Hive recently released the beta version of their new Bitcoin wallet for Android, a visually-attractive app that features a people-oriented interface and a native platform for third-party services like Bitstamp and LocalBitcoins.
The Hive wallet, which previously released for Mac OS X in February, has been praised for its simplistic design and “thin wallet” properties that gain efficiency by not having to process the whole blockchain. But Hive’s most interesting feature could be its built-in app store for third party services. This is a potentially revolutionary feature for a Bitcoin wallet. The market is ripe for an app that acts first as a secure wallet, but also as an interface with everything Bitcoin-related — and the Hive app store attempts to achieve that.
Now that Hive has come to Android, it has the potential to shake up the mobile wallet landscape. Let’s take a closer look at its design and features, and whether that’s enough to set it apart from the competition.
Hive’s home screen features a list of alphabetized contacts that represent stored Bitcoin addresses. The development team made a conscious decision not to show the actual Bitcoin addresses in the contacts list, instead using the screen space to offer a custom picture for each contact. This makes the list feel more like a collection of people, and not a collection of addresses.
The contacts list can also include other addresses that a Hive user controls through separate apps and websites. Or it can be an easy way to remember Bitcoin addresses of important charities, such as the homeless outreach group Sean’s Outpost.
Swipe left on the contacts list, and it changes to a list of recent transactions. It’s easy to quickly check when transactions were made, with whom, and how much BTC/USD was exchanged. The transaction list is a short swipe away from the contacts list.
The top end of the home screen features the amount of stored Bitcoins (denominated in BTC, mBTC or µBTC) and the equivalent fiat amount — USD by default, but there are many other currencies that Hive can use for the exchange rate.
To the right of the wallet balance are four buttons — one for sending coins; one for requesting coins; one that brings up a large QR code of the user’s wallet address; and one that accesses the phone’s camera in order to scan someone else’s QR code.
The “Request bitcoins” feature is notable for making it easy to request a specific amount of money and generate a custom QR code for receiving that amount. The text command for this request can also be copied and shared onto social media, email, and messaging apps.
First Bitcoin App Store
Hive’s most interesting and potentially game-changing feature is the native app store that can be accessed by tapping the box icon in the top-right corner. Right now there are only a handful of apps available, but this platform holds significant potential as an easy way for Hive users to interact with other services in the Bitcoin ecosystem.
One of the more amusing apps is BitPremier, a marketplace featuring expensive luxury goods which are all priced in Bitcoin. While most users will have no practical use for BitPremier besides envious window shopping, it does provide a convenient way for the hyper-rich to buy a new supercar or designer handbag.
The Hive app store includes more useful services like Bitstamp, the popular Bitcoin trading site. A user can access their Bitstamp account directly from Hive, and even initiate buy and sell orders.
There’s also an app for LocalBitcoins, enabling Hive users to directly search for buyers and sellers. However, at this time there’s no way to actually search for local traders for in-person cash transactions; only online trades are available in the Hive app.
Additional apps include a recharge service for prepaid mobile phones; easy ways to donate to charitable causes like Sean’s Outpost and Nourish the Children; and a method for donating to the Hive development team.
It’s worth noting that the Android version of Hive doesn’t have as many apps available as the Mac OS X version, which includes Coinbase and several betting games. However, this is likely to change over time as developers create more and better apps on Hive’s Android platform.
Because Bitcoin is the first programmable currency, an app store for Bitcoin-related services has been a long time coming and will provide a new layer of functionality for people who use Hive to manage their digital currency. It’s not unreasonable to predict future apps with advanced features, like auction-style marketplaces and mini-games with Bitcoin prizes.
Although the Hive Android wallet is still in beta phase, it already has a leg up on the competition with its innovative and possibly revolutionary app store. Add that on top of the streamlined interface, and Hive is already a major contender for the best wallet app on Android. Once the various apps improve on their functionality and add more features, Hive could eventually turn into a one-stop shop for everything Bitcoin-related — storage, trading, spending, gambling, and so on. Developers just need to put work into porting their web services onto the Hive platform.
So, based on Hive’s simple interface and the huge potential of its built-in app store, I give this Android wallet a solid 5 out of 5 bits.