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Sirin Labs, the blockchain startup funded by nearly $158 million in initial coin offering (ICO) proceeds, has released its much-anticipated “blockchain smartphone,” the FINNEY.

The firm unveiled the device on Thursday at a release party in Barcelona, which featured presentations from several Sirin executives along with an appearance by football legend and Sirin brand ambassador Lionel Messi. CCN attended the event and was able to spend some hands-on time with the FINNEY during a demonstration with Sirin Labs Senior Product Manager Yaron Kaplan.

FINNEY Specifications

The FINNEY was manufactured by iPhone-maker Foxconn International Holdings (FIH), and it features flagship specs, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, 6GB Ram, a 6-inch display, two cameras (12MPx and 8MPx), and 128GB storage. On the software side, it runs an “ultra-secure and Google-certified ‘fork’ of Android” called Sirin OS that first appeared on Sirin’s first smartphone, the uber-secure (and uber-expensive) SOLARIN. The firm says that, in addition to its own line of devices, it plans to seek out OEM partners to implement Sirin OS on other products.

Sirin said that it chose to modify Android rather than use the out-of-the-box OS to “overcome the innate security challenges associated with the usage and storage of cryptocurrency on mobile devices.” Sirin co-founder and Chairman Kenes Rakishev explained that the operating system’s intrusion prevention system uses machine learning to monitor device parameters such as network, malware, and device security definitions, including when the phone is offline.

Isolated Cold Storage Wallet

sirin labs finney crypto wallet
The slide-out Safe Screen secures the cold storage crypto wallet | Photo: Josiah Wilmoth/CCN

Rather than store private keys in a secure enclave (components that haven’t always lived up to their name), the cold storage wallet, which features full separate hardware from the remainder of the device, is located on a sliding “Safe Screen” at the top of the phone. Here, private keys remain isolated from the phone’s internet-enabled native wallet until the user slides the Safe Screen out and initiates a transaction.

Transactions can only be signed from the Safe Screen, which ensures that user funds remain secure even if the device itself becomes compromised by malware. For example, if a user attempted to send funds and a malicious application replaced the correct receiving address with one controlled by the hacker, this change would be apparent on the Safe Screen — much like conventional hardware wallets.

“In an increasingly insecure digital world, where hackers in all corners of the globe are out to steal whatever they can, consumers need a product that gives them confidence their data is safe,” said Rakishev in the formal announcement. “With no solution available until now, many crypto users took a step back to a more primitive time and were using pen and paper to record their private key code. This and other ‘cold storage’ solutions are impenetrable to hacks but are also totally impractical for modern living. FINNEY is unique and is the only phone with an embedded cold storage wallet. There is nothing else like it on the market.”

Similar to other hardware wallets such as those produced by Trezor and Ledger, users can create and store multiple crypto wallets on a single device. By separating their funds into more than one wallet, investors can protect their holdings from the proverbial $5 wrench attack. If a mugger or other attacker attempts to force them to unlock their crypto wallet, they can enter the password to a low-value wallet while the other funds remain safe.

Password-protected cold storage or not, I’m still not sure that I would feel comfortable carrying around large amounts of crypto in my pocket. But considering that many investors do that already with wallets that are much less secure, the FINNEY is indeed a better option.

Native Crypto Exchange

In addition to a cold storage wallet, the FINNEY features an in-app token conversion service (TCS) that allows users to seamlessly exchange any of the crypto tokens supported by the device without entrusting them to a third-party wallet. Sirin itself will act as the liquidity provider — meaning that users will be exchanging funds with the company itself, not a third-party crypto exchange — and conversion rates will be pulled from CoinMarketCap. A Sirin representative told CCN that users will have to submit to local KYC/AML regulations before they can trade using the TCS, though it’s not clear exactly how this process will be handled.

One could see this service proving popular among casual investors, attracting a similar audience to Changelly and ShapeShift. However, convincing a crypto-curious friend or relative to purchase a $999 device to ease their entry into the market seems like a tough sell. Given that the FINNEY is most likely to appeal to crypto “power users,” many device owners might be familiar enough with cryptocurrency exchanges that they would prefer to use those platforms over the on-device conversion service. That’s particularly true since — at least at launch — the service only supports three cryptocurrencies: bitcoin, ethereum, and Sirin Labs Tokens.

Moreover, a growing number of crypto hardware wallets already offer users the ability to use Changelly, ShapeShift, or another token conversion service from within the device’s wallet portal. While these third-party apps charge service fees, they support a much wider range of assets than the Sirin TCS does — at least at launch.

In short, the FINNEY crypto conversion service is a useful feature, but it’s not clear how much of a selling point it will be to the device’s target market.

On-Device DApp Store

sirin labs finney
FINNEY dApp Store | Photo: Josiah Wilmoth/CCN

The FINNEY also features a native decentralized application (dApp) store and browser, called dCENTER, which seeks to make dApp usage more mobile-friendly and reduce the friction associated with onboarding. At present, the dApp browser is only compatible with Ethereum, though a representative said that Sirin plans to add support for other blockchains in future OS updates.

Considering that, for all their hype, almost no one is using dApps, the FINNEY dApp store could encourage more users to try out these blockchain-native applications.

The dCENTER further includes a “learn and earn” program through which dApps and other crypto startups can pay FINNEY owners to watch video advertisements, as well as airdrop tokens to their crypto wallets.

Sirin Labs founder and co-CEO Moshe Hogeg touted this feature for its ability to help recoup users for the initial cost of the device. After joking that he had wanted to sell the FINNEY for $1.00, he said that, at launch, the device comes pre-installed with more than $300 worth of advertising and airdrop incentives and that he hopes that future incentives will make the phone to pay for itself.

Of course, attempting to cash out those airdropped funds could cause some headaches come tax time, and, unfortunately, that is one aspect of the crypto experience that the FINNEY is not able to simplify.

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