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How crypto is finding its way from your PC to your pocket—Web3 Goes Mobile

James Caunt




September 20, 2022

How crypto is finding its way from your PC to your pocket—Web3 Goes Mobile

Move over Bananaphone, it’s time for... Solanaphone. With the fastest growing ecosystem in crypto announcing its move into mobile devices, it seems like the industry is finally waking up to the prevailing trends.

Mobile users are now the majority when it comes to accessing the internet. So why are we still running home from social events to mint hotly-anticipated NFTs?

Mobile is the future

For Web3 to truly go mainstream, it needs to be easily accessible on mobile devices. One of the main reasons for this is the sheer number of people turning to crypto solutions in emerging markets.

Users in countries such as India, Nigeria, and Venezuela, where crypto adoption is high, are far more likely to access the internet via a smartphone than a desktop PC. Mobile devices are cheaper and easier to find, mobile data is more affordable and accessible than Wi-Fi, and battery-powered devices are more reliable in times of power outages. The global trend toward mobile is clear.

“Almost 7 billion people use smartphones around the world, and more than 100 million people hold digital assets,” said Anatoly Yakovenko, co-founder of Solana. “And both of those numbers will continue to grow,”

Web3 developers who want to reach a truly global user base are beginning to promote mobile-first solutions, and they’re doing it on Android platforms. But where does that leave Apple, the other mobile OS behemoth? Well, Apple has shown little enthusiasm or inclination toward Web3 so far. This is probably unsurprising, considering the closed, centralized nature of its ecosystem—the polar opposite of what Web3 seeks to achieve.

“We didn’t see a single crypto announcement at Apple’s developer conference, 13 years after Bitcoin went live,” Yakovenko continued. “So, I think it’s going to be up to us.”

6 mobile-friendly Web3 solutions

1. ethOS

ethOS is an organic, open source, community-led project that seeks to create a permissionless mobile operating system. It will allow users to seamlessly interact with Ethereum-based decentralized apps (dApps) on the go, powered by a native blockchain API.

Built on the foundations of LineageOS, a popular and secure Android fork, ethOS promises to “enable a crypto-ready experience from the moment the phone gets turned on the first time,” with features like a built-in wallet, encrypted private keys, and a decentralized browser.

Currently, ethOS is testing in beta mode, focusing on specific devices such as the Pixel 3 and Pixel 5a (feel free to try it yourself here). However, as the capabilities of the operating system continue to mature, the team plans to build a dedicated hardware device called the Ethereum Phone.

According to its Whitepaper, the Ethereum Phone could be a game-changer in the ways we interact with our mobile devices. “Apps, ERC20s, and NFTs will expand in potential when paired with the geolocation, camera, and near-field communication capabilities of mobile,” it explains. “New social and creative experiences will become possible and will integrate seamlessly with the tokenization and financialization of the physical and digital worlds and experiences.”

The ultimate aim of the ethOS is to speed up crypto adoption by bringing crypto natively to mobile devices. With Web3 infrastructure currently in its early stages, this is definitely a project to keep a close eye on.

2. Nothing Phone and Polygon

Polygon, a Layer-2 scaling solution for the Ethereum blockchain, is also looking to tap into the potentially massive mobile user base for Web3. It has announced a collaboration with tech-startup Nothing, bringing Web3 functionality to the company’s flagship phone called Phone (1).

“This launch is designed to take the Nothing brand beyond consumer tech, making it one of the first in the sector to bridge real-world products with the fast-growing Web3 space.” Polygon states. “In the future, the goal is to make all of Nothing’s phone products and other ecosystem devices future-ready by supporting sustainable and secure access to Web3 applications.”

Starting with an NFT launch designed to reward early adopters of the Nothing (1) phone, the collab promises to equip the Android-based device with everything it needs to be fully Web3-ready. This includes features like seamless dApp accessibility, a built-in crypto wallet, and Polygon ID, a self-sovereign and decentralized identity solution. However, while the partnership between Nothing and Polygon runs deep, this is not a Polygon-branded phone. They are simply providing Web3 expertise and functionality to a phone that’s “designed to be a new generation of smartphone, rebuilt from the ground up and future-proofed.”          

3. Solana Saga

Designed and manufactured by OSOM and powered by the crypto-friendly Solana Mobile Stack, the Solana Saga Android phone is destined for release in Q1 2023. It promises to be “tightly integrated with the Solana blockchain, making it easy and secure to transact in web3 and manage digital assets such as tokens and NFTs.”

The Solana Saga is a fully branded Solana product, making it perhaps the world’s most complete Web3 mobile device. It promises features like:

  • Mobile Wallet Adapter: which connects web apps and native Android apps to wallets on mobile devices.
  • Seed Vault: that’s built into the device to keep private keys, seed phrases, and secrets separated from the application layer yet is still capable of interacting with apps running on the device or in a mobile browser.
  • Solana Pay for Android: a decentralized payment solution that allows instant payments in SOL or USDC via QR codes, NFC taps, messages, and web browser interactions.
  • Solana dApp Store: an app distribution system on Android that allows app builders to establish direct relationships with their customers and allow them to transact without platform fees. The Solana dApp Store plans to co-exist with Google Play on devices, providing access to web2 and web3 apps.

