#73 My Wallet Evolution
My journey from George Costanza wallet to space galaxy wallets + a quick look at some of my favorites
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Once upon a time, my brother Andy and a good friend Mike poked a bunch of fun at me for having a big, unorganized wallet. Like George Costanza in Seinfeld they said. Not much money, some spending (credit/debit) cards, mostly receipts, punch cards, and ID cards. And maybe some tickets. And keys. All in a massive chunk of leather. So I’ve been working on getting my wallet game up the last few years.
Now there are better ways to interact with money receipts, punch cards, ID cards, tickets, and keys. Software wallets, or what we’ll call space galaxy wallets. My favorite example is Apple Wallet. The standalone app on iPhones seemed to gain the most traction with tickets along with integrating your credit and debt cards into wallet, to pay at physical terminals accepting Apply Pay, or in online settings with merchants who accepted Apple Pay. Then Apple Credit Card and Apple Cash (comrade to comrade payments) which made apple wallet a spender, sender, saver, and storer. This last year they stepped it up another level by announcing government IDs, new home/work/vehicle keys, and vaccination cards. This set of features is still in its infancy. Government IDs are available for people in 3 US states at the moment, and are making a slow march for government to give thumbs up to build on recently announced TSA approval. The point is that Apple Wallet has not only gracefully replicated the use cases of my George Costanza wallet, but they’ve dramatically improved these use cases in almost every way imaginable.
But in order for Apple Wallet to evolve to the next level of usefulness, it needs to become a wallet that meets new expectations for wallets. Adding ways to receive, store, and send Bitcoin and Ether. Ways to interact with merchants through 3rd party apps and protocols. Bringing Apple hardware engineering to a new set of products: self custody wallets. Tim Cook alluded that they aren’t asleep at the wheel, and may have something up their sleeve when it was addressed in an interview last year. But we are getting ahead of ourselves, we don’t know what Apple will do. However there are others working on these types of wallets.
To clarify, there are a couple basic types of wallets we are talking about right now.
The George Costanza wallet, or what we’re calling leather wallets. Cash, cards, paper receipts and tickets, blah, blah.
The next level of sophistication came with space galaxy wallets (software wallets), apps on phones and computers that allowed us to start interacting with money, merchants, banks, and other financial institutions. The first wave offered send (comrade to comrade transfer), spend, save, invest, tax, keys, tickets, and IDs.
The following act for wallets is to interact with blockchains, 3rd party apps and protocols, and have hardware add ons for people looking to self custody their assets.
(note: there are other great wallet options outside of these options, and there will be many more coming in the future. Not ranked in any certain order.)
Ledger: One example of a hardware wallet available today is a Ledger wallet. Their wallet is a hardware and software wallet. The software wallet is on your phone, giving you a way to visualize and interact with whatever assets you’re storing. The hardware portion of the wallet acts as a tool to verify your the owner of the wallet, to customize controls for security, and to serve as a physical self storage for digital assets.
Trezor: Is another example of a hardware and software wallet like Ledger. App on your phone, small physical device serving as self storage for digital assets. Like Ledger, these wallets mostly serve use cases of long term storage of digital assets, person to person transfers on blockchains, but don’t serve traditional use cases like purchasing a retail shops as often.
MEW: Is a Ethereum specific wallet (one of my favorites) that is a software only wallet. These types of wallets can be used to store some of your assets (coins, nfts, etc.), but are most useful for interacting with Ethereum apps.
Metamask: Meta mask is very similar to MEW. The biggest differences to MEW is that Metamask is built in react native, has a different interface, and has been slightly more popular.
Argent: Is similar to MEW and Metamask in that it’s a software wallet. One of the notable differences with argent is the way you recover your wallet. MEW and Metamask give you your private keys in the form of a number letter combination code. Argent gives you an encrypted key, but also allows you to build a list of guardians, that help you confirm your identity, recover your wallet, and keep self-custody security.
Argent lets you select people or devices to be your guardians. If you want to recover your wallet on a new phone, you'd need at least half of your guardians to approve it.
For example, if you had two guardians you'd need you and at least one guardianto approve.
You can find a complete guide on recovery with guardians here.
