Solana launches web3-focused smartphone Saga to improve crypto-mobile relationship

The co-founder and CEO of Solana, Anatoly Yakovenko, had a Steve Jobs moment when he stood in front of an auditorium in New York City and announced the launch of Saga, an Android web3-focused smartphone.

“This is something that I fundamentally believe the industry needs to do,” Yakovenko said. “We didn’t see a single crypto feature at the Apple developer conference 13 years after Bitcoin was alive.”

People will pull out their laptops in the middle of dates so they don’t miss an NFT minting opportunity, Yakovenko joked. “So I think it’s time for crypto to go mobile,” Yakovenko added.

Saga aims to implement digital asset products and services, so users can easily transact with their cryptocurrency through the device, opposed to a laptop browser.

In addition to the announcement of Saga, Yakovenko shared the launch of the Solana Mobile Stack, or SMS, which is a web3 layer for Solana built on the phone.

“Web3 still feels like we’re in the year 2007,” Steven Laver, mobile engineering lead at Solana Labs said. “[SMS] can build experiences for the community … it will treat SMS devices as first-class citizens on Solana.”

“Everything is going mobile,” Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO of FTX, said at the event. In most countries, most of the access in people’s day-to-day lives happens through mobile phones, Bankman-Fried said. But the mobile accessibility of crypto products is not great today, he said.

SMS will consist of a number of products including a seed vault, a custody solution, a mobile wallet adapter, Solana Pay for Android and its decentralized application (dApp) store. It “provides a new set of libraries for wallets and apps, allowing developers to create rich mobile experiences on Solana,” a press release said.

“1% of my purchases right now can be with crypto … but I would way prefer [paying with it],” Bankman-Fried said. “Having web3-enabled devices with a hardware wallet in it is super powerful.”

A number of crypto companies including FTX, Phantom and Magic Eden will partner with SMS and there is also a $10 million developer fund for people who build apps on it. “The builders are coming and they are higher quality than before,” Raj Gokal, COO at Solana Labs said. “They’re ready for the next leg of user growth.”

The $1,000 device will have 512 GB of storage with a 6.67-inch OLED display and is available for preorder with a $100 deposit and deliveries will occur in Q1 2023, Yakovenko said.

“Wow,” was the word Yakovenko kept repeating. In a humorous and perhaps — in awe way — Yakovenko highlighted a lot of “wow” moments the Solana ecosystem has seen over the past few years but especially in the past 12 months. Solana has over 21 million unique active monthly accounts, according to Nansen data Yakovenko shared.

This launch could bring Solana to the Big Tech leagues, shifting from just a crypto-centric world and into one alongside Apple, Microsoft, and of course, Android. The focus on bringing more web3 options to mobile devices can also expand the Solana ecosystem’s reach into mainstream audiences and can incline other crypto blockchains to do the same.

The announcement also comes at a tough time for the crypto industry, which has seen a major downturn in crypto prices. Yakovenko seems to realize the device doesn’t have the most mainstream appeal but sees it as something that could reach crypto’s most dedicated users. “We’re targeting the hardcore people who know what self-custody means. You gotta start with a group that loves this product and grow from there.”

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