HTC is building “the first native blockchain phone,” the Next Web reported on Tuesday. Details are sparse about the phone, which has been dubbed the HTC Exodus. But the news raised two immediate questions: What is a blockchain phone? And why would anyone want one?
Blockchain refers to the decentralized ledger technology that (among other things) underlies cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. The records kept on the ledger are encrypted in order to protect them from tampering or revision, making it possible to keep track of transactions and other data without a centralized authority like a bank. Computers that participate in the network act as nodes, which each have a log of every transaction and can verify the accuracy of this information.
It’s unclear what exactly makes a blockchain phone stand out from a “normal” one. The Exodus site claims that each blockchain phone will serve as a node, and that “we want to double and triple the number of nodes of Ethereum and Bitcoin.” Jules White, an assistant professor of engineering at Vanderbilt University, said that the upside to a phone that’s already configured to be a node is that it would make it easier for people to enter the cryptocurrency market. “The average person is probably not going to know how to download an application to do something with bitcoin,” he said. “So if you had a phone that had it built in from the beginning … it might allow a lot more participation in these cryptocurrencies.”
People can already download cryptocurrency wallets and exchange apps on average, non-blockchain phones, which essentially converts the devices into nodes, but a blockchain…