Most would agree that the smartphone industry is in dire need of disruption. Outside of the foldable market, we’ve seen little in terms of innovation and feature differentiation in recent years. So when a young startup with the LineageOS team announces that it’s building a smartphone to challenge that status quo, it’s hard not to get a little excited.
That’s exactly what happened when we first heard about the privacy-focused OSOM OV1 smartphone last year. If you’re unfamiliar with the OSOM brand, it’s a new startup founded by former Essential Employees.
Earlier this week, we finally got to know more about OSOM OV1, which has now been delayed to early 2023. The device features high-end, flagship-grade specifications, which are matched with a reasonable $1,000 price tag. However, in a major twist, OSOM is no longer marketing the OV1 as its own product. Instead, it has partnered with Solana, a blockchain company.
OSOM has moved from making privacy-focused smartphones to smartphones with blockchain integration.
Solana Saga, as it is now called, promises to include “unique functionality and features tightly integrated with the Solana blockchain”. It’s certainly a big pivot from OSOM’s initial goal of delivering just a privacy- and security-focused Android smartphone. But does this new focus make sense? Let’s break it down.
hold onWhat is Blockchain Technology?
Table of Contents
What does the Solana Saga hope to achieve?
In case you are wondering what makes Solana Saga different from previous niche blockchain/cryptocurrency smartphones, it is not quite clear. Browsing through the official website, you’ll find some option quotes like “re-imagining web 3 for mobile” and “removing friction for self-custody”. We once heard similar one-pronged claims from companies like HTC and Sirin Labs. Needless to say, those efforts were not successful.
Luckily, some more digging reveals that the company has also announced a software development kit called Solana Mobile Stack. In a nutshell, it provides Android developers with the tools they need to build secure cryptocurrency wallets and Web3 apps. You can consider Stacks to be similar to Google Mobile Services (GMS), but for a far more specific use case.
read moreWhat is Web3 and why is it so controversial?
As you would expect, the Solana Mobile Stack comes pre-installed on every Solana Saga. It 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 like fingerprints.
Solana expects developers to create cryptocurrency wallets and apps for its upcoming smartphones.
But does the average cryptocurrency user need a dedicated blockchain smartphone to facilitate simple transactions? Not necessary. You can already use decentralized apps (dApps) on almost any Android device, make NFTs with software wallets, and make cryptocurrency payments via a web browser. Sure, you can sacrifice a little bit of security but no one keeps their life savings on a mobile phone.
Despite the current options, CEO Anatoly Yakovenko thinks Solana has something unique to offer. In a blog post accompanying the launch of Saga, he wrote:
… Every day, I hear stories of people skipping dinners, conventions, and holidays to go back to their computers and sign important transactions. Mints, trading, listings and transfers vital to the daily lives of crypto-lovers are pulling us away from our lives along with others. Apple and Google, the only companies with the resources to realize the self-custody mobile future we’ve all been dreaming of, have had no update to deliver on their roadmaps for crypto.
In other words, Solana claims it will do what Google and Apple won’t – bake an entire ecosystem of crypto apps and experiences directly into the phone’s software. Whether this is a good idea or not remains to be seen.
see all: Best Cryptocurrency Apps
Why blockchain smartphones don’t make sense
If there’s anything we know for sure, it’s that demand for blockchain smartphones hasn’t really grown since 2018 when the HTC Exodus first broke cover. In fact, you could argue that it makes even less sense now. Web3 and NFTs have become extremely controversial topics these days and it is not hard to see why. Many believe that the market is filled with half-baked and petty platforms, or worse, outright fraudulent projects. And Solana hasn’t even managed to avoid her share of controversies.
dive in: Why do people say NFTs are bad?
Over the past few months, the Solana blockchain has suffered multiple network outages due to a variety of software glitches that have prevented users from transacting for up to 18 hours. For many, the appeal of blockchain technology rests on transparency, reliability, and decentralization. So far, Solana has not managed to do anything on these fronts and has faced a lot of criticism for this.
Web3 and NFT have become controversial topics, making the Solana Saga a controversial smartphone with limited appeal.
With all this in mind, it’s hard to see a scenario where the Solana Saga succeeds over another $1,000 smartphone. 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 apps, not far from Solana’s pitch. It is also cryptocurrency-agnostic so you are not bound to Solana or any particular blockchain.
Do blockchain smartphones make sense?
Back in 2018, we recognized that the Sirin Finney smartphone (pictured above) didn’t make much sense at its $1,000 price tag. Have we come full circle with the Solana saga after four years? Only time will tell.
Find more: Htc pivots from blockchain to smartphone – Krypto-NFTs