Most people will agree that the smartphone industry is in desperate need of disruption. Outside of the foldable market, we’ve seen very little innovation and feature differentiation in recent years. So when a young startup with a top team announces it’s building a smartphone to challenge this status quo, it’s hard not to get a little excited.
This is exactly what happened when we first heard about privacy OSOM OV1 smartphone last year. In case you’re unfamiliar with the OSOM brand, it’s a new startup created by former Essential employees.
Earlier this week, we finally got to know more about the OSOM OV1, which has now been delayed to early 2023. The device features high-end, flagship-grade specs, with an appropriate price tag of $1,000. In a big twist, however, OSOM is no longer marketing the OV1 as its own product. Instead, he teamed up with Solana, a block chain company.
OSOM has moved from making a privacy-centric smartphone to one with blockchain integrations.
The Solana Saga, as it’s now called, promises to include “unique features and functionality tightly integrated with the Solana blockchain.” It’s certainly a massive pivot from OSOM’s original goal of just delivering a privacy and security-centric Android smartphone. But does this new direction make sense? Let’s break it down.
Catch up: What is blockchain technology?
What does the Solana saga hope to accomplish?
If you’re wondering what sets the Solana saga apart from previous blockchain/cryptocurrency niche smartphones, it’s not entirely clear. Browsing the official site, you’ll come across prime quotes such as “re-imagining web3 for mobile” and “removing friction for self-care”. We’ve heard similar one-dimensional claims before from companies like HTC and Sirin Labs. Needless to say, these efforts were unsuccessful.
Luckily, some more research reveals that the company has also announced a software development kit called Solana Mobile Stack. In a nutshell, it gives Android developers the tools to create secure cryptocurrency wallets and Web3 apps. You can think of the stack as similar to Google mobile services (GMS), but for a much, much more niche use case.
Read more: What is Web3 and why is it so controversial?
As you might expect, the Solana Mobile Stack will come pre-installed on every Solana Saga. This will also allow users to store their cryptocurrency wallet keys in a secure enclave on the device. Notably, this is the same security mechanism that other Android phones use to protect sensitive data such as fingerprints.
Solana expects developers to create cryptocurrency wallets and apps for its upcoming smartphone.
But does the average cryptocurrency user need a dedicated blockchain smartphone to facilitate simple transactions? Not really. You can already use decentralized applications (dApps) on just about any Android device, own NFTs with software wallets, and make cryptocurrency payments through a web browser. Sure, you can sacrifice a little security, but no one keeps a lifetime’s savings on a mobile phone anyway.
Regardless of the options out there, CEO Anatoly Yakovenko seems to think Solana has something unique to offer. In a blog post accompanying the launch of the saga, he wrote:
… Every day I hear stories of people leaving dinners, conferences and vacations to go back to their computers and sign important transactions. Mints, exchanges, quotes and transfers essential to the daily life of crypto enthusiasts take us away from our lives with others. The only companies with the resources to materialize the self-preserving mobile future we all dream of, Apple and Google, had no updates to give on their crypto roadmaps.
In other words, Solana says it will do what Google and Apple won’t: integrate an entire ecosystem of crypto apps and experiences directly into phone software. Whether this is a good idea or not remains to be seen.
See also: The best cryptocurrency apps
Why blockchain smartphones don’t make sense
If there’s anything we know for sure, it’s that the demand for blockchain smartphones hasn’t really increased since 2018, when the HTC Exodus first cover broken. In fact, you might say it makes even less sense now. Web3 and NFTs have become hugely controversial topics these days and it’s not hard to see why either. Many believe that the market is flooded with half-baked and buggy platforms, or worse, completely fraudulent projects. Nor has Solana managed to escape her share of controversy.
Over the past few months, the Solana blockchain has suffered multiple network outages due to various software issues, preventing users from transacting for 18 hours. For many, the appeal of blockchain technology is based on transparency, reliability and decentralization. Solana has failed to deliver on these fronts so far and has drawn a lot of criticism for it.
Web3 and NFTs have become controversial topics, making the Solana Saga a controversial smartphone with limited appeal.
With all of that in mind, it’s hard to see a scenario where the Solana Saga succeeds on other $1,000 smartphones. The Galaxy S22 series not only competes in the same price range, but also offers Samsung’s long-established Blockchain Keystore. The latter allows you to securely store cryptocurrency and interface with decentralized applications, not too far from Solana’s terrain. It is also cryptocurrency agnostic, so you are not tied to Solana or any particular blockchain.
Do blockchain smartphones make sense?
In 2018 we opined that the Sirin Finney smartphone (pictured above) didn’t make much sense at its $1,000 price tag. Have we come full circle four years later with the Solana saga? Only time will tell.
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It’s 2022 And Blockchain Smartphones Still Make No Sense
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