HTC Exodus 1S blockchain smartphone unveiled

Taiwanese consumer electronics manufacturer High Tech Computer Corporation or HTC has launched its new cryptocurrency-focused smartphone, the Exodus 1S, at the Lightning Conference in Berlin on the 19th of October, 2019. 

Bitcoin made the term cryptocurrency a buzzword after it reached an all-time high of almost $20,000 per Bitcoin in December 2017. The cryptocurrency boom of 2017 also saw the increasing popularity of altcoins, or alternative currencies like Litecoin, Ethereum, and even the laughable Dogecoin.

Banking on this popularity, HTC released a unique 'blockchain smartphone', the Exodus 1,  in November of 2018. It was designed to hold users' cryptocurrency wallet keys using a section of the hardware, not unlike how Apple stores it's biometric data in the Secure Enclave on their A-series mobile chipsets.  These keys are numeric codes that are necessary if one has to spend their Bitcoins or the like. Initially, the phones could only be bought with cryptocurrency, a move HTC claimed would ensure that only true crypto enthusiasts and programmers would purchase the device. But having equipped the phone with top of the line specs, HTC eventually made the device available for purchase with 'fiat' or real money, retailing at around $700. 

Earlier this month, HTC's Decentralized Chief Officer Phil Chen unveiled their new, budget version of the Exodus 1, dubbing it the Exodus 1S. It features a very similar design aesthetic, a dark bluish grey body with a transparent rear panel, but the internals has been downgraded to fit the budget category. 

The Exodus 1S is powered by the three-year-old Snapdragon 435 instead of the 845 found in the original Exodus 1, along with outdated Android 8.1 OS backed by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. It has a 5.7-inch HD display with large bezels, a 13MP rear camera, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and a micro USB port for charging and data transfers. 

Apart from carrying over the cryptocurrency wallet security and support via its own Zion Vault app from the Exodus, the 1S is also capable of natively operating a full Bitcoin node on the phone, eliminating the need for third-party mediators and allowing users to conduct cryptocurrency transactions directly from their phone. It will not, however, be able to mine Bitcoins, as the sheer computational power required to mine bitcoins is impossible to achieve on a smartphone. 

Even while merely utilizing the bitcoin node for a transaction, HTC has advised users to keep the device connected to WiFi and plugged in to avoid mishaps. To achieve node operability, the phone utilizes the Bitcoin full node capability, a software that allows the entire Bitcoin ledger to be stored on the device. As the ledger is about 260GB, it has to be stored on an SD Card. The HTC Exodus 1S is clearly designed not to be a primary smartphone, but rather a secondary device for anyone interested in dipping their toes into the world of cryptocurrency.

HTC Exodus 1S not releasing in India

The odds of HTC's latest phone releasing in India are extremely slim. In April of 2018, the RBI dealt a death blow to cryptocurrency in India, banning all banks from dealing in crypto exchanges. Since then, the currency's popularity has taken a massive hit in the country, with the largest crypto exchange Zebpay shifting their offices to Malta and Singapore. Indian Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman, who attended the recently concluded 40th meeting of the International Monetary and Financial Committee, expressed the caution that nations at the meeting showed towards completely legalizing cryptocurrency, stating Facebook's proposed Libra cryptocurrency as a hot topic.

The future of cryptocurrency in India seems even bleaker with the Department of Economic affairs proposing a draft bill called the 'Banning of Cryptocurrency & Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019', that recommends a jail terms and steep penalties for those who mine, hold, transact or deal with cryptocurrencies in any form, whether directly or indirectly through an exchange or trading. The bill also proposed that cryptocurrencies holders will be mandated to declare and dispose of it within 90 days from the date of commencement of the act. The large scale illegal transactions conducted via cryptocurrency, favored because of its anonymity, is cited by many as one of the major reasons for this animosity towards its adoption. 

The Exodus 1S will be initially available in Europe, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE for €219.  HTC is expected to launch the new phone in other global regions in the coming months. 

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