About two months ago, crypto-related rumors emerged about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10. More precisely, some leaked footage hinted to the inclusion of a cryptocurrency hardware wallet. The source of these bits of information, SamMobile, referred to a “cold wallet” – which is a generic term to describe a crypto wallet that isn’t connected to the internet (and therefore stores the private keys more securely).
The launch presentation, which took place on livestream on February 21st 2019, was however a failed attempt to make the cryptocurrency enthusiasts excited about the new flagship phone. Throughout the 142 minutes of highlighting the screen, camera, and high-end hardware specifications, no clear mention was made about integrating a hardware wallet for crypto. None of the presenters have hinted about storing BTC or ETH on their devices, and no presentation of the new functionality’s interface has been made.
Conversely, the only real confirmation of a hardware wallet that we have right now can be found in the official Samsung Release Room article. But even there, the terms are vague and mention “blockchain-enabled mobile services” instead of referring to popular cryptocurrency names.
Nothing to call home for crypto enthusiasts – failed opportunity for Samsung to become a pioneer
Samsung had the chance to become the first big phone manufacturer to announce native features for bitcoin, ether, and other major cryptocurrencies that they’re willing to integrate. Their announcement could become part of history books for spearheading mainstream adoption. Instead, the South-Korean company has chosen to play it safe, focus on the regular affairs that Apple, Google, and the others already highlight on every launch event for over a decade, and neglect that one feature that exists and could have made the S10 “stand apart” (the slogan for the phone is “designed not to stand out, but designed to stand apart”).
Given this oblivious approach to an exciting feature, cryptocurrency enthusiasts are also uncertain about the nature of this hardware wallet. Since the wording is so vague, it is unclear whether or not Samsung Knox provides the interface and functionality, or only the security for other third-party applications. Did the company develop its own wallet, or do they only have a framework for others to use in order to achieve greater security?
These questions will definitely be answered when the phone gets shipped next month and users get to try all the new features. However, the failure to promote the hardware wallet’s functionality in a clear way means that cryptocurrency enthusiasts are far less likely to preorder the S10 – which in itself is a failure for Samsung. They played it safe, but didn’t capitalize on one small but significant niche.
It’s also likely that people will discover the new features on the go, after they order the phone, use it for a while, and then write about their experiences. This type of marketing which is based on customer satisfaction may also work, but for a company whose competition on the market is very stiff, launch events are crucial for reputation and sales. An enthusiastic YouTuber may reach millions of people, but the presentation doesn’t get featured in mainstream media to reach people of all ages.
Questions about the security of your crypto with the Galaxy S10
Some may speculate that the Samsung Galaxy S10 hardware wallet spells doom for dedicated manufacturers like Ledger and Trezor. Instead of spending about $120 on a new Ledger Nano X, or even remaining conservative and ordering the more basic Nano S, you can save some more money and buy a mobile phone which also offers a great camera and impressive applications.
However, we shouldn’t expect a device with a built-in security chip which is permanently connected to the internet to be as safe as a dedicated hardware wallet (or even a paper wallet). You only connect a Ledger or a Trezor to your computer when you need to make a transaction, but the Galaxy S10 will always be online while you use various functions and applications.
The Android operating system, as well as the extended connectivity of the device, feature numerous security holes that can be exploited to access your data. And even if the chip is encrypted, there are still ways to work around the security and gain access to the data. We’ve seen how the wallet.fail team has broken into Ledgers and Trezors when they gained physical access and meddled with the hardware.
A device that you carry with you all the time with a USB and micro SD physical connections for malicious software to be installed, can get infected by malware from other apps. With a popular operating system whose loopholes and limitations are known and exploitable, is by default less secure than anything provided by dedicated manufacturers. Nevertheless, Samsung Galaxy S10’s cryptocurrency security will be greater than anything you get from current mobile “hot” wallets.
Furthermore are the issues of special support, expertise in the field, and user interface: so far, we know nothing about Samsung’s willingness to engage in supplying these services. But according to the phrasing on their website, it seems more likely for the company to offer the security framework that others can build upon. It’s a nice and important first step towards mainstream adoption, but a negligible one due to the many failed marketing opportunities.
Personally, I will not pre-order the phone; both due to skepticism and its unaffordable price tag. While YouTubers like AltcoinDaily have praised the effort, presenting it as a blow to Apple, I’m more positive that the Cupertino company will get it right and do justice to crypto enthusiasts – just like they did with Augmented Reality in recent years. Nevertheless, I’m still hopeful that surprises will occur when the phone gets shipped and we enter a new phase of mainstream adoption for crypto (but this doesn’t mean that I’m less critical of this launch presentation).
Original image: Android Central