I do not own any cryptocurrency, I have never bought any, and at the moment I have no pressing plans to buy any either. Think that makes me the worst person to try out the Sirin Labs Finney crypto-phone? No, it makes me the ideal person, because hardcore cryptocurrency fans have likely already got an opinion about the unusual device. It’s regular people like me that have to understand it, and be convinced by its potential — if it’s going to be a success down the road.
That’s the disclaimer: Success down the road. The Finney phone is ahead of its time. It’s a niche device with limited, if any, mainstream appeal right now. If cryptocurrency becomes mainstream, will the Finney phone be the device on which we will use it, and how easy will it be? It’s a surprisingly complicated question, so let’s start with how easy it is to use. This was a real surprise, as cryptocurrency is confusing and complex for the newcomer, and the thought of carrying out transactions on a phone was not a pleasant one.
Superb user experience
The user experience team that worked on the Finney’s wallet app has delivered on its promise to create an incredibly user-friendly system, which makes payments simple — just like they should be. Paying a bill, or sending money, takes only a few steps. It starts out with scanning a QR code, entering the amount, and then verifying the details using the slide-up Safe Screen cold storage wallet. This is the Finney’s standout design feature, and what keeps your money safe and secure. The hardware is separate to the phone’s hardware, and isn’t connected to the internet until it’s necessary.
It’s a touchscreen that’s actually slightly fiddly to use, due to its placement at the back of the body. The screen is very bright though, and it also shows a QR code when you want to send or receive money from another Finney phone. Confirming payment addresses and amounts are carried out on the Safe Screen, where your password is entered. The fiddly nature of the screen may make entering a long, complex password annoying.
The app leads you through the payment process quickly, and it took about 60-seconds to complete a payment. Not Apple Pay fast, but similar to paying with a credit card. Elsewhere in the app all the transactions are neatly listed, as are all balances, and it’s always obvious what the next step is when in the middle of a process. It may sound simple to do this, but it’s not. Getting a mobile payment app right is hard, yet Sirin Labs has cracked it on the Finney.
Security and software
Genuinely, if you have a crypto-wallet stuffed with currency, using the Finney to pay is no more complicated than using PayPal, or Venmo. That said, we did not experience the more complicated process of loading your crypto wallet, which currently requires access to a computer, and the use of an exchange. We did see transfers between devices, and how to exchange one cryptocurrency for another on the device; any more in-depth, or highly technical tasks were not demonstrated. We approached the phone like a regular person, not a cryptocurrency expert.
Getting a mobile payment app right is hard, yet Sirin Labs has cracked it on the Finney.
The Finney uses Sirin OS, which is Sirin Labs’ ultra-secure version of Android 8.1. It was fast, smooth, and pleasingly, visually similar to stock Android. The device itself feels well made and expensive in the hand, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Sirin Labs monstrously expensive Solarin phone from 2016. The motion for popping up the Safe Screen takes some effort, and you’re unlikely to be sliding it up and down absentmindedly — which is a good thing as when it’s open, it’s connected to the internet and ready to carry out a transaction.
The Solarin phone taught Sirin Labs plenty about security, and Sirin OS on the Finney is similarly safe. It’s a big selling point. We also like the DApps store, where you can earn money by learning about new apps. At launch, Sirin Labs expects apps to offer a total of around $300 in returns, and told Digital Trends this can be amassed in less than 10 actions. In other words, you won’t have to watch 300 10-minute videos to earn that $300. The intention is to continue striking up these partnerships, and may ultimately allow you to recoup the initial price of the phone.
Unremarkable phone, wider concerns
That’s the good stuff, and there is far more of it than we initially, and skeptically, feared. However, this is no ordinary phone, and there’s a lot more to consider before even thinking about buying one. For most people, there is no compelling reason to get involved with cryptocurrency if the most daring financial decision they’ve made is to use Apple Pay at Starbucks. Without this, the Finney phone is only attractive to those who are already involved, and even then, how many need 24/7 access to their crypto-wallets? Also, simple cold storage wallets — by which we mean those not attached to a phone — can be purchased for less than $100, making the $1,000 Finney a harder sell.
Sirin Labs is banking (sorry) on cryptocurrency becoming more mainstream, because without this, the Finney will only ever be a niche device. We already know this isn’t going to happen overnight, and should it eventually do so, the Finney phone is likely to be out-of-date. It’s actually barely up-to-date now, with Android 8.1, a single 12-megapixel camera, 6GB of RAM, and the current-but-soon-to-be-replaced Snapdragon 845. Viewed solely as a smartphone, it’s not worth the asking price.
There’s a very strong chance Sirin Labs isn’t that bothered, as Finney isn’t the most important part in its plan — it’s Sirin OS. The software is being shopped around to hardware manufacturers, in the hope they will build crypto-phones based on it. Licensing, and potential control of the burgeoning mobile crypto space, is where the money is, along with a likely value boost for Sirin Labs own SRN token, especially if developers and other firms adopt it as a payment method.
Sirin OS, in our limited time using it, is impressive, and we imagine there will be interest from manufacturers. The phone is secure and attractive, while the slide-up Safe Screen is slick and eye-catching, as well as being functional. It’s still a chicken and egg situation though, as without the opportunity or desire by regular people to easily buy and use cryptocurrency, demand for such a phone will be low.
If you have a crypto-wallet stuffed with currency, using the Finney to pay is no more complicated than using PayPal.
This leads us on to the biggest, and most concerning problem, which has nothing to do with Sirin Labs or the Finney phone at all. It’s the volatility, complexity, and uncertain future of cryptocurrency. Playing with it today is a gamble, and not something to be taken lightly. If you have no experience, but are tempted to buy the Finney phone and start experimenting with cryptocurrency, we’d recommend doing plenty of research before making the final decision.
Want some evidence? The day after the Finney phone’s announcement, Sirin Labs SRN token fell in value by 17-percent. Often when the stock market reacts to a new product, the value of the company rises, particularly if it’s a positive and well-received move. The fact Sirin Labs token did the opposite tells you everything you need to know about cryptocurrency and its unpredictability.
Sirin Labs Finney is a fascinating conundrum of a product. While the phone is relatively unremarkable, the software and secure cold storage wallet genuinely has potential, and it effectively taps into a niche but passionate and growing community. It’s possible it’s the future of payments and banking, or at least a glimpse of one potential future, but it also may not be due to how rapidly the world of crypto changes. As it stands there are way better smartphones that will be more immediately useful to spend $1,000 on.