Balance: Is a Ethereum specific wallet like the last few, and is a native mobile software wallet, but is built to interact with the web more seamlessly through recently announced safari extensions. While the project was just put on hold this past week, this concept of making apps for Safari extensions is a big deal in my eyes. In balances case, you get a native mobile wallet to store assets, import more wallets, send assets to your comrades, but you also get the ability use your wallet on the internet without leaving it. This experience would be a similar feeling to using Apple Pay with an online website, but with crypto, dapps, and smart contracts. This could be the next evolution for Apple Pay and Apple Wallet.
Muun: Is a software only Bitcoin wallet. For those looking for a Bitcoin specific wallet, it has a pretty straightforward onboarding process. Great for storing some Bitcoin, spending some of that coin with accepting merchants, and sending that coin to some of your fellow comrades.
Coinbase: Is a software only wallet that allows you to store many varieties of digital assets. It’s a unique option because of the Coinbase exchange, one of the leading global marketplaces for digital assets. Coinbase self custody wallet makes Coinbase unique to some other popular exchanges like FTX that don’t offer this product.
Robinhood: Maybe the most controversial and contrarian favorite of mine is Robinhood. First, Robinhood began it’s journey as a stock brokerage, but with different fee structures than traditional stock brokerages.
In 2018 they got involved with crypto, and began a marketplace for digital assets, but slightly different fee structures than traditional digital asset market places like FTX or Coinbase. Earlier this year, they stepped their game up and released their first version of ‘wallets’, built right into their traditional Robinhood stock and digital marketplace app. In my opinion, this is what put them in the same league as the most dominate digital asset marketplaces like Coinbase, FTX, and Bianance.
Just last week, they announced Robinhood3, a standalone app that will be self-custody. Native, software only for now (I think), and by a company this historically has build great software and user experiences for complex financial products. This is a key area that has lacked in self custody wallets, esspecially considering the stakes of being in charge of your own assets, and the complexities of what and how wallet keys work. To top it off, they announced a new ‘gesture’ which they’re calling ‘chromatic feedback’, a surprise to be relaxed later on. It sounds like the plan is for the beta to start this summer, and will be open to everyone by the end of the year. I’m very excited to see and feel chromatic feedback for the first time.
Block: Last but certainly not least is Block. Block’s current wallet solution is Cash App. Cash app is a software only wallet but is extremely robust integrations with the legacy financial world. Send person to person, payroll deposit, tax, stocks, atms, and of course merchants; especially Square merchants that are using Square point-of-sale solutions. For digital assets, they’re focused only on one of them: bitcoin. In Cash App, you can buy/sell, send, save, or spend your bitcoin.
Even though it’ll only be a Bitcoin wallet, Block is one of the most exciting and compelling wallet makers for a few key reasons. They’re making the entire project, from start to finish, open source. This approach will slow things down, but is a proud victory for those like Hal Finney, who have championed a vision for an internet that runs on open source software. Over the last 20 years or so, open source has continued to fortify the internet, but lost out to the experience offered by many companies making centralized protocols. Block is an example, and won customers with great hardware and software experiences, with tools they built in private, and which were proprietary to Block. Another key component of this wallet is their experience making both great hardware and software experience. Square hardware and Cash App are two of the most popular ecosystems in their respective classes, and one could argue it’s because their products are some of the best designed our of their peers. And lastly, their merchant and point of sale network make this Block self custody wallet a catalyst for bridging legacy payment networks to the bitcoin network. It’s why companies like Apple, Shopify, Visa, Mastercard, Block and others with strong merchant/seller ecosystems have a big role to play for bringing this new payment ecosystem mainstream. Blocks self custody wallet will be a part of it. I’m very excited to see it.
Shoutout to Line Mogul, a wallet for live entertainment events. Store tickets, place orders and store QR codes/tickets. Line Mogul is a point of sale company for venues in the entertainment industry (hockey arenas, baseball stadiums, concert venues, golf courses, football stadiums, and so on) that aims to eliminate wait time for patrons at these live events. We’ve been working on Line Mogul for years and 2022 is an important summer. Patrons, if you’d like to not wait in line at your favorite live venues and be a Line Mogul wallet user, let your favorite venues know; they need to start with Line Mogul.
Happy Memorial Day,