Is Blockchain the Future of Smartphones or Just Today’s Marketing Gimmick?
Blockchain, there’s no getting away from the word. It’s on the lips of every futurologist and tech guru predicting how technology will change the world in the not-too-distant future. Already famous as the mechanism behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, experts predict blockchain’s future goes way beyond the boom and bust of digital money.
But could blockchain be about to shake-up the world of smartphones? Smartphone manufacturer HTC certainly thinks so.
Take Back the Internet
HTC has announced plans for a new blockchain powered smartphone, The Exodus, which the company claims will “take back the internet”.
OK, before we get too deep into this “revolutionary” new device, perhaps a refresher is required for those less familiar with the technology.
What is Blockchain?
A blockchain is a decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger, that is used to record transactions across many computers, so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the collusion of the network. This makes it incredibly secure.
Originally devised to manage digital currency transactions without the need for a trusted authority or central server, the tech community is now finding alternative uses for the technology. As such, blockchain is often referred to as the “new internet”.
OK, So Why Do We Need a Blockchain-Powered Smartphone?
Well that’s the million dollar question. Will the HTC Exodus be a truly game-changing device, or is this just a marketing gimmick by the Taiwanese OEM?
That’s a difficult question, especially as nobody has seen the phone yet.
According to media reports, the Exodus will act as a “node” in a new native blockchain network currently under development by HTC. This will essentially enable Exodus owners to trade cryptocurrencies on the network for free. The device will also act as a universal wallet to store cryptocurrencies, enabling owners to store their own data securely on their own devices instead of on a centralized cloud. With the launch of the Exodus, HTC hopes to provide a path to true decentralization by doubling and tripling the number of nodes of Ethereum and Bitcoin.
Decentralization a Reality
On a dedicated website soliciting requests to reserve the new smartphone, HTC states: “Our vision is to expand the blockchain ecosystem by creating the world’s first phone dedicated to decentralized applications and security. With the release of the HTC Exodus we can now make this a reality.
“With over two decades of experience manufacturing the world’s leading smartphones, and shipping over 100 million phones, we believe we can help reshape the internet with the HTC Exodus. Join us and together we will make decentralization a reality.”
The question is: Is blockchain the killer application the next generation of smartphone buyers are looking for?
It is after-all perfectly possible to trade cryptocurrencies and run decentralized apps (DApps) on a traditional smartphone or any other device with access to a web browser. The HTC Exodus is also unlikely to reduce cryptocurrency mining fees (the fees paid to incentivize bitcoin miners (and their operators) to confirm Bitcoin transactions).
While blockchain and cryptocurrency is certainly mainstream news, especially following the meteoric rise in value and subsequent crash of Bitcoin, it is still rather niche when you compare it to other native apps (email, social media, gaming, etc.) that have found success in the smartphone eco-system.
Yes – blockchain is very much an exciting technology, but can it possibly compete with other high-tech ideas such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) that other OEMs are “betting the farm on”.
It’s also worth considering the suspicion of large sections of the public towards something that has been considered by some as nothing more than a Ponzi or pyramid scheme.
A PR Stunt?
While news of the device has been welcomed eagerly by many members of the cryptocurrency community on social media, others have speculated that the announcement is nothing short of a PR stunt.
Will blockchain be the next killer application to re-invent the smartphone, or is it just a marketing gimmick to divert attention away from Samsung, Apple and other leading OEMs?
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