When it launched throughout The Lightning Convention in October 2019, HTC’s Exodus 1s smartphone took on the bold mission of endowing Bitcoiners with a tool that delivers the safety of a pockets and the privateness and sovereignty of a full Bitcoin node.
At a retail value of 219 euro (roughly $245), plus transport tax, the gadget is extra reasonably priced than a Casa Node and twice as costly as a Ledger Nano X pockets. Weighing lower than 6 ounces and sporting a shiny 5.7-inch display screen, the HTC Exodus 1s can be the most transportable full node resolution accessible for retail. However is it actually the ideally suited, all-in-one gadget to exchange your whole Bitcoin-related gadgets?
For greater than a month, I examined the HTC Exodus 1s beneath varied situations to focus on each its and software program capabilities. The outcomes had been moderately promising however nonetheless go away quite a bit to be desired from the perspective of a “Bitcoin energy person.” Correspondingly, the subsequent sections of this evaluate will concentrate on the professionals and cons of the first full node smartphone on the market. Finally, this evaluate ought to present helpful perception that may profit potential patrons — and in addition present some suggestions for HTC.
What’s in the HTC Exodus 1s Field?
As quickly as you peel the plastic foil off of the HTC Exodus 1s’s plain white field, you might be greeted by the core ingredient of the packaging: the black and shiny telephone. When it comes to look, the HTC Exodus 1s appears to be like quite a bit like a regular iPhone. Nevertheless, the physique is product of plastic, the display screen is a 5.7-inch LCD, the Face ID infrared notch is changed by a fingerprint scanner and the twin cameras are changed by a single one. All of those changes have been made with a view to scale back the prices of the HTC gadget, however in any other case the design is enticing and the feeling of holding the telephone in your hand is nice. In comparison with an iPhone, you can too preserve a greater grip, as the construct feels sturdy and never as slippery as Apple’s flagship gadget.
The equipment offered by HTC embody a charging cable (micro USB-A), with an influence plug that corresponds to your area, and a set of earphones. In the field, additionally, you will discover person manuals in a number of languages, a Zion-branded card that can be utilized to put in writing seed keys, a few HTC badges, a pin which helps you open the SIM card tray and a number of HTC Exodus stickers.
The HTC Exodus 1s as a Smartphone
Out of the field, the HTC Exodus 1s is a moderately primary Android gadget whose options are fairly normal for an entry-level to mid-range smartphone from 2019. It has a slick design, sports activities two 13-megapixel cameras (one in the entrance for video calls and selfies, and the different one in the again), is pushed by the four-year-old Snapdragon 435 octa-core processor and boasts four gigabytes of RAM (for reference, the first-generation Casa node has solely 2 gigabytes). The specs are toned down from the authentic Exodus 1 — however given the distinction in value (the 1s is one-third as costly), it is smart to chop down on bills.
To be able to evaluate the telephone, I’ve used it for 2 weeks every day. Excluding any of the Bitcoin-related options, it features very properly and will get the job accomplished for calls, emails and messaging purposes. When used for these functions, the Exodus 1s didn’t have any points with sluggish loading occasions or laggy switching between apps.
The Android eight.1 Oreo working system could also be two generations behind the flagship normal, however it’s nonetheless fairly clean. In comparison with Apple’s iOS, it has a much less intuitive interface to opt-out from microphone, location and digital camera entry — choices that many Bitcoiners will wish to leverage. However when you get the dangle of it and take away the gadget from the Google panopticon, it’s very easy to make use of. On the plus facet, the Orbot app can route your whole web connections by Tor — which grants you nice privateness. On the damaging facet, you’ll be able to’t take away or change the Google search bar from the dwelling display screen, and it is a fixed reminder that it’s essential be cautious about your privateness.
What I discovered significantly spectacular about the HTC Exodus 1s is the battery life. In the first month of utilizing it, I used to be in a position to recharge the gadget each 10 to 12 days. All of that point, the 1s was linked to WiFi and it served an electronic mail administration position. It needs to be famous that no SIM card was inserted, and this lack of cell community connection undoubtedly saved battery. Nevertheless, after the full node was synced, the battery life lowered considerably, lasting just one full day (as the relaying takes up RAM and processing energy).
