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  • Writer's pictureElvis Yeung

Could the Solana Smart Phone project, SAGA, save Solana?

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

Just a few years ago, everybody was so excited to acquaint with the first-hand information of smartphone press conferences, waiting for some ground-breaking and interesting evolution of their devices. Especially for the iPhone, millions of die-hard fans worldwide would love to binge-watch the press conferences to blow their mind at midnight and discuss with their friends how excited they are to get the latest new iPhone. This phenomenon, however, has become less craze in recent years with uninspired innovation. Apple has done a ‘great’ job of driving the market expectations from unique and innovative software and hardware design to the capability of filming a movie with a single small device — the most significant improvement is merely on the image and the photography. To be honest, people have stopped caring and excited about the development of smartphones gradually.

Fortunately, just a week ago, there was an eye-catching press conference that may connect the term “innovation” and “excitement” with smartphone space again. Despite the crypto industry suffering a significant smash from the market and the negative criticisms like the crises of LUNA and Three Arrows Capital, it doesn’t seem to stop the innovation and the ambition of the sector. Solana, one of the largest companies in blockchain praised as the “Ethereum killer”, has partnered with OSOM and will soon launch a Web3-focused Android smartphone called Solana Saga, serving as a connecting point between the decentralized networks and the crypto storage device.

Solana Sage is targeted as a unique functionality and features tightly integrated with the Solana blockchain. The smartphone will feature the Solana Mobile Stack (SMS) which consists of three separate tools including a Mobile Wallet Adapter, a Seed Vault, and Solana Pay. It allows a hardware Solana wallet to integrate into the smartphone directly while storing private keys, seed phrases, cryptocurrency, and other delicate data securely within the device. What’s more? Just imagine putting your smartphone in front of the payment machine and deducting with the cryptocurrency but not the credit card limit, Solana Pay is similar to Apple Pay and Google Pay which allows secure payment with SOL or other cryptos easily in daily life. The SMS will also provide a set of tools to help developers adopt the Web3 mobile applications in a new decentralized app store and directly link with the hardware wallet properties of the Solana Saga. With the anticipated price of USD 1,000, the Solana Saga would offer high-end specifications with a 6.67-inch display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, 12GB of RAM, and 128GB of fast internal storage.

The launch of Solana Sage has opened a new tech portal for Solana, stepping into the space of high-end smartphone competition with the traditional giants like Apple and Samsung. The dedicated development of a superior Web3 UX smartphone may help to bring billions of current smartphone users into the blockchain and Solana application easily. It seems that Solana wants to take the lead in the upcoming space and push the whole world into Web 3 adoption. But wait, hold on…can this ideal picture be implemented easily in reality? As we all know that Solana has experienced a lot of negative gossip over the past year. Can this new business expansion really help to rescue the development of Solana?

The primary focus of Ethereum Killer is to settle transactions quickly at scale. Under the domination of Ethereum application in Web 3, the devotees of Solana always chest-thump that the blockchain can handle 65,000 transactions per second under the innovative dual-consensus model of proof-of-history (PoH) and proof-of-stake (PoS). Indeed, this is a very attractive TPS in blockchains, and it would not be arrogant to declare that Solana is the “fastest blockchain in the world”, as long as the network keeps offering the services to the users. However, it is a pity that some well-known proverbs are often capable to someone who is too haughty. The problem of network outages is persistently occurring in Solana. Just within 6 months in 2022, there were 12 severe outages across its blockchain, lasting 75 minutes to 18 hours. Constantly be reminded that there is a trilemma in blockchain — decentralization, security, and scalability. By scarifying the stability of the network, Solana cannot even be claimed as fulfilling the scalability and security. Let’s have simple math: if Solana stops functioning for 75 minutes, 292.5 million transactions may be blocked on Solana during the outage, not to mention the most prolonged shutdown period.

The serious and irresponsible outages on the Solana blockchain are always accompanied by consequences. Take an example the latest network suspension on June 1 this year, the price of its native coin SOL dropped 16% from $45.55 to $38.36 just within 24 hours. By accumulating the consistent outages of the network with other negative external factors, the SOL token has lost 78.6% of its value this year, which is much crazier than the fall of BTC. Therefore, when you are comparing the percentage loss of SOL in each outage, the current price may not be a big discount for you. People have ample amounts of confusion and fear towards this blockchain. Each accident on Solana is just like an earthquake, shaking the investors’ confidence in this market.

