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Solana is making a crypto phone with help from former Essential engineers

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Solana teams up with Osom to redirect the OV1

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Solana CEO Anatoly Yakovenko with the Saga smartphone
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

The phone previously known as the Osom OV1, built by a team consisting of former engineers and designers from Essential, is being renamed and repurposed today, and it’s all in the name of crypto. This afternoon in New York City, blockchain company Solana announced its own mobile phone, called the Saga, made in collaboration with Osom. It’s priced at $1,000, and preorders open today. A $100 deposit is required, and Solana says the Saga will ship in the first quarter of 2023.

The phone will have a 6.67-inch 120Hz OLED display, 512GB of storage, and 12GB of RAM. It’ll be powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chip and is outfitted with a 50-megapixel primary camera, plus a 12-megapixel ultra-wide shooter. But more than the standard hardware specs that most gadget nerds are interested in, the Saga is meant to help crypto continue its quest to “go mobile,” in the words of Solana CEO Anatoly Yakovenko.

This device is for people entrenched in the universe of crypto wallets, Web3, and NFTs, and it’ll come with a unique feature: support for decentralized apps that rely on the Solana blockchain, which has at least briefly rivaled Ethereum when it comes to NFT sales volume. NFT marketplace Magic Eden, Solana wallet maker Phantom, and cryptocurrency exchange Orca have signed on to back the Saga and Solana’s new software efforts.

The Saga has the same design as the OV1 that Osom previewed earlier this year.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Osom has confirmed to The Verge that the OV1 and Saga are now one and the same, meaning that this device is the company’s primary focus. “Osom is incredibly excited to partner with Solana in building the Saga,” founder and CEO Jason Keats said. “The world needs novel hardware companies to support the future that is Web3. Building out an ecosystem that looks to the future without being burdened by past legacy ecosystems is hugely exciting.”

The Solana Saga will ship early next year.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

That “past legacy ecosystems” line is perhaps in reference to Solana’s other announcements today: the company introduced the Solana Mobile Stack, an open dApp (short for decentralized applications) Store that will run on the Android-based Saga. The company is envisioning a vast proliferation of crypto-native apps, digital services, and digital goods that will be made possible through its new stack, which will be available to other Android device makers, too.

“We didn’t see a single crypto announcement at Apple’s developer conference, 13 years after Bitcoin went live,” Yakovenko said during a Q&A session. “I think it’s going to be up to us.”

Crypto software will be all over the Saga.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Solana claims developers will get early access to the Saga. “We’re targeting those hardcore people that understand what self custody means,” Yakovenko said when asked how Solana’s mobile stack and new tools will offer a better experience than digital crypto and NFT wallets from Samsung and other large tech companies.

It’s quite a pivot if you were hoping Osom would just produce a relatively normal, privacy-focused Android phone — an Essential Phone 2, in other words. And it also goes against what Osom told Android Police back in March when the company estimated the OV1 would be priced “well under $1,000.” The real test will be whether the Saga actually ships on target in early 2023, as both Solana and Osom claim it will. And if there will be a viable audience for a product like this outside of the auditorium of excited Web3 enthusiasts who cheered its introduction. Even experienced phone makers like HTC have gone down this path and failed to make any real impact.