rise of cryptocurrencies in recent years.

“It’s important that there’s this excitement and this huge crypto bubble and people are paying attention and buying bitcoin and ether. But is this the most important thing? Is this the reason why we’re doing this blockchain phone? No.”

He added: “Selling it in crypto only and being the first to do so means we are bringing this directly to the core audience and those who will want this device — the blockchain community.”

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