On the different hand, the cameras are under common for 2019/2020 requirements: They take time to focus, they don’t seize colours that look particularly vivid and so they lack some options that images lovers discover helpful on flagship Android gadgets and iPhones (similar to portrait mode, evening mode, shutter time, reside footage and Animojis/Memojis). Nevertheless, there are many purposes that may enhance the high quality and aesthetic of images by filters and superior choices. Additionally, it’s unlikely for anybody to have excessive photographic expectations from a $245 telephone or to buy a Bitcoin-friendly gadget for its digital camera.
Earlier than Syncing the Full Node: HTC’s Zion App
The complete Bitcoin node is unquestionably the most unusual characteristic and the primarily promoting level of the HTC Exodus 1s. However with a view to proceed with the preliminary block obtain, you will need to first fulfill two situations: Purchase an SD card that may retailer greater than 260 GB of knowledge (there are 400 GB and 512 GB choices, each of which can be found for about $100 in most electronics shops), and conduct the obtain by HTC’s Zion utility.
Whereas the former prerequisite is affordable (the telephone solely has 64 GB of storage, which implies it may well solely accommodate a pruned node), the latter limits the potentialities concerned in a course of that needs to be about liberation and monetary sovereignty. Zion, the telephone’s proprietary utility, serves as a pockets and a dashboard on your full node. Subsequently, with a view to begin downloading and validating the complete historical past of bitcoin transactions, you will need to adjust to HTC’s privateness coverage and settle for the inclusion of some options and the lack of others.
As an example, the Zion pockets just isn’t Bitcoin-only and even has devoted menus for DApps like Maker and Augur, and collectibles like CryptoKitties and Etheremon. The inclusion of those further options could solely be disappointing from a poisonous maximalist perspective (the place something unrelated to Bitcoin will mechanically be frowned upon), however it does show that HTC’s most important efforts to develop software program for the telephone weren’t Bitcoin-centric.
Additionally, the Bitcoin pockets itself lacks some crucial options. It has no SegWit assist and makes use of a single legacy deal with for all incoming transactions (which interprets to larger charges and really poor privateness), and there’s no option to manually set transaction charges (you solely decide your time choice). Subsequently, operating your full Bitcoin node is unquestionably not the cell equal of utilizing Bitcoin Core in your laptop.
General, the ecosystem that HTC constructed to work with the built-in pockets is underwhelming from a software program viewpoint. Whereas the thought of operating a Bitcoin full node ought to contain extra monetary freedom to ship and obtain funds, HTC’s Zion app makes it really feel constraining.
Syncing the Full Bitcoin Node
On most computer systems, synchronizing a full Bitcoin node takes about two or three days, relying on web velocity, onerous drive studying and writing velocity (it’s really useful to make use of an SSD) and RAM allocation. The HTC Exodus 1s has nice specs and may have the ability to obtain and validate all of the transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain in lower than per week. Nevertheless, my expertise was totally different and it took 15 days to finish the course of.
Curiously, I misplaced the first day ready for the node to sync whereas I had Tor routing activated. Because it seems, this model of the software program received’t enable the course of to start out if that characteristic is enabled — however after the synchronization was accomplished, Tor labored identical to it ought to.
I believed that the sluggish preliminary sync was a peculiar phenomenon, particularly after I positioned the telephone subsequent to a router in charging mode. Additionally, the again cowl acquired noticeably hotter throughout this computation-intensive course of. One other full node was being operated on the identical Wi-Fi community, so the sluggish obtain was not brought on by the connection itself.
Moreover, the gadget’s specs needs to be greater than able to a sooner obtain. The telephone is endowed with four GB of RAM, which makes it simply as highly effective as the Casa 2 and the Nodl One. Sadly, even at peak synchronization, the Zion software program didn’t enable the telephone to make use of greater than 165 megabytes of RAM — a mere four p.c of the gadget’s capability. On common, the Exodus 1s solely used 85 MB from its reminiscence.
Whereas it’s comprehensible that the working system requires a big chunk of the reminiscence to run and it’s necessary for the telephone to stay operational throughout the preliminary synchronization of the Bitcoin node, it’s nonetheless unusual to see that builders from HTC didn’t allocate extra RAM for this course of when the telephone is in idle mode. There’s a missed alternative there, as most Bitcoiners most definitely received’t use the telephone throughout the sync — or will not less than go away it untouched for eight hours or so whereas they sleep, which poses an ideal alternative for the software program to bump the RAM allocation.
