Why Solana is going big on mobile and making a smartphone


In short

  • Solana Labs today unveiled a mobile platform called SMS and an Android smartphone.
  • Decrypt spoke with Solana co-founder Anatoly Yakovenko after the event.

SolanaTeasers for yesterday’s “SMS” pre-event suggested something to do with mobile, but few could have imagined the twist that was announced in New York. Yes, Solana Labs has built a mobile software platform…but it’s also launching a smartphone.

Solana Labs revealed yesterday the Solana Mobile Stack (SMS) software kit, which provides tools for developing native Android mobile apps, walls and games, and also includes a decentralized app store. The company also unveiled the Saga, a powerful Android smartphone that will be released in early 2023.

Anatoly Yakovenko, co-founder of Solana and CEO of Solana Labs, said Decrypt that his team has been working on the SMS push for about five months, and the hardware itself for a bit longer. But the idea of ​​improving Web3 mobile access and functionality has been on his mind for years, especially given his past experience as a Qualcomm engineer.

“What does it look like with 1 billion people using [crypto]? What do you imagine? It’s in this device – the device you use every day,” he said, holding up the Solana Saga prototype. “This must be your material wallet. It’s just something we’ve always felt.

Yakovenko said the idea went from concept to reality once he met with Jason Keats, founder and “Chief Hooligan” at OSOM Products. Keats was previously head of R&D at Essential, a startup that made its own Android phone, and OSOM will do much the same thing: the previously announced OSOM OV1 will be now be renamed like the Solana saga.

It is a powerful device. The large Android handset will feature a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, 6.67-inch OLED display, 12GB of RAM and 512GB of internal storage. Given the ability to briefly hold the phone, we can say it looks a lot like a high-end Android phone you’ll find from Google or Samsung, with a touch of iPhone-like minimalism.

“It’s a pretty cool device,” Yakovenko said. He added with a laugh, “Don’t let him down.”

Android runs on over 3 billion devices worldwide, so why create a new phone specifically for the Solana ecosystem? Yakovenko said the device, which has an estimated retail price of $1,000, will represent the gold standard for a Web3-centric smartphone and feature the full feature set of Solana Mobile Stack.

“Every developer I spoke to, we talked to them about mobile strategy and how to grow in most other countries around the world,” he said. “There’s a lot of friction in the App Store. When the devs tell me that, I start pacing around the room trying to figure out how to help them. It seems like a natural opportunity to create a web3-oriented app store and web3 device. »

He said that if other Android devices can adopt the full Solana mobile stack or even parts of it, the Solana saga will give users and developers a complete experience with top-tier specs. And the Saga isn’t just designed as a secondary device: it’s a rugged smartphone with the full suite of Google apps and services, like most other popular Androids.

“I think it’s important to have a flagship [phone] it shows that it is a complete integration,” added Yakovenko. “It’s the best version of it.”

Also, it is uncertain whether other Android devices will adopt Solana Mobile Stack. It’s an open-source platform and the goal is widespread adoption, so Solana Labs hopes to see all major manufacturers integrate it. However, phone makers will have to work to support this relatively niche and often controversial cryptographic software.

“If we start to be successful, I think the dominoes will start to fall in terms of crypto adoption at these two companies,” he said when asked about texting on Samsung and Google devices.

What about Apple’s iPhone and iOS ecosystem? Unlike Android, which has been forked and adapted to an unlimited number of devices, Apple keeps a tight lock on iOS.

Yakovenko noted that Apple’s recent WWDC 2022 conference did not feature any crypto-related tools. SMS’s Mobile Wallet Adapter functionality is not limited to Android and may work with other mobile and PC platforms, but Apple’s restrictive ecosystem may limit the smooth running of Solana mobile apps on iOS devices.

“These protocols can certainly be ported to iOS,” he explained, “but without Apple’s help and real integration into the secure element. [hardware] they’re using, I think it’s going to be really, really hard to get a real Apple Pay experience for crypto.”

Whether Solana Labs can get Apple or even top Android makers on board with SMS remains to be seen, but Yakovenko described it as a mission critical to getting the world into crypto.

“It’s just about them deciding that crypto is big enough,” he said. “From my perspective, we could very well be successful in enabling a billion users to keep themselves by simply changing those people’s minds.”

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