To go mainstream, Web3 needs to go mobile — at least that’s how the argument goes.
Like phones and laptops going mobile before it, web3 teams are making serious bets that mobile is the future of the industry. Solana is going forward with a Solana-native smartphone called Saga while HTC has released a phone designed for a VR metaverse. A team of developers quietly released an Ethereum-based operating system, and Polygon is partnering with a mobile phone startup called Nothing to release the Nothing Phone (1).
Mobile On The Rise
As of 2019, it was forecast that over 2 billion people accessed the internet via their smartphones alone. The World Advertising Research Center (WARC) has predicted that 72.6% of internet users or nearly 3.7 billion people will access the web via smartphones by 2025.
Li Jin, co-founder at Variant Fund, told The Defiant that because of the sheer amount of the world population that relies on mobile phones over desktop devices, she believes “there’s a huge potential to bring crypto to all smartphone users in the world.”
In many emerging markets, people only have access to phones rather than computers. “We have to take off our US/Western hats and think about what are the use cases that perhaps emerging market users are going to want,” Jin continued.
Other investors echoed the sentiment. “I think web3 going mobile will be a bigger trend and one that is very important to getting crypto out to more of the mainstream,” Pantera investor Paul Veradittakit told The Defiant. “People run their lives off their mobile device with all of the messaging and social networks being mobile first.”
“It’s likely to start with Android or separate mobile devices [considering] Apple hasn’t been as friendly to crypto,” he continued. It’s true — none of these advancements support Apple products.
Solana’s Saga phone will use a modified version of Google’s operating system, and will have the entire Google Mobile Suite and Google Play Store. As for crypto, the Saga will ship with a key custody mechanism in which users’ private keys are stored in the same component where sensitive data like fingerprints are stored. The Saga will be pre-loaded with Solana-specific functions like the Solana dApp Store, Solana Pay for Android, and an adaption system which will connect wallets and apps and allow for transactions to be signed.
The question on everyone’s mind was how Solana could release a phone when their blockchain had multiple outages this year. Solana’s Head of Communications Austin Feder told The Defiant that the Saga’s operating system would not be running on-chain.
“[An outage] would have no impact on the phone’s operation, but would have impacts on dapps of course,” he said.
HTC’s Metaverse Play
Phone manufacturer HTC recently released the HTC Desire 22 Pro, created to work with its Vive metaverse and virtual reality platform. “ [Desire 22 is] designed for immersive experiences in a world where the physical, digital, and virtual interconnect,” their site reads. It is unknown how many people actually use the Vive metaverse, but it seems that the Desire 22 is their attempt at onboarding people to the Ethereum and Polygon-based system.
An Ethereum-based operating system called ethOS is now available for beta testing. “Currently ethOS has native dApps created by the ethOS team, much like the first iPhone before their App Store,” ethOS co-founder mhaas.eth told The Defiant.
The operating system is built for crypto-natives with native dApps, ENS integration, crypto payments, and crypto widgets. The ethOS beta can be downloaded onto a Pixel 3, Pixel 3XL, or a Pixel 5A. The team’s end goal is to create a physical Ethereum-based phone, but mhaas.eth told The Defiant that “it is too early to estimate when.”
Polygon, a leading Ethereum scaling solution, is partnering with mobile phone startup Nothing to release the Nothing Phone (1). During Nothing’s July 12 keynote, founder Carl Pei said, “We’ve built a fun little NFT widget so you can display your NFTs on your home screen and quickly view floor prices and more.”
The partnership with Nothing is just one of many key partnerships the blockchain has secured in the last several months. Polygon recently collaborated with Instagram and Reddit to launch NFTs, Stripe for global payments, and Adidas Originals and Prada for NFT collections.
Many wonder if a bear market is the best time to launch big projects like this. Jin told The Defiant she thinks crypto has reached escape velocity. “It’s finally reached the scale where you could build mobile applications and have them reach a large number of users and perhaps build social experiences on top of them. So I think from that perspective, of user adoption, the timing makes sense.”
So, despite the bear market, builders will keep building.