Why it matters: The HTC Exodus 1 was a gimmick when it was released last December. Built on the solid (though boring) foundations of the HTC U12, its only special feature was a secure storage enclave called ‘Zion,’ but even that could only store keys to access digital cats. Costing a whopping $950 and only available for purchase via Bitcoin or Ethereum, most people were inclined to believe the phone would be a disaster – until it wasn’t.
Very quickly, HTC realized that the price and purchasing requirements were simply too restrictive, and they made it available to purchase for $699. At that price, the phone could stand by itself, but through better software support the blockchain aspects gained an appeal as well. Other than using it to play CryptoKitties (an interesting game, actually) Zion lets users store the keys required to access cryptocurrencies, supporting bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum and more.
Zion is a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) that stores and manipulates keys separately from the operating system so that no malware or bad agents can access the keys. The benefits of having the cryptocurrencies on the Exodus is that it’s always mobile, so you can take them with you and protect them personally. There’s also the ability for users to access lost keys by sending parts to a handful of select friends, so that their combined codes unlock the key.
HTC is also making an SDK for Zion available on GitHub. This makes it drastically easier for developers to support Zion storage and execution in their apps, enabling blockchain powered messaging, searching and social media to land in the app store. “We understand it takes a community to ensure strength and security,” HTC says, “so it’s important to the Exodus team that our community has the best tools available to them.”
All that leads us to the Exodus 1s: the next step. The Exodus 1s will come in at a much lower $250-$300 price point so that it’s accessible, while introducing new features, too. Key is the ability to use it as a node in a blockchain network, a full ledger of everything that has happened in the blockchain ever. Bitcoin, HTC emphasizes, has just 9,500 active nodes and needs more to sustain its decentralized nature. While typical Bitcoin nodes require 200 GB of storage growing at 60 GB per year (hence a microSD slot) the Exodus 1s will support a “pruned version” that’s just 10 GB and contains the essential information.
“We are democratizing access to the technology for a free world. Full nodes are the most important ingredient in the resilience of the Bitcoin network, and we have lowered the barrier to entry for any person to run a node, which is simply a computer, mobile in our case, participating in a global Bitcoin network that propagates transactions and blocks everywhere, which is the foundation and fundamental definition of a peer-to-peer cash system.”
Blockchain mining may not be available by the late Q3 launch, but it’s in the works. HTC’s Phil Chen says that they have “partners to announce that will offer hash rates to do so.” While both acting as a node and mining will induce abnormal strain on the phone’s battery, processing, and network, the benefits are there. It’s full control and understanding over the network, meaning there’s nothing that you can’t do from the Exodus 1s. And it also enables a future decentralized system of mobile apps that are far more secure and private than current apps.
Most of the Exodus 1s’s features will arrive on the big Exodus via an update, too. While no one is suggesting that a lone phone maker falling out of the news and into the history book will be enough to properly integrate blockchain into the mobile world, the growth of the Exodus and the promises of the 1s are exciting and innovative. They’re certainly something to watch.