Multinational bitcoin exchange and wallet provider BitX has released mobile apps for iOS and Android that it hopes will attract newcomers by 'making bitcoin sexy'.
Apart from their wallet functionality, the apps also allow new users to sign up and authenticate their accounts via their mobile devices, including using the built-in camera to create copies of documents for know-your-customer (KYC) procedures in different jurisdictions.
KYC-verified Android users can also use the app to buy and sell bitcoins, while iOS users can use Apple's fingerprint-based Touch ID to authenticate transactions.
Sporty engine, but...
BitX launched the apps with an announcement posted on Medium titled 'Making Bitcoin Sexy', comparing bitcoin so far to a high-performance sports car engine "with the body of a bus".
Product Advisor Simon Dingle wrote that in BitX's target markets, the emerging economies of the world, winning mobile users' over first would be key to bitcoin's growth:
"At BitX we build bitcoin products for global use, but our company’s presence in emerging markets in particular has shown us first-hand what mobile will become. In these countries phones are already the de facto primary computing devices. While the rest of the world is focused on ‘digital natives’, the developing world is mobile native."
Just as the web was a niche hobby until it became simpler to use and more visually appealing, he said, so too did bitcoin in order to attract users who might not consider it otherwise.
Forward looking approach
BitX's mobile apps apps definitely have a greater focus on design than many other offerings already on the market.
"When designing our apps we chose to disregard prior art in the bitcoin space and come up with new paradigms," said Dingle, adding that simplicity and minimalism came first.
The cloudy blue background seems chosen to soothe to those about to send their first bits, with the balance clearly displayed front and center in a large circle (which BitX describes as a "metaphor for a coin"). Tapping the circle produces the current exchange rate in whatever currency you have currently selected for display, plus a selection of other international options.
Balances below 0.01 BTC are displayed as 'bits'.
Send and receive options are easy to use, using either standard QR codes or BitX's send-by-email function. In the latter case, existing BitX customers will receive the amounts via email, while non-customers will receive directions on how to set up an account and redeem.
BitX's HTML5 web app has also been redesigned to match the mobile interface, giving users a familiar experience across different devices.
To better protect users' funds, the apps have two-factor authentication built in.
Asked whether BitX intended to implement more sophisticated security features like multisig, user-controlled keys or HD wallets, Dingle said that, while the merits of those features had been discussed and have a strong role in bitcoin's future, BitX's main objective at this point is to mainstream bitcoin and this sometimes meant keeping "early adopter" technology to a minimum.
BitX's high support and service standards would take the place of complex technological problems for people too busy to take care of such things themselves, he added.
Singapore-based BitX, which operates exchanges in more countries and arguably more unconventional locations than other big bitcoin startups, has its origins in the traditional banking software world.
The firm has exchanges with local offices and support staff in South Africa, Namibia and Kenya, and recently opened its latest bitcoin exchange in Malaysia.