According to Newzoo’s latest Global Mobile Market Report, there were over 47 million smartphone users in the Philippines last 2018, translating to 45% of the country’s total population. That makes it the 12th largest smartphone market in the world in terms of number of units, highlighting the prominence of mobile technology in the country.
This is amplified by how Filipinos have made their mobile phones an essential part of their everyday life. We Are Social’s Digital 2019 report for the Philippines revealed that two-thirds of the entire population access the Internet via mobile. Of these users, an overwhelming majority use their phones to access online messaging apps, watch video content, and play mobile games. That frequent mobile use extends to everyday services such as managing their finances and purchasing products and services online.
Compare that to how only 2.9% of Filipino consumers were using cryptocurrency regularly, according to a 2017 study by FT Confidential Research. While that makes it the third largest crypto market in Southeast Asia after Singapore and Indonesia, the use of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin still pales in comparison to other types of electronic payments. That figure becomes even more negligible when compared to non-electronic modes of payment, with 99 percent of all transactions in the Philippines still being made in cash.
All these compound to a lack of awareness of cryptocurrency and its underlying blockchain technology. While there are already several Philippine startups and even large corporations that are integrating blockchain technology into their products and operations, it’s still a very unfamiliar concept to most Filipinos.
So how will a mobile-savvy population like the Philippines react when an unfamiliar technology like blockchain is applied to their smartphones?
What blockchain brings to the table
One of the growing trends in smartphone development is the creation of blockchain phones. These devices function similarly to the smartphones familiar to everyone today, but they’re able to support the various blockchain-based innovations that have popped up in recent years, such as having built-in wallets for cryptocurrency transactions and being able to run decentralized apps.
These all serve to espouse an important point: bringing processes to the blockchain gives several benefits to its end-users. Its structure gives it an unparalleled level of security that makes it impervious to hacking and other data breaches, and its encryption features allow users to be in control of their own information, enabling them to be as private as they choose to be.
Blockchain has also been pushed as the technology that eliminates the middleman and makes processes more friendly to end-users. Transactions enabled by cryptocurrencies such as payments and remittances become much cheaper to execute because they don’t need to go through large financial institutions. Electoral processes done on a blockchain-enabled platform wouldn’t need a central entity to tally votes and proclaim winners, which greatly reduces the possibility of fraud.
Likewise, smartphones entirely powered by blockchain technology will be able to communicate with each other without the need of a middleman — in this case, a telecommunications provider. When the world’s first decentralized phone call was made last year, the two blockchain phone users were able to communicate with each other with neither having a mobile carrier. And this disintermediation also carries over to other typical smartphone actions such as sending text messages, using mobile apps, and even going online.
Blockchain in Filipinos’ pockets
Blockchain phones are in a unique position to promote the benefits of decentralization to a mobile-heavy but crypto-light market like the Philippines. More Filipinos will be exposed to blockchain and its safer, smoother, and fairer processes by having the technology right in their pockets.
And that scenario isn’t too far off. Korean tech giant Samsung, the second best-selling smartphone brand in the Philippines, recently rolled out the Galaxy S10 series. Among its most notable features is a built-in cryptocurrency wallet that can carry ERC20 tokens — assets created on the Ethereum blockchain. The company has also announced that it will be adding support for decentralized apps to run on their S10 series of phones.
While the Samsung Galaxy S10 has major blockchain features, it is still the typical model familiar to most every smartphone user. But one developer that’s taking the concept of a blockchain phone even further by enabling all of its features to run on a blockchain is Singapore-based organization Pundi X. Later this year, its sister organization Function X will be launching the XPhone, which will have all of its processes run entirely on blockchain technology, such as the aforementioned decentralized phone call.
But more than being a fully decentralized phone, Function X’s XPhone will also have a button that can switch between “blockchain mode” and “traditional mode.” the former being the decentralized version and the latter being the familiar smartphone interface used today. This not only makes blockchain technology more accessible, it also enables users to ease themselves into using decentralized services in their own pace.
With devices like the Galaxy S10 and the XPhone, Filipino smartphone users can slowly but surely familiarize themselves with blockchain technology and its myriad of benefits. And with more blockchain phones rolling out in the near future, these devices have a very good chance of making Filipinos more aware and accepting of blockchain.
More importantly, blockchain phones have the potential to usher in a complete overhaul in many other traditional processes around the country. From obvious use cases such as finance and data security to lesser known opportunities like optimizing energy use, facilitating transactions in real estate, or even reducing fraud in elections, decentralization can make entire industries as secure, transparent, and user-friendly as blockchain-powered phones.