How much would you be willing to pay for a blockchain phone? HTC is hoping you'll say $1,000.
The struggling Taiwanese phone maker expects to launch its blockchain-powered Exodus handset before the end of the year, with a formal price announcement in the third quarter, according to The Verge. However, Phil Chen, a leader on the project at HTC, mentioned that the final price would be "comparable" to that of the $1,000 Sirin Labs Finney, a blockchain phone that has two screens and runs on a forked version of Android.
HTC announced plans for its Exodus phone in May, accompanied by a blog post penned by Chen extolling the dream of a phone whereupon "end consumers truly own their data without the need for central authorities." The company has since launched a website, where those interested can apply to reserve the device.
The Exodus will let users manage and transfer cryptocurrencies, and Chen is adamant that through decentralization, it will be the "most secure hardware wallet out there." For those of us who don't live and die on the volatility of Bitcoin values, HTC is doubling down on blockchain's implications for privacy. The company has also strangely hammered out a partnership with the Ethereum-powered cat-trading game CryptoKitties.
The idea is that gaming could endear mainstream consumers to blockchains. However, before HTC can do that, it must first figure out a way to endear consumers to its largely ignored smartphones. Sales of HTC devices plummeted 68 percent in June, a month in which the company launched its banner handset for 2018, the U12+.
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Those discouraging sales figures followed layoffs totaling 1,500 employees from HTC's manufacturing division last month, and even more from the company's U.S. arm earlier in the year. That's to say nothing of the 2,000 employees lost in Google's purchse of HTC's R&D talent at the end of 2017.
In other words, HTC's phone division has never needed a win more than at this moment. It's too early to tell whether a blockchain phone will deliver that; Chen readily admits that his team is dealing in a "niche market" with the Exodus. Still, the new phone is putting the company's name back in headlines in the midst of the cryptocurrency craze, which is probably a good thing. And it can be framed as evidence of HTC's drive to innovate — an ambition that, once upon a time long ago, briefly propelled the company to number one among phone makers in the U.S.