Hardware

OSOM’s OV1 is now Solana’s web3 Android handset, Saga

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Image Credits: Solana

OSOM and Nothing have quickly become two of the most fascinating companies operating the smartphone space in recent years. Nothing is the latest project from OnePlus co-founder, Carl Pei, while OSOM is largely composed of former Essential employees looking to launch their own thing in the wake the company’s messy dissolution. That Pei purchased Essential’s IP felt like another nice cosmic connection between the two.

Fittingly, both young hardware startups are making news this week, though these announcements have only highlighted how differently their paths have diverged. There was, after all, never an easy time to launch a smartphone, but a spate of external forces amid chip shortages and supply chain shutdowns have further raised the barrier of entry. For Nothing, that means being selective about launch markets and adopting a OnePlus-style invite system.

For OSOM, on the other hand, it’s a major pivot for the company’s debut handset. The OV1 is becoming the web3-focused Android handset, Saga. The rebranding drops OSOM’s name from the product, which, as Jacquelyn notes, is being released by Solana Mobile, a subsidiary of blockchain/crypto startup, Solana Labs.

“OSOM is incredibly excited to partner with Solana in building the Saga,” OSOM founder and CEO, Jason Keats, said in a comment offered to TechCrunch. “The world needs novel hardware companies to support the future that is web3. Building out an ecosystem that looks to the future without being burdened by past legacy ecosystems is hugely exciting.”

Solana Saga Front. Image Credits: PRNewsfoto/Solana Mobile

The company won’t comment further, only promising additional updates soon.

OSOM has thus far been positioning itself as a privacy-first hardware maker. Keats told TechCrunch, earlier this year, “We’re building an entire solution to privacy. We want to build devices and software and services that facilitate individual user privacy. And that could be as simple as integrating our software partners into our hardware to give them a real base for them to work, rather than just downloading their app from an app store. We can install it on a system level.”

What this means for OSOM remains to be seen. What it means for the Saga (nee OV1) is another delay. Earlier this year, the company pushed the launch from Q3 to Q4, owing to its desire to utilize the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon chip. Today’s announcement finds things pushed back to “early 2023,” though preorders opened up today. A quick spec rundown looks promising, including a 6.67-inch OLED display, 12 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage. The companies are shooting for a ~$1,000 price tag — a change from the “well under $1,000” Keats told me earlier this year.

The key to the device is the “Solana Mobile Stack (SMS),” which utilizes security features baked into the Qualcomm chip. According to the company, SMS,

[P]rovides a new set of libraries for wallets and apps, allowing developers to create rich mobile experiences on Solana, the world’s most performant blockchain, and is built to run alongside Android. The SDK provides libraries and programming interfaces for Android apps and secure key private storage, simplifying the developer experience to build and extend dApps functionality for Solana.

An SDK for the service is open to developers starting today.

“Developers have been blocked for too long from creating truly decentralized mobile apps because the existing gatekeeper model just doesn’t work anymore,” Solana co-founder, Anatoly Yakovenko, said in a release. “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.”

This isn’t the first device looking to provide a blockchain/crypo-focused experience. HTC attempted its own mobile pivot back in 2018, with the launch of Exodus. The Taiwanese hardware maker has since set its sights on a metaverse-focused handset.

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