The founding team of Solana has probably realized this situation and tried to turn the tide by expanding their business and services to a broader range with the launch of Solana Sage. It is wise to get out of the frame and jump into a new and less competitive market in Web 3. However, whether Sage is the right starting point for this new journey remains questionable.

As mentioned, the biggest problem of Solana is the stability of the blockchain. The team has spent a lot of costs and time inventing the Sage ecosystem, but the root problem hasn’t been solved yet. No one will know when the next outage will be as the blockchain is full of uncertainty and the team seems not to have any intention of dealing with such a messy problem. Indeed, this Web 3 mobile development will encourage the adoption of Web 3 apps on the Solana blockchain since it provides the resources to facilitate the launch of dApps on a decentralized app store, which would allow the users to download the app and carry out the crypto transactions in the app conveniently. The Solana-based big giant like StepN, Magic Eden, and Phantom also agreed to adopt the SMS. On the other hand, the crypto community keeps questioning the sustainability of this latest innovation made by Solana. Simply put, it is impossible for the CEO of Solana, Anatoly Yakovenko, to achieve his imagination of “1 billion people using crypto in the device that they use every day” if the blockchain cannot even convince the crypto insiders to adopt the Solana Sage.

Moreover, the uncertainty has been extended from the blockchain side to the device side after the press conference of Solana Sage was held. Nowadays, our smartphones can only access hot wallets on-chain like MetaMask which may “encourages” furious hacking and cause the massive loss of digital assets to some crypto newbies. Yet this may not be the situation on Solana Saga and SMS as they are going to revolutionize the self-custody space by fusing the mobile device and the physical/cold wallet into a single device. There is no longer a browser-based application or interaction with a hot wallet such as Phantom to limit the user experience and the security. Meanwhile, the security parameter of the wallet remains sketchy if the phone is stolen, lost, or damaged. So here will derivate a question about the methods of recovering the digital assets inside the device. If buying a new Solana Sage and putting in the recovery phrases for getting access again to that wallet is the solution to the recovery, then this latest Solana wallet is just more than an app on the device, which is less differentiated than what Phantom can do but cost you another $1,000 in buying a new Web 3 smartphone.

A complete dApp store with a $10 million developer fund allocated to those developers who build apps for SMS is also one of the selling points of Solana Sage. Although we can use so-called decentralized apps on any Android smartphone now, many dApps are unable to list on the Apple and Google Play Stores due to regulatory concerns. Strategically, Solana Sage offers a perfect platform for those dApps to get a closer distance with the general public, helping to increase overall Crypto adoption in the future. But here comes up a question of the universality of a complete dApp application. Yes, the Solana Saga will provide more privacy as it won’t allow any personal data recording, keeping true to the spirit of decentralization. Nevertheless, most of the projects/apps are either currently in the stage of development or are half-baked and buggy platforms. The UX of dApps is still a big challenge when compared with the maturity of the traditional app.

Despite decentralization being a very attractive trend to the tech people, all the project turns out to be a kind of business. The time spent on developing a P2E mobile game is much greater than a traditional mobile game. The team needs to consider a comprehensive tokenomic and P2E mechanism to prevent the label of “shit game” in the P2E field. And a decentralized nature is also not suitable for all the useful apps that we are having in the traditional App Store. For example, a decentralized nature will be difficult to launch a retail app like an online shop app. If the data of customers’ preferences cannot be collected by the sellers, why do they need to put their products on a decentralized online shop when there is no commodities recommendation to the buyers based on their consumption pattern like the traditional Web 2 platform can do? While you are ready to pay in crypto, there has to be a willing counterparty on the other side too. When keeping the notion of business society, the current state of dApps or dApps store is not mature enough to handle all the business models and thus, it cannot satisfy all the expectations of 1 billion smartphone users at the moment. It is sad to recognize that the popularity of Solana Sage has been limited already before the phone come out. Unless the crypto payment is taking off in most industries, the Solana Saga cannot help Solana to change its current situation.

Based on the information that Solana has disclosed, Solana Sage is a little more than a marketing gimmick, doing little to prove that this application will bring dramatic changes to the current Web 3 ecosystem and Solana itself. Still, Solana does on the right path to push crypto and dApp away from desktops and move toward a portable device to popularize the application. Instead of just launching a Web 3 smartphone, Solana must put much more effort in all dimensions to fulfill its ambition. Let’s see how the team makes it happen via Solana Sage.

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