HTC may have raised eyebrows when it announced a blockchain-themed smartphone earlier this year, but the compny is now very nearly ready to take the wraps of the device.
The HTC Exodus is looking to expand the blockchain ecosystem to more users than ever before, putting the power (and more importantly, the security) of cryptocurrency directly into users' hands and pockets.
TechRadar Pro spoke to Phil Chen, HTC's head of Exodus (and brains behind the Vive VR headset), ahead of a conference where he was set to reveal more on the device, and found out the following.
One of the major worries around cryptocurrencies has concerned security, with users worried that their hard-won funds will be stolen or spirited away.
HTC is looking to ameliorate these worries by ensuring that the Exodus offers top-end security for a user's cryptocurrency. Chen told us that of the 30-35 million crypto wallets currently around today, only around two million of these are super-secure hardware wallets, with the latter users enjoying more peace of mind by directly holding their funds.
“Centralisation is not safe," he says, “One of the most critical things within crypto is architecting security within the phone...security was never built in to the original internet.”
To solve these security worries, HTC has built a secure enclave within what it calls the "trust zone" directly within the Arm hardware found in the Exodus. This is empowered with a new standard it calls trust execution environment, which keeps your cryptocurrency funds safe and sound.
This is completely separate from the Android OS, meaning it is even harder for anyone to gain access to the wallet and steal your coins.
Chen adds that the technology could all be used to store user data such as fingerprint and facial scans in the near future, offering a locked-down space to safeguard your most personal information.
Don't worry if you lose your phone
Even with the toughest security software around, sometimes technology can be defeated by something completely unpredictable - the human brain.
Luckily the HTC Exodus comes with a unique security safeguard if you do misplace your phone, and with it, all your precious currency.
Chen revealed that the device will come with a system called Social Key Recovery, which should mean that it's nearly impossible for hackers to gain access to your storage wallet. That's because the wallet can only be recovered or accessed with a unique key, and during the set-up process of the device, you'll be asked to select a handful (Chen says between three and five) contacts, be they friends, family or colleagues, each of whom will then receive a part of the key, accessed only through a special app.
If you do misplace your device, getting access to the wallet can only be done by obtaining all the part of your key (think Harry Potter and Voldemort's horcruxes), which HTC says again minimises the possibility of you ever losing your currency.
Chen says the final details of the system are still being thrashed out, with discussions still ongoing over recovery time limits and PC storage, but it sounds like recovering your device could soon be like something out of an RPG.
Crypto phones could change the internet
The need for privacy and security online is hardly new, with campaigners constantly worried about the amount of information the likes of Google or Microsoft have on its users.
It's fair to say that Chen, and HTC as a whole, sees the Exodus as the potential catalyst to ensuring consumer maintain their online privacy - and maybe even cause a revolution in the internet as we know it.
“At the end of the day, it’s about technology,” Chen says, noting that the need for users to have the ability to own their cryptocurrency keys (as well as their personal data) is paramount.
"If that doesn't happen, I'm seriously worried about the future of the internet."
"In the Information Age, there needs to be a definition of digital property," he says, "if this digital property is not defined...I would be very scared of what the next generation of the internet can become."
HTC sees the Exodus as the start of something big, particularly as the company transitions through a difficult period that has seen it focus away from phones in recent years.
"This is a strategic investment, but we need to prove ourselves and do a step at a time," Chen says.
"We’re excited by the potential of this to restart the internet from the ground up."