Review: HTC Exodus 1s, the Full Bitcoin Node Smartphone
When it launched throughout The Lightning Conference in October 2019, HTC’s Exodus 1s smartphone took on the formidable 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 machine 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 answer out there for retail. But is it actually the ideally suited, all-in-one machine to exchange your entire Bitcoin-related gadgets?
For greater than a month, I examined the HTC Exodus 1s below varied situations to spotlight each its and software program capabilities. The outcomes have been quite promising however nonetheless go away lots to be desired from the perspective of a “Bitcoin power user.” Correspondingly, the subsequent sections of this overview will concentrate on the execs and cons of the first full node smartphone on the market. Ultimately, this overview ought to present helpful perception that may profit potential consumers — and in addition present some suggestions for HTC.
What’s in the HTC Exodus 1s Box?
As quickly as you peel the plastic foil off of the HTC Exodus 1s’s plain white field, you’re greeted by the core factor of the packaging: the black and shiny cellphone. In phrases of look, the HTC Exodus 1s seems to be lots like a normal iPhone. However, the physique is fabricated from 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 in an effort to scale back the prices of the HTC machine, however in any other case the design is engaging and the feeling of holding the cellphone in your hand is nice. Compared to an iPhone, you too can preserve a greater grip, as the construct feels sturdy and never as slippery as Apple’s flagship machine.
The equipment supplied by HTC embrace 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 write down 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 quite fundamental Android machine 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 unique Exodus 1 — however given the distinction in value (the 1s is one-third as costly), it is smart to chop down on bills.
In order to overview the cellphone, I’ve used it for 2 weeks each day. Excluding any of the Bitcoin-related options, it capabilities very properly and will get the job executed for calls, emails and messaging purposes. When used for these functions, the Exodus 1s didn’t have any points with sluggish loading instances 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. Compared to Apple’s iOS, it has a much less intuitive interface to opt-out from microphone, location and digicam entry — choices that many Bitcoiners will need to leverage. But when you get the cling of it and take away the machine from the Google panopticon, it’s very easy to make use of. On the plus aspect, the Orbot app can route your entire web connections by Tor — which grants you nice privateness. On the destructive aspect, you may’t take away or substitute the Google search bar from the house display screen, and this can be a fixed reminder that you must be cautious about your privateness.
What I discovered notably 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 machine each 10 to 12 days. All of that point, the 1s was linked to WiFi and it served an electronic mail administration function. It must be famous that no SIM card was inserted, and this lack of cell community connection positively saved battery. However, 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 beneath 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 fans discover helpful on flagship Android units and iPhones (similar to portrait mode, evening mode, shutter time, dwell footage and Animojis/Memojis). However, there are many purposes that may enhance the high quality and aesthetic of images by filters and superior choices. Also, it’s unlikely for anybody to have excessive photographic expectations from a $245 cellphone or to buy a Bitcoin-friendly machine for its digicam.
Before Syncing the Full Node: HTC’s Zion App
The full Bitcoin node is unquestionably the most unusual function and the primarily promoting level of the HTC Exodus 1s. But in an effort to proceed with the preliminary block obtain, you should first fulfill two situations: Acquire 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 software.
While the former prerequisite is affordable (the cellphone solely has 64 GB of storage, which implies it could possibly solely accommodate a pruned node), the latter limits the prospects concerned in a course of that must be about liberation and monetary sovereignty. Zion, the cellphone’s proprietary software, serves as a pockets and a dashboard to your full node. Therefore, in an effort to begin downloading and validating the complete historical past of bitcoin transactions, you should adjust to HTC’s privateness coverage and settle for the inclusion of some options and the lack of others.
For occasion, the Zion pockets shouldn’t be Bitcoin-only and even has devoted menus for DApps like Maker and Augur, and collectibles like CryptoKitties and Etheremon. The inclusion of those additional options could solely be disappointing from a poisonous maximalist perspective (the place something unrelated to Bitcoin will robotically be frowned upon), however it does show that HTC’s most important efforts to develop software program for the cellphone weren’t Bitcoin-centric.
Also, the Bitcoin pockets itself lacks some essential options. It has no SegWit help and makes use of a single legacy tackle for all incoming transactions (which interprets to larger charges and really poor privateness), and there’s no method to manually set transaction charges (you solely decide your time desire). Therefore, operating your full Bitcoin node is unquestionably not the cell equal of utilizing Bitcoin Core in your laptop.
