HTC launches Metaverse-centered midrange smartphone

Just a couple of days after Solana dropped its Saga cryptophone, HTC unveiled Desire 22 Pro, which comes with the preinstalled suite of Viverse apps to explore the benefits of web3. Am I sensing an emerging trend here?

An image of HTC Desire 22 Pro from the press kit.
HTC Desire 22 Pro. Image: HTC

“Desire 22 Pro is the phone to carry you into the future,” the pre-order page reads. Well, if it’s the future of rampant inflation similar to or worse than the current one, a metaverse smartphone under $500 may come in handy. Unlike Solana’s Saga, Desire 22 Pro doesn’t aim at being the flagship phone and bets on low costs and compatibility with existing Metaverse devices to attract buyers.

Desire 22 Pro boasts of a 6.6" damage-resistant Gorilla Glass display with 1080 x 2412 resolution and a smooth 120 Hz refresh rate. The phone has 8 GB RAM, Snapdragon 695 CPU, 128 GB storage, and a 4520 mAh battery that offers fast charging, wireless charging, and even reverse charging for VR devices.

The smartphone is equipped with 64 MP main, 13 MP ultrawide, and 5 MP depth-sensing back cameras, plus a 32 MP front camera. For video shooting, there are features like video stabilization, night mode, and 120 fps slow motion. There’s also one thing that distinguishes Desire 22 Pro from the other smartphones of the same price segment: the IP67 rating, which stands for the complete safety against ingress of dust and airborne particles plus protection against water and liquids up to one meter below the surface.

The main selling point of Desire 22 Pro is its compatibility with HTC’s VR platform Viverse. The one-click connect with HTC VR headset and built-in crypto wallet for Ethereum and Polygon-based assets provide users with “new immersive experiences” in web3.

By launching Desire 22 Pro, HTC is racing with time to introduce the first metaverse smartphone and hook new users on their VR product line. Given that Apple reportedly plans to launch its AR/VR headset next year, HTC would need to speed up the product rollout.

“Visit metaverse communities in VIVERSE using your browser or pair Desire 22 pro with VIVE Flow to explore them in VR. With screencasting, you can access your mobile apps while immersed and stream media in a private cinema experience,” the website lures potential buyers. Vive Flow VR glasses, however, need to be purchased separately.

HTC was an early adopter of crypto technology, rolling up its first blockchain phone in 2018. Exodus 1 was designed with a built-in hardware wallet and the ability to support a full Bitcoin node. The smartphone, however, didn’t get broad recognition from the community, remaining a niche product for the hardcore crypto bros. Even Solana’s Yakovenko recognized that Saga is unlikely to attract the general public, as such a product is designed for the most committed cryptocurrency users.

“We’re targeting the hardcore people who know what self-custody means. You gotta start with a group that loves this product and grow from there.”

Is there a chance that crypto smartphones will become the next crypto trend, similar to the NFT and DeFi craze? Well, it’s debatable. On the one hand, “cryptophones” have been around for some years now without making it to the mainstream. However, the crypto community is known for mimicking each other's moves, aping on the new trends in fear of missing out the next big thing, be it a new staking protocol or a collection of digital goblins.

Perhaps another reason why crypto smartphones may become a hit is crypto investors’ desire to hold something tangible in the middle of the crypto winter when many immaterial, ethereal commodities lost over 80% of their value. Similar to the tungsten cubes craze in November-December 2021, when Bitcoin just started its fall from 67k ATH, crypto phones may give the community the sense of being in control.