tl;dr Summary: Solana Labs has revealed that it will launch its flagship Android mobile phone next year. The phone is powered by its own Solana Mobile Stack, an open-source mobile dApp development platform.
Solana Labs, a group of the Solana founders and core developers, announced their plans to unveil a new Android smartphone named Saga with a new mobile platform called Solana Mobile Stack (SMS).
SMS is an open-source collection of tools specifically designed to help developers and creators make mobile apps (Web3 dApps) that can interact with the Solana blockchain.
“We live our lives on our mobile devices – except for Web3 because there hasn’t been a mobile-centric approach to private key management. The Solana Mobile Stack shows a new path forward on Solana that is open source, secure, optimized for Web3, and easy to use,” said Anatoly Yakovenko, co-founder of Solana.
In his blog on Solana.com, Anatoly shared his reasons why Web3 has so far stayed away from mobile adoption.
First and foremost is the need for self-custody. Most self-custody experiences, like signing transactions, still happen on desktops. The preferred way to do so involves using browser extensions and hardware wallets in the form of thumb drives.
As the adoption of blockchain increases, people want to be able to perform transactions when they are not in front of their computers. Companies monopolizing this space, like Apple and Google, have no plans for it; this is the second problem.
“Developers have been blocked for too long from creating truly decentralized mobile apps because the existing gatekeeper model just doesn’t work anymore,” said Yakovenko.
The SMS SDK offers features that make it easier for developers to create interfaces for Android apps with Solana, similar to Solana’s existing features for web applications and wallets.
Features included in the SMS SDK are:
1) Mobile Wallet Adapter: A wallet adapter that allows for interaction between dApps and wallets. Similar to what already exists for a web application, the mobile wallet adapter is a protocol designed for mobile applications.
2) Seed Vault: The Seed Vault attempts to bring the security of hardware wallets to a smartphone. It works with a special chip called a Secure Element that is present in every phone and designed to protect its contents from unauthorized access. The seed vault provides access to the private keys and seed phrases stored on this element, enabling a secure transaction signing experience. It means you can carry your private keys on your phone and perform crypto transactions on the go.
3) Solana Pay for Android: Solana Pay is the Web3 or crypto equivalent of Google Pay and Apple Pay. It allows wallet apps to capture Solana Pay QR codes, NFC taps, messages, and web browser interactions to launch Solana Pay requests. It also lets users get virtual cards to make contactless mobile payments via traditional finance.
4) DApp store: Lastly, a new Solana dApp Store as a distribution system for dApps built on Android. DApp developers can now have a direct relationship (without a middleman like Google, for instance) with their customers without any platform fee.
At the launch event, Anatoly showed this new phone to the audience. It has impressive hardware specs, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, a 6.67″ OLED display, 12GB RAM, and 512GB of internal storage.
The SMS stack enables older and existing Android phones to adopt it fully or partially. However, Saga, as their flagship model, provides a complete experience of the integration and capabilities to its users without being a secondary device.
On the question of compatibility with Apple phones, Anatoly said, “Those protocols can definitely be ported to iOS, but without the help of Apple and true integration into the secure element that they use, I think it’s gonna be really, really tough to get a true Apple Pay-like experience for crypto.”
Being open-source certainly helps as other phone manufacturers now have the building blocks for integrating the world of crypto into their products. Whether they choose to do this or not is something to wait and watch. In either case, Solana has taken a very bold step in a direction that is vital to the mass adoption of crypto.
The phone can be pre-ordered with a $100 deposit and will cost $1000. Solana developers will be given priority in an attempt to fast-track development activity. Early buyers will also receive a limited-edition NFT, which will allow holders to participate in governance and decision-making.
The Solana Foundation will also establish a $10 million developer fund to provide grants to mobile developers and creators.