Technology trends are mercurial.
With early commercial mobile phones - let’s call this the OG Nokia era - the shared industry design goal was to shrink them down.
Blackberry and Apple then swept through and the switch to smartphones saw them beef back up.
The point is that innovation isn’t linear. What’s built today, even if it fundamentally changes society, can end up as a relic tomorrow.
The finished product was actually just another step in a broader design process.
Credit: Damian Newman (The Design Squiggle)
But mobile is on defi’s horizon, and intuitive wallets will be the leap from millions to billions of daily users.
Let’s unpack crypto mobile and the core components needed next to create wallets fit for mass financial upheaval.
DeFi’s Current Mobile Coverage
We’ve explored decentralized on-ramps as a key onboarding challenge, but wallets will play an even more important role. They will be the interface for everyday use.
A major chunk of Web3 is still nestled into desktops and mobile crypto growth has been slow. A few stalwart, mainstream apps like Coinbase Wallet and Trust Wallet have teased at what’s possible with NFTs and staking add-ons.
Saga, Solana’s Web3 mobile, is the only serious stab at creating a comprehensive suite of features. In its melting pot of components is a dApp store, SMS SDKs, NFT support, and hardware seed vault integrations.
The package feels more like a door to DeFi than another wallet app. Unfortunately, it’s ring-fenced by Solana and its ongoing saga of performance issues. Not to mention, bewildering rumors of needing a Google account.
Uniswap’s recent tangle with Apple over the launch of its app shows that decentralization needs to sit at the cusp of accessibility, where users source apps.
A decentralized app marketplace is one way to ensure that access remains unbridled. The drawback being that hardware providers will always have an iron grip on app availability.
The concept of distributed operating systems goes one level deeper than this. ethOS has created an early decentralized system layer that turns a mobile device into an Ethereum light client.
In its current stack of features is a wallet, browser, and on-ramp service. The optionality of the underlying Light Node means each new device can further expand Ethereum’s decentralization.
Crucially, it can be loaded onto a growing number of Android devices. Users get the benefits of unlocking decentralization on the move and still using trusted hardware.
Facilitating Web3 interoperability is only half of the adoption problem. Wallet standards and integration formats will be needed to support onboarding new DeFi users and websites.
The influx of middleware has meant that building multi-chain access into apps is no longer a hurdle.
Seed phrases are still perilous and recent EIP-4337 developments have cut the risk of permanently losing wallet access. The social recovery benefits now start to align with the kind of access management standards that Web2 set.
Banana Wallet is leveraging EIP-4337 to provide users with in-app wallets. The pluggable SDK means developers can enable the creation of a new smart contract wallet per user session. This is a real positive for anxious degens who grimace at the thought of connecting to new protocols.
Every smartphone user flexes its capabilities to suit their specific needs. This same approach will be key when designing to accommodate the growing breadth of Web3 innovation.
Imagine DeFi as a pie with its many segments, like swaps, NFTs, and yield farming. Most users will only ever choose a selection of those slices.
It doesn’t make sense to cram everything into one app. Through extreme limitations, mobile apps have become inherently siloed and the perfect format for creating versatile DeFi wallets matched to personal needs.
Marble Wallet is aiming to facilitate this by developing SDKs to create embeddable, customizable wallets. Standardizing website wallet integration will speed up the crypto checkout process and weave it together with user-friendly mobile security features, like facial recognition, social media authentication, and SMS verification.
Collaboration is the engine behind blockchain’s aggressive growth curve. This is inherently at odds with the trad tech approach and the typical PvP race for an edge (and then profits).
Builders gearing their efforts around standardized, widely-recognized formats ultimately fosters an environment where all roads lead to common goals. Not to mention, removing a sizable portion of development time.
Linen Wallet is a perfect example. Stacking Safe smart contracts, and their multi-sig functionality, with standardized mobile security features has struck an effective balance between protection and flexibility.
Sending the Right Signals
We can’t escape the influence mobile wallets are set to have on blockchain technology. Smartphones simply play too much of a fundamental role in our culture.
Much of this research focused on retrofitting Web2 approaches to make blockchain usable on the move. But much like OG Nokia era mobile phones, we’re very much still in the Research & Synthesis phase of DeFi’s design squiggle.
Who knows what twists are yet to come. The above fundamentals are designed to offer a tried-and-tested framework that applies regardless of how crypto mobile wallets eventually shape up.