Don’t call it a comeback: Tech firms’ so-called blockchain phones never appeared to click with consumers, despite multiple attempts, but now crypto networks themselves are making fresh moves to try and bring Web3 to a potentially vast mobile audience.
Solana recently announced its Solana Mobile Stack (SMS) software initiative and Saga phone, and Polygon today revealed its own mobile play. Polygon, an Ethereum scaling platform, announced a collaboration with tech startup Nothing that will see Polygon’s tech integrated into the company’s first smartphone, the Nothing Phone (1).
Initially, the partnership will be an NFT membership club, with Polygon NFTs provided to people who helped crowdfund Nothing’s launch, as well as those who pre-ordered the Nothing Phone (1). Nothing’s Black Dot NFTs, as they’re called, provide potential benefits to holders, such as early access to products or entries to events.
This is Nothing Community Dots.
We are all Nothing. Dots in the huge improbable scheme of everything. But let these seemingly small, insignificant dots connect. Then something begins.
See thread below. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/VKIDuEKSoM
— Nothing (@nothing) July 5, 2022
But that’s just the first step, Polygon Vice President of Growth Arjun Kalsy told Decrypt.
Ultimately, the plan is to infuse the Android-based Nothing Phone (1) with easy access to apps and games on Polygon’s platform, as well as payments and future features like Polygon ID, the company’s zero-knowledge, proof-based identification solution.
“How do we get even closer to the user? The largest distribution platform in the world is the mobile phone,” said Kalsy. “Basically, the timing was right that now we can take this technology to the masses.”
A teaser image for the Nothing Phone (1). Image: Nothing
Nothing was founded by Carl Pei, who co-founded the smartphone and tech brand OnePlus. The firm has attracted veteran tech creators like iPod co-creator Tony Fadell, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, and Reddit CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman, and will hold a launch event for the Nothing Phone (1) on July 12.
Kalsy said Polygon was introduced to Nothing by one of its VC backers after its $450 million fund raise announced last February. He shared that the Nothing team surprised him with its depth of knowledge about Web3 and robust plans for the space.
“Right from the first conversation, I was like: ‘Well, these guys get it,’” he said. “They understand how Web3 works, and that for me was a magic moment. Like, I want to work with these guys.”
According to Kalsy, Polygon and Nothing have spent the last four to five months developing the collaboration, crystalizing concepts like how they want users to be able to tap into Polygon decentralized apps (dapps) and games on mobile, and how the project could evolve over time.
“If you look at any Android or Apple phone, you log in with either a Google ID or an Apple ID, and to an extent, Apple or Google owns the customer, right? That is where the value comes from,” said Kalsy. “In a decentralized world, we need to help the user take back control.”
Why Solana Is Going Big on Mobile—And Making a Smartphone
Kalsy didn’t share many finer details of how Polygon’s Web3 integration will work on the Nothing Phone (1) ahead of the device’s launch event. However, the firm appears to have similar aims as Solana’s SMS initiative—to make Web3 access simpler and easier on smartphones, and thus help bring crypto and NFTs to a much larger audience.
There’s a key difference, however: Solana is making its own smartphone in partnership with OSOM Products, a startup from former Essential Phone R&D head, Jason Keats. Nothing’s phone will feature Polygon technology, but it’s not a “Polygon Phone” in the way that the Solana Saga is a Solana-branded device.
According to Kalsy, Polygon preferred to partner with a firm that specializes in building phones, and let each firm in the alliance focus on its own specialty. He said it was also a matter of not “trying to boil the ocean”—in other words, to avoid letting the scope of the project grow out of control and perhaps beyond their own resources to execute.
“Can we build a mobile phone? I’m sure we can,” he explained. “But would we build the world’s best mobile phone? No. That is something which Carl [Pei] and HTC, and the Samsungs, LGs, or Apples of the world are the best at.”
Because Polygon is a decentralized blockchain platform, this isn’t an exclusive alliance. Other firms can integrate Polygon support into their devices, as HTC will with its recently announced Desire 22 Pro “metaverse phone,” which also supports Ethereum. Kalsy said that the Nothing partnership benefits from the Polygon team’s knowledge and experience, however.
As with Solana and its own mobile push, Polygon sees the mobile market as key to onboarding potentially vast numbers of future users into the crypto world. Polygon’s technology enables faster and cheaper transactions than on Ethereum’s mainnet, plus the network recently attained carbon neutrality by purchasing offsets. Now the focus is on mass adoption.
“I believe it’s one of the single most important things which networks can do,” said Kalsy. “You’ve solved for scalability and such, and now you can take this technology to the mobile phone and start onboarding the next hundreds of millions of users into Web3.”