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Android based blockchain phone Solana Saga hopes to bring web3 to mobiles

Android based blockchain phone Solana Saga hopes to bring web3 to mobiles
Photo Credit: Solana Labs
24 Jun, 2022

Solana Labs, the promoters of the eponymous blockchain and cryptocurrency token, has announced plans to launch its own, Android-based, blockchain smartphone. Called Solana Saga, the device will cost around $1,000, and will be launched early next year, the company announced on Thursday, June 23.

The smartphone seeks to address the fact that most web3 services, so far, do not particularly run very well on phones – despite large chunks of humanity living in a mobile-first world. Sam Bankman-Fried, chief executive of cryptocurrency exchange FTX and a vocal backer of the Solana project, said at the unveiling event that “having an actual wallet built into your phone” could be one of the best strategies for web3 to be promoted better among users, for whom the smartphone is the chosen interface of interaction.

The Solana Saga will, therefore, include a siloed “vault” that users can store their private crypto keys in, feature a mobile wallet adapter that can allow users to link any third party wallet supporting the Solana blockchain to the Solana wallet, a QR-based ‘Solana Pay’ feature that can allow users to make on-chain crypto payments, and a decentralised apps (dapps) store for access to various web3 apps and games.

During the announcement, Solana executives claimed that they will collaborate across the industry to unify features that could be accessed through this Solana blockchain-based smartphone. The company also said that unlike Google and Apple, Solana will not be taking a cut from developers who build and publish dapps for the Solana web3 app store.

The smartphone isn’t being made from scratch by Solana – it’s a modified version of a device called the OSOM OV1. The latter is the first smartphone built by engineers and designers who worked at Essential, the now-defunct Andy Rubin venture.

To be sure, this is not the very first blockchain phone – or an attempt to integrate blockchain wallets with cross-industry support into a smartphone. HTC, which is now as good as defunct in the smartphone space, in 2018 unveiled a device called the Exodus 1, which too had a siloed space within the phone – separate from its Android-running firmware – to store private crypto keys in HTC’s proprietary crypto wallet.

Interestingly, HTC had said at the time that interested parties can only buy the Exodus 1 using crypto tokens, charging 0.15 BTC (Bitcoin) or 4.78 ETH (Ether) for it. While this came to around Rs 30,000 at the time of launch, today – even in a crypto winter market – the said phone would cost users close to Rs 4.5 lakh to buy in crypto tokens.

Samsung has also offered a blockchain wallet offering in their Galaxy smartphones, featuring a Blockchain Wallet and Blockchain Keystore in its Android phones to store private crypto keys or run dapps through. However, a lack of developer support for mobile applications in web3 has so far seen such efforts remain bit-part at best.

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