Solana Labs is dedicating a large part of its team to building its mobile effort, according to an exclusive interview with the company’s head of communications.
Solana Labs has “about” 10 people working on its Solana Mobile Stack (SMS) initiative, according to Austin Federa. The company, which develops the Solana blockchain, had 71 full-time employees as of April, Fortune reported.
The head of communications declined to make public the capital expenditure earmarked for SMS.
Solana said last week it plans to unveil a mobile phone called Saga, with unique hardware and software, which would make it easier for users to access web3. “It’s time for crypto to go mobile,” the company posted on its website. Most web3 applications are currently accessed via desktop.
Making “crypto go mobile” is a huge security and user-experience undertaking, which others have tried to tackle before. Some notable examples which didn’t get traction are the Sirin Labs’s Finney phone, PundiX’s Xphone and HTC’s Exodus. Samsung added support for hardware wallets last year.
For comparison with SMS’s effort, Sirin Labs had nine people on its executive team, according to Craft.co.
The head of communications added that Solana’s co-founder, Anatoly Yakovenko, had wanted to take Solana towards mobile users for a long time, but serious conversations kicked off this January.
To deliver on the ambitious plan, the blockchain developer has partnered with OSOM, a smartphone maker founded by former head of iPad architecture Jason Keats. Solana would not have attempted to launch the Saga without Keats’ expertise, Federa said.
Solana’s phone will use a modified version of Google’s operating system. The Saga will have the entire Google Mobile Suite, which means the phone is coming with the Google Play Store, along with a host of APIs developed by Google for Android.
More importantly for its crypto focus, the phone will come with a key custody mechanism. It will also be pre-loaded with the Solana dApp Store, Solana Pay for Android and the so-called Mobile Wallet Adapter, which connects wallets and apps and allows for transactions to be signed.
Other phone manufacturers will be able to integrate Solana’s code, which is open-source.
Private Key Security
Saga plans to store users’ private keys in the same component where biometric data like fingerprints are stored. According to Federa, Solana won’t have access to that information.
Federa said he wouldn’t characterize the security as robust as a hardware wallet, but that Saga’s architecture was more secure than a software wallet.
SMS is a big bet and Solana knows it.
“The strategy here is exactly the same as Solana Labs has always approached it, which is to take big bets and to build reference implementations that give developers the tools to build what they need to build on top of the platform,” Federa said.
With the phone slated to ship in early 2023, there’s a few months until the bet can play out.