HTC’s blockchain phone is getting several new apps today, which start to show us what the phone can really be good for. HTC is adding about 20 new apps, including a personal tracker that can sell your data for cryptocurrency, and it’s also partnering with Opera to allow users to make micropayments to sites. By March, you can also finally buy this phone with regular money, instead of bitcoin or ether. Previously, this phone’s major blockchain feature was the ability to trade and store CryptoKitties.
The HTC Exodus phone now has access to a number of new decentralized apps (known as “Dapps”), which live in an app store that isn’t managed by any specific company, that specifically take advantage of the phone’s hardware. The most interesting addition is an app called Numbers, which tracks user data on walking, sleeping, driving, and more, then allows you to sell your own data to third parties. The app, which is made by a startup based in Taiwan, displays what type of data your phone can track, as well as a list of companies interested in that data.
The Numbers app is aimed at bringing more transparency around data collection and allowing users to make money — mainly in cryptocurrency — off their own data. “Now not only can users own their data, but it forces companies to be more transparent about how that data is used,” says HTC’s chief decentralized officer Phil Chen. Besides giving users control over their data collection, the Numbers Dapp is also supposed to potentially benefit users by lowering their car or health insurance if positive data is recorded about their driving or walking habits, says Chen. For now, the Numbers team says that they’re still in discussions with a few interested insurance companies.
The Exodus 1 phone has been available since December, after opening up for preorders last October. Until now, the phone’s main blockchain-related features were its cryptocurrency wallet and a key recovery mechanism that let you store recovery details with a few friends in case your phone is lost or stolen. With these new apps, the Exodus 1 starts to gain features that actually take advantage of its focus on the blockchain.
In addition to adding more Dapps to the Exodus app store, HTC has also partnered with web browser Opera, which launched its own cryptocurrency wallet on Android in December. You can now make micropayments in ether to websites that support it, thanks to the partnership. The phone currently only supports Ethereum payments, although there are plans to support bitcoin and litecoin in the coming months.
Chen says that the micropayments can be game-changing because people will be able to transfer very small amounts of money without needing to deal with additional transaction fees. Many services have tried this before, with little traction, but Chen believes bringing cryptocurrency into the mix will make the system more sustainable. “Now you could pay an amount like 0.00002 ETH. And never in the history of micropayments did that make sense. There’d be a transaction fee or you’d have to share revenue with the app store,” says Chen. The fees for each transaction could be “near zero.”
The new apps and Opera integration are supposed to demonstrate how great a decentralized app store can be, according to Chen. Still, a decentralized app store poses its own problems. Chen admits that in the future, there would be no way for HTC to vet all the thousands of Dapps that would be available out there for security purposes. It’s more likely that it will just warn users if only a select few Dapps are Exodus-approved.
Starting in March, people will also finally be able to buy the Exodus phone with cash and not just cryptocurrency. The Exodus 1 will sell for $699 in the US. The next move is to make each phone a node (“partial node,” Chen now says) on the blockchain, allowing owners to facilitate bitcoin trading among each other. That might come later this year. “It’s clear that it’s not ready yet,” says Chen.