HTC hopes Exodus 1 phone will cash in on cryptocurrency

Too bad for the Taiwanese company the digital currency excitement fizzled last year.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
HTC's Exodus 1 phone is geared for cryptocurrency fans.

HTC's Exodus 1 phone is geared for cryptocurrency fans.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The cryptocurrency frenzy has fizzled, but phone maker HTC hopes enthusiasm for the technology might sell a few phones -- specifically its Exodus 1.

The crypto-friendly phone will go on sale for $699 on March 1, HTC said Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona. That's the price in fiat currency, the term for money created by governments and that cryptocurrency fans hope to make obsolete. Early purchasers already could buy it for 0.20 bitcoin, 5.23 ether or 16.23 litecoin, but right now it's not shipping to them until Thursday.

Why buy a cryptocurrency-flavored phone? It's tailored for the kind of folks who favor decentralization -- reclaiming power from corporate behemoths or government authorities. Cryptocurrencies and their underlying accounting mechanism, called blockchain, are geared for that kind of world, where you control not only your own money but also your own data and digital identity.

Want to tip a journalist or use a social network that doesn't own your digital data? Now's the time, Taiwan-based HTC thinks. It's even got a decentralized chief officer, Phil Chen, to push the idea, and a handful of partnerships to try to make the technology easier to use.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

But even if you like the sound of decentralization, and aren't deterred by the collapse over the last year of cryptocurrency prices, you'll have to brace yourself for some technobabble. The HTC Exodus 1 is expanding "to non-crypto natives who want to explore the new internet and the security and possibilities it brings," HTC said.

But if you're one of those people, you'd probably better get a map before you set off, because you might not recognize landmark names like ERC-721 tokens, dApps and genesis blocks. Decentralization might not strike terror into Android leader Samsung, but maybe at least some cryptocurrency enthusiasts will appreciate the idea.

To get along with cryptocurrency technology, the Exodus 1 includes a secure storage hardware zone called a secure enclave to store sensitive keys that govern access to digital cryptocurrency wallets. HTC calls this the Zion wallet, and the Opera browser that ships with the phone uses the Zion interface. (The Brave browser, which uses its own basic attention token cryptocurrency behind the scenes to fund website ad payments, is also included, but it doesn't integrate with Zion, HTC said.)

The HTC Exodus 1 won some warm words from Vitalik Buterin, creator of the Ethereum Project, which offers some improvements over the original bitcoin idea that kicked off the cryptocurrency craze.

The phone itself runs Android 8.0 Oreo, the latest mobile software from Google. Among other Exodus 1 specs: a Qualcomm 845 processor, last year's high-end model; 4G mobile network support; a 6-inch screen; 128GB of storage; 6GB of memory; 12-megapixel and 16-megapixel rear cameras; and a 3,500mAh battery.