The difficulty at stake is nothing that HTC can’t repair in a future replace. With the ability to do the preliminary sync with Tor turned on and permitting the telephone to allocate extra RAM for a sooner sync would contain tweaks in the Zion app — hopefully one thing the firm will work on in the future.
Utilizing the Full Node on the Exodus 1s
After 15 lengthy days, it was lastly time to attempt some Bitcoin and Lightning purposes. As beforehand talked about, the built-in Zion app is underwhelming as a pockets (as a result of it makes use of a single receiving deal with, doesn’t enable for UTXO administration and doesn’t grant handbook management for charges). There are higher alternate options on the market, similar to Blockstream Inexperienced which presents a number of energy person options in a easy and complete person interface.
Nevertheless, the full node characteristic of the HTC Exodus 1s didn’t appear to work with something outdoors of the Zion ecosystem. Not like Bitcoin Core, Zion’s settings menu doesn’t show choices concerning particular connectivity and there may be solely a generic characteristic to permit incoming connections.
My subsequent try was to make use of the full Bitcoin node with a view to onboard the Lightning Community. I’ve downloaded the wallets developed by Lightning Labs, ACINQ (each Eclair and Phoenix) and Nayuta, however none of them linked to the full node. Subsequently, I used to be unable to run Lightning with the telephone’s built-in and utterly synchronized Bitcoin node characteristic.
Nevertheless, this state of Bitcoin node isolation is just momentary and is sure to alter with future updates.
“The complete node just isn’t designated to solely work with the Zion app,” HTC Exodus Decentralized Chief Officer Phil Chen advised Bitcoin Journal. “The present limitation is as a result of the Bitcoin knowledge folder is beneath remoted storage in the Zion app, which can’t be accessed by different apps. We’re working to assist different apps in the future by exporting APIs from HTC Core.”
New options for the HTC Exodus 1s are anticipated to be introduced throughout the Bitcoin 2020 convention, which takes place in late March 2020 in San Francisco.
“We now have a number of thrilling plans that we need to announce at Bitcoin 2020,” Chen added. “Please keep tuned!”
Enhancements to Be Made
As famous above, I examined the HTC Exodus 1s for 2 months and it proved to be an important gadget for each activity besides the distinctive characteristic which could characterize its most important promoting level — the full Bitcoin node. Although the node works properly after the in any other case prolonged synchronization, at evaluate time it was nonetheless restricted to solely functioning with the pockets offered by the Zion app.
Ideally, HTC ought to create the cell equal of Bitcoin Core with extra options for devoted Bitcoiners, similar to full SegWit assist and bech32 addresses, the means to set charges manually, UTXO management for higher sending privateness, limitless deal with technology for higher receiving privateness, and integrations with wallets that assist the Lightning Community. To take care of a concentrate on simplicity, straightforward methods to change to particular apps that provide further options might be added to the interface. As an example, for Liquid Community or Lightning, there might be added buttons that mechanically obtain and hyperlink with Blockstream Inexperienced or Zap (or any Lightning pockets, for that matter).
One other enchancment that HTC should make entails RAM utilization throughout the preliminary sync: 165 MB is unquestionably not sufficient for a speedy course of and the quantity ought to get bumped to 1 GB or extra throughout moments when the telephone is charging or is idling. This will also be an possibility that customers can toggle on or off, as Bitcoiners will definitely perceive that they need to not contact the telephone for a number of days till the synchronization is full.
Additionally, changing the Ethereum options (there’s even a search bar for Etherscan on the second dwelling display screen of the telephone, and it may well’t be eliminated by customers) with Bitcoin ones would undoubtedly be a step in the proper course, given the proven fact that the target market consists of people that clearly perceive the worth proposition of Bitcoin and wish to maximize their privateness, safety and sovereignty.
The HTC Exodus 1s presents an important worth for the value and is a pioneering gadget in the Bitcoin area. Nevertheless, to ensure that the gadget to really fulfill the wants of Bitcoiners, it wants to supply extra performance and step outdoors of the inflexible Zion ecosystem. Bringing integrations and methods to attach the full node to third-party purposes is unquestionably a primary good step, however optimizing Zion for newcomers to have extra options can be a precedence.
Particular due to Chen and HTC for sending the telephone for evaluate.