Bitcoin is one of the most talked about subjects in the payments industry today. Braintree’s Bill Ready said recently that it will impact mainstream payments and is no more an interesting computer science experiment. Folks at Braintree’s parent Paypal think the same. The VC group, especially in the valley, is certainly inclined towards it as one Bitcoin company after the other raises significant rounds of funding (e.g., Bitnet raised $14 M in Series A).
Below are some updates on 7 leading Bitcoin wallets. Major trends that cut across these companies updates are - Increasing focus on Mobility/Native apps, Enabling mobile payments at retail checkout, Enabling micro-payments, Contactless/NFC Bitcoin payments, and Improving authentication and security.
Circle has launched native apps for both iOS and Android. These apps act as a critical companion to the web service that allows customers to use native apps to make payments, send and request money, and instantly deposit and convert money between dollars and Bitcoin. Circle’s mobile apps focus on the core tasks in using digital money and provide the following features:
- Sending and requesting money using your phone’s Contact’s email addresses and Bitcoin addresses
- Performing in-person transactions using QR Codes
- Instantly converting between dollars and bitcoin using linked bank accounts and cards
Bitcoin vault service Xapo recently launched on mobile with the release of iOS and Android apps. Xapo has made a name for itself in the bitcoin world with its cold storage solution, but it also offers wallet functionality. The company’s focus is on security. With the Xapo apps, one can move currency from the vault to the wallet, send payments to other addresses, check bitcoin pricing in real-time, send tips via Twitter and manage the Xapo debit card, but only outside the U.S. The Xapo debit card is the world’s first Bitcoin debit card that is tied to your wallet balance. The card acts as a seamless extension of your Xapo wallet and allows Bitcoin holders to spend their Bitcoin, at any merchant that accepts debit cards, online or offline, without the merchant even knowing that you are spending Bitcoin.
Coinbase, which is one of the biggest Bitcoin wallets in the world and is backed by Union Square Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, recently launched a micropayments feature. More than 30 percent of orders through Coinbase’s network are already $1 or below. The promise of crypto-currencies is that they can facilitate transactions with substantially lower fee structures. With a Bitcoin tip button, one can receive and make micropayments to any Coinbase user or other Bitcoin wallet. On the sending side, it works like Facebook Connect where you’ll need to be logged into Coinbase’s network. The default tip size is 300 bits or about 10 cents, but you can customize that. Coinbase doesn’t charge a fee and doesn’t plan to do so for the foreseeable future.
A new service from Panama-based bitcoin wallet provider Coinapult, dubbed as LOCKS is offering users outside the US an ability to peg the value of their BTC to the price of gold, silver, British pounds, U.S. dollars and Euros. When users first log in to their Coinapult wallet, they can navigate to the 'My Locks' screen for the option to lock a certain portion of their wallet holdings to a selected asset. Coinapult charges no fees for using the locking service, and does not sell bitcoin to consumers. At the point a user locks in a value or unlocks the value of their BTC. Coinapult has been primarily focusing on B2B solutions, merchant processing and other verticals that position it to better serve Latin America, as well as its SMS and email-based bitcoin sending solutions.
Earlier this year, popular bitcoin wallet provider Blockchain.info released a major new version of its Android app, allowing one to store, receive and send bitcoins directly from an Android phone. The key thinking behind the update is to make bitcoin more accessible. It hides the complexity of the protocol in order to encourage mainstream user adoption. Following Apple's controversial removal of iOS bitcoin apps in January, Blockchain was relaunched on the App Store earlier this year. In addition to exchanging bitcoin between wallets, Blockchain's app also allows iPhone and iPad users to make purchases from the fast-growing number of merchants that accept bitcoin – both online and in physical outlets.
Bitcoin payments processor BitPay recently released the beta version of an open-source, multi-signature wallet service called Copay. Copay aims to provide a solution to a central security issue posed by the use of a private key – that bitcoins can become compromised and stolen if someone fraudulently gains access to it. The issue has brought a lot of attention to multisig technology, with several notable companies in the ecosystem developing and releasing multisig wallets in recent months. Copay's origins trace back to an internal transaction security mechanism within BitPay. Over time, the company gradually worked toward making the tool a secure wallet for mainstream and enterprise usage.
BitPay also announced the launch of a new app that combines the goodness of Bitcoin with NFC at checkout. This Android only app currently enables mobile payments at retailers using one-tap NFC payments. It has also tied up with SumUP for the same service.
CryptoLabs, a new Bitcoin technology development startup, launched a hardware Bitcoin wallet that allows users to store, buy, send, sell and receive the digital currency. The device is equipped with a fingerprint scanner and a camera to ensure access; keys to access wallets are embedded in a device, located on a specific server and stored in cold storage (access to each key is secured by different layers of authentication). The first key of a Case wallet is embedded in the device itself so it is protected by the possession factor. Without having possession of the device, there is no way to get that key. When you swipe your finger to confirm a transaction, the device signs the transaction with its embedded private key and sends the partially signed transaction along with the fingerprint scan to the company servers. The second key is stored server-side and if the fingerprint scan is a match, the server countersigns the transaction with its key and broadcasts it to the Bitcoin network. The device will be available for pre-sale in December for around $200.