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Solana Labs Is Building a Web3 Mobile Phone

·2 min read

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The Solana network is getting its own mobile phone called “Saga,” an Android handset by the blockchain’s key stakeholder, Solana Labs.

The upcoming device – a modified OSOM handset with specialty crypto wallet functions and the “Solana Mobile Stack (SMS)” software development kit for Web3 programs – was announced Thursday at an event in New York. It will cost about $1,000 and be available for delivery in early 2023, Solana Labs CEO Anatoly Yakovenko said.

The phone marks Solana’s biggest bet yet on mobile-focused growth. It will feature a Web3 dapp (decentralized app) store, integrated “Solana Pay” to facilitate QR code-based on-chain payments, a mobile wallet adapter and a “seed vault” that will store private keys deep within the recesses of the phone.

“Everything is going mobile. In most countries, most of the access happens through mobile phones,” Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO of crypto exchange FTX and a key Solana backer, said at the event. “But crypto mobile is behind the times,” he said, noting how clunky accessing dapps on mobile devices is now.

“The best solution for this is having the actual wallet built into your phone,” Bankman-Fried said.

Solana Labs said it will work with other companies to power the ecosystem to build the phone, including Magic Eden, the top NFT (non-fungible token) marketplace, Phantom, the biggest wallet provider, and Orca, a decentralized finance (DeFi) platform. Executives from all three were on hand to discuss the upcoming mobile experience.

The executives contrasted the Solana phone app store with the marketplaces from Google and Apple, which take a cut of sales. “There will be no extractive fees,” Yakovenko said of the SMS-fueled store.

The Solana Foundation pledged $10 million toward spurring the development of mobile apps on its SMS.

“We live our lives on our mobile devices – except for Web3 because there hasn’t been a mobile-centric approach to private key management,” Yakovenko, a Solana co-founder, said in a press release. “The Solana Mobile Stack shows a new path forward on Solana that is open source, secure, optimized for Web3 and easy to use.”

It’s not the first Web3 smartphone gambit. Sirin Labs pursued plans in 2018 to ship a blockchain-native phone but faced layoffs and litigation as the product failed to gain traction.

When asked about the shortcomings of past attempts to bring crypto-friendly phones to market, Yakovenko, a former Qualcomm engineer, said the Solana phone was better positioned for success because there are more crypto developers in the space relative to 2018.

Solana's Anatoly Yakovenko with a rendering of the Saga phone. (Danny Nelson/CoinDesk)
Solana's Anatoly Yakovenko with a rendering of the Saga phone. (Danny Nelson/CoinDesk)

UPDATE (June 23, 18:53 UTC): Adds further comment from Anatoly Yakovenko.