If the project proves to be a success, it could kickstart a fundamental sea change in the way that we interact with Web3 and our digital assets. Solana is a fast, low-cost, and environmentally-friendly blockchain that seems perfectly adaptable to mobile. If it can address its reliability issues (the network has gone down several times in recent months), then the Solana Saga could well become one of the biggest crypto events of 2023.

4. HTC Metaverse

HTC is something of a trailblazer in terms of bringing Web3 to mobile. Way back in 2018, the company launched the Exodus 1 smartphone, which featured a built-in crypto hardware wallet, Binance integration, and the ability to run a full Bitcoin node.

With the Desire 22 Pro, HTC builds on its core Web3 functionality and adds a native metaverse app called Viviverse. The goal is to combine the experience of mobile phones with virtual reality, with the app working seamlessly with the company’s Vive Flow VR headset to deliver an immersive virtual experience. Users can earn, buy and spend crypto assets and NFTs within the metaverse via an integrated crypto wallet for Ethereum and Polygon.

While the potential of the metaverse is yet to be fully realized, it may well be part of the next big wave of digital disruption. According to global management consulting company McKinsey, big things are on the horizon. “Our bottom-up view of consumer and enterprise use cases suggests that the metaverse could generate up to $5 trillion in impact by 2030—about the size of Japan’s economy,” they say.

With HTC making an early move to become the world’s first metaverse smartphone, the performance of the Desire 22 Pro will be closely watched by Web3 enthusiasts. Will it drop too early in terms of mainstream metaverse adoption? Perhaps. However, much like the Exodus 1, HTC might yet again prove to be the Web3 mobile pioneers of the future.

5. Coinbase mobile app

Coinbase is one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, with more than 73 million users trading over $300 billion worth of crypto each quarter. Like other large exchanges, Coinbase has had a mobile app for some time. Launching in 2017, the app was designed to “make the benefits of crypto, self-custody, and the nascent dApp ecosystem accessible to all, regardless of network or blockchain, country or currency, crypto savvy or crypto beginner.”

Recently, the Coinbase team has upgraded their app to dramatically increase access to Web3 functionality. The upgrade includes an integrated hot wallet and browser, as well as the ability to use dApps on the Ethereum network. This makes it easy for mobile users to do things like make swaps on decentralized exchanges, engage with DeFi protocols for borrowing and lending, and trade NFTs on marketplaces like OpenSea.

With an intuitive interface that’s consistent with Coinbase’s desktop browser, the new mobile app is an important step in taking crypto from people’s PCs to their pockets. Mobile users can now buy cryptocurrency directly from Coinbase’s exchange and immediately delve into the Web3 ecosystem without ever having to open a computer. This kind of mobile-friendly functionality is vital for nurturing widespread crypto adoption across the world and sets the standard for large Web3 companies looking to retain a competitive edge.

6. ZKX

ZKX is a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange that aims to simplify trading for millions of interested users in emerging markets like India. To do this, they’re building a platform that’s specifically designed to provide a reliable and affordable mobile experience.

“We needed to take the necessary steps to make sure that ZKX is able to provide opportunities to mobile-first countries,” ZKX founder Eduard Jubany told Inc42. “And for that, we decided to use this new technology called ZK rollups.”

ZK (Zero Knowledge) rollups offer a Layer-2 scalability solution to blockchains that struggle with transaction speed and high costs. By combining on-chain and off-chain processes, they enable much faster and cheaper transactions. For example, it’s currently impractical to use the Ethereum network for things like micropayments and sending remittances—the cost of the transaction is sometimes higher than the payment itself.

Mobile-friendly platforms that incorporate ZK rollups aim to increase the affordability and accessibility of blockchain technology. ZKX has identified the huge interest for crypto in emerging markets, particularly among young people, and is hoping to provide an effective decentralized trading solution with minimal fees. With an expected launch in Q4 of 2022, it has the potential to create a real impact in the Web3 world.

Wrap up

There’s currently a discrepancy between the majority of Web3 technologies, which are desktop-oriented, and the rapid growth in mobile-first users in crypto-curious countries across the world.

However, as we can see, changes are on the way. Web3 companies are starting to release hardware and software that promise to revolutionize the way we interact with our digital assets. Solutions like Solana’s Saga phone and ZKX’s decentralized exchange are specifically designed to provide opportunities to mobile-first countries, opening up the world of crypto to millions of new users.

Because while we argue in advanced economies about the merits of digital currencies and worry about the effects of decentralization on established business models, the rest of the world is quietly adopting Web3 solutions as a feature of everyday life. The future is coming sooner than you think, and it’s going to fit snugly into your pocket!