Overall, the ecosystem that HTC constructed to work with the built-in pockets is underwhelming from a software program viewpoint. While 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 pace, exhausting drive studying and writing pace (it’s really useful to make use of an SSD) and RAM allocation. The HTC Exodus 1s has nice specs and will be capable of obtain and validate all of the transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain in lower than every week. However, my expertise was completely different and it took 15 days to finish the course of.
Interestingly, I misplaced the first day ready for the node to sync whereas I had Tor routing activated. As it seems, this model of the software program gained’t enable the course of to begin if that function is enabled — however after the synchronization was accomplished, Tor labored similar to it ought to.
I believed that the sluggish preliminary sync was a peculiar phenomenon, particularly after I positioned the cellphone subsequent to a router in charging mode. Also, the again cowl bought noticeably hotter throughout this computation-intensive course of. Another full node was being operated on the similar Wi-Fi community, so the sluggish obtain was not attributable to the connection itself.
Furthermore, the machine’s specs must be greater than able to a quicker obtain. The cellphone is endowed with four GB of RAM, which makes it simply as highly effective as the Casa 2 and the Nodl One. Unfortunately, even at peak synchronization, the Zion software program didn’t enable the cellphone to make use of greater than 165 megabytes of RAM — a mere four p.c of the machine’s capability. On common, the Exodus 1s solely used 85 MB from its reminiscence.
While it’s comprehensible that the working system requires a big chunk of the reminiscence to run and it’s essential for the cellphone 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 cellphone is in idle mode. There’s a missed alternative there, as most Bitcoiners most certainly gained’t use the cellphone throughout the sync — or will a minimum of 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 subject at stake is nothing that HTC can’t repair in a future replace. Being in a position to do the preliminary sync with Tor turned on and permitting the cellphone to allocate extra RAM for a quicker sync would contain tweaks in the Zion app — hopefully one thing the firm will work on in the future.
Using 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 tackle, doesn’t enable for UTXO administration and doesn’t grant handbook management for charges). There are higher options on the market, similar to Blockstream Green which gives numerous energy person options in a easy and complete person interface.
However, the full node function of the HTC Exodus 1s didn’t appear to work with something exterior of the Zion ecosystem. Unlike Bitcoin Core, Zion’s settings menu doesn’t show choices relating to particular connectivity and there may be solely a generic function to permit incoming connections.
My subsequent try was to make use of the full Bitcoin node in an effort to onboard the Lightning Network. 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. Therefore, I used to be unable to run Lightning with the cellphone’s built-in and fully synchronized Bitcoin node function.
However, this state of Bitcoin node isolation is barely short-term and is certain to vary with future updates.
“The full node is not designated to only work with the Zion app,” HTC Exodus Decentralized Chief Officer Phil Chen instructed Bitcoin Magazine. “The current limitation is because the Bitcoin data folder is under isolated storage in the Zion app, which cannot be accessed by other apps. We are working to support other 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 have several exciting plans that we are looking to announce at Bitcoin 2020,” Chen added. “Please stay tuned!”
Improvements to Be Made
As famous above, I examined the HTC Exodus 1s for 2 months and it proved to be an excellent machine for each job besides the distinctive function which could signify its most important promoting level — the full Bitcoin node. Though the node works properly after the in any other case prolonged synchronization, at overview time it was nonetheless restricted to solely functioning with the pockets supplied 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 help and bech32 addresses, the means to set charges manually, UTXO management for better sending privateness, limitless tackle era for higher receiving privateness, and integrations with wallets that help the Lightning Network. To preserve a concentrate on simplicity, straightforward methods to change to particular apps that supply additional options could possibly be added to the interface. For occasion, for Liquid Network or Lightning, there could possibly be added buttons that robotically obtain and hyperlink with Blockstream Green or Zap (or any Lightning pockets, for that matter).
Another enchancment that HTC should make includes 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 cellphone 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 cellphone for just a few days till the synchronization is full.
Also, changing the Ethereum options (there’s even a search bar for Etherscan on the second house display screen of the cellphone, and it could possibly’t be eliminated by customers) with Bitcoin ones would positively be a step in the proper route, given the undeniable fact that the target market consists of people that clearly perceive the worth proposition of Bitcoin and need to maximize their privateness, safety and sovereignty.
The HTC Exodus 1s gives an excellent worth for the value and is a pioneering machine in the Bitcoin area. However, to ensure that the machine to really fulfill the wants of Bitcoiners, it wants to supply extra performance and step exterior 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.
Special due to Chen and HTC for sending the cellphone for overview.