Back in August, I wrote about the arrival of blockchain-powered phones in the DLT ecosystem. The pioneer phone FINNEY by SIRIN Labs was launched last month while the other one, HTC Exodus 1 got released a couple of days ago. Founded in 1997, the parent company HTC is a major Taiwanese-based consumer electronics producer which was a major smart phone vendor in U.S, whose market share began to dwindle with the massive onslaught of Apple & Samsung and held a meager less than 0.5% of the US smartphone market by 2018. HTC’s worldwide employee count has also dropped to 5,000 from 19,000 five years ago & it is counting on this blockchain-based device to lift their sagging fortunes.
Exodus comes equipped with the support for multiple blockchain networks like Bitcoin, Ethereum & Dfinity. Apart from the built-in cryptocurrency storage and security features, Exodus comes pre-installed with an open-sourced blockchain-powered Brave browser. The Brave browser is the brainchild of Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich and former Mozilla engineer Brian Bondy. According to the browser’s website “Brave is on a mission to fix the web.” The browser is part of the Basic Attention (BAT) token ecosystem using the native token BAT. Brave browsers boasts of the following features:
- Loads web pages 2X-8X faster than Chrome, Safari or Firefox – you can test the speed in real-time on its website.
- Blocks the unwanted Ads & trackers saving you money in wasted data charges.
- Also keeps unwanted content out by blocking it, where traditional Ad blockers let trackers profile your location & browsing activity etc.
- You can earn rewards or reward your favorite verified content producers with the native BAT tokens.
- Finally Brave keeps the phishing software out of your way with maximum protection by using features like “Private Tabs with Tor*,”
Brave browser has an expanding base of over 5 million users while onboarding over 8,000 publishers to date. You can download the browser & check out its features. Brave’s speed & avoidance of ads & trackers are two of the most wanted features which can go a long way in making it the browser of people’s choice.
Moving on to Google Fi – originally launched as Project Fi on April 22, 2015 as an alternate virtual network carrier for selected Google phones has recently made it easier for the service to work on other cell phones as well, most notably the Apple’s iPhone. Google Fi offers phone, messaging & data services switching between the Sprint, T-Mobile & U.S Cellular networks & Google’s 2 million hot-spots in the U.S depending on the speed & signal strength. Not only this but the service works seamlessly in more than 170 countries of the World. Before moving on to the installation details let’s take a look at the Pros & Cons of the service:
- Ideal for International travelers – You can use your regular pool of data without any roaming charges. Most of the North American carriers charge a hefty U.S $5-$10 per day for the use of the regular plan minutes & data overseas.
- Pricing is straightforward & transparent – Pay as you go model is very convenient for most users. A very competitive $20/month for unlimited calls & messages (second line costs $15/month) with $10/1 GB of data usages which is free after 6 GB of usage. Also, you only get billed for the data you use, getting credited for the unused portion.
- Extended Ecosystem – Apart from extending service to all Google Phones & iPhones, Fi has also added support to include other Android phones from manufacturers like Samsung, LG, HTC, Motorola, Huawei, Essential, OnePlus & more. This would give the service much-needed wider acceptability & coverage.
- Enhanced Network security – Added layer of security with the inclusion a new service which routes all internet traffic, be it the wireless carriers or the hot-spots, through the company’s secure VPN (Virtual Private Network). Important feature to have with the increased worries of data security these days.
- High customer ratings – More than 80% of the customers have posted 5-star reviews on the Google Fi app with an average rating of 4.6 – this aligns with Readers’ Choice Award for Project Fi has received from PC Mag for 3 years in a row.
- Need an unlocked device – Just like switching from one carrier to another, you will need to bring an unlocked cell phone to be on-boarded with Google Fi service. Luckily unlocking phones is not a big hassle anymore but best way to find out is by calling your current carrier. If you are not in a time stipulated plan you should be able to get it unlocked without any penalty.
- Not as cost efficient for heavy data users – Since the data usage charges are incremental for every 1 GB of usage, anybody requiring lots of data might be well off using their current carrier plan. Keep in mind though that Google only charges a maximum of $60 (6 GB) for data usage after which it is free. However, once you touch 15 GB, your internet speed will be slowed down significantly unless you pay for the extra usage.
- Host of features unavailable for iPhones – You won’t be able to receive the voicemail in the iOS Phone App. You can call your Google voicemail App to listen to your messages. You will still be able access Google Fi voicemails as texts though, making it a little more convenient. Apart from this, there is no support for visual voicemail, network swapping (iPhones restricted to the T-mobile cellular network), no WiFi texts or calls & no using your phone as a data hotspot outside the U.S. Hopefully with the newer upgrades in the future these issues will be resolved.
Apart from this Google is offering a referral credit of $100 to anyone who convinces other people to join the service – the offer, however, runs through to January 08, 2019.
The first & foremost step in making the move over to Fi is the free sign up for a SIM on their website. From there, using Google Fi is pretty straightforward for Android phones by popping in the Google Fi SIM card in your Android device, but the iPhones, for which the service is still in the beta phase, it is a little more cumbersome since you have to install Google Fi app for iOS & follow the prompts to manually to set up the service. However, before making the move over to Google Fi make sure to check Google Fi’s device compatibility page to see if your cell phone works with the service.
Google Fi is a pretty neat service despite the few shortcomings – a great alternative for people who want to be in control of what they pay for their cellular services or like me who are just tired of being ripped off by the big carriers. Cheers!