Bitcoin hardware wallet Case Wallet will halt service starting 1st November 2017. Manufacturer Cryptolabs said it’s due to mobile internet providers phasing out 2G networks faster than they anticipated.
Also read: North Korea Starts Accepting Bitcoin – Maybe
Devices Sold for $199
It’s a blow to customers who bought Case Wallet devices, which sold for about $199 USD. Users need to contact Case support for instructions on how to retrieve their private keys and move their BTC balances to a new address.
The company‘s email statement read:
2G is being sunset globally at a faster pace than we originally anticipated and Case becomes unusable in an area where 2G gets retired since it can’t access the Internet to perform transactions.
The “Buy and Sell” functionality within Case has been suspended because Celery has discontinued their service.
Additionally, Cryptolabs is “parting ways with our third key recovery partner. We were unable to find an adequate substitute who met our strict guidelines for transparently managing customer recovery keys.”
Cryptolabs will now shift its attention to a new two-factor hardware signing device called Token.
Case Wallet an Ambitious Product
Case Wallet devices were pretty revolutionary when they first appeared in 2015, with an ambitious feature list.
They included multisig functionality with one embedded private key and another stored remotely on a server. The devices communicated with the network via a 2G GSM connection.
The credit card-sized hardware included a keypad, camera, screen, and fingerprint scanner to send, receive and authenticate transactions. It also connected to an exchange service to buy and sell BTC.
Cryptolabs also appears to be pivoting away from the digital currency space, and has no immediate plans for a new version of the Case Wallet hardware.
2G GSM Networks Disappearing Faster Than Expected
Speaking to Bitsonline, Cryptolabs’ community manager Steve Dunkel said they chose 2G because the goal was a device that could work in both developed and developing countries. However they didn’t anticipate the rate at which developing nations would abandon the frequency band altogether for 4G/LTE.
“Cellular infrastructure does update at a relatively high frequency but we believed that to be in our advantage initially … We predicted that the rate of adoption for remote regions would increase due to lowered infrastructure costs as more developing nations would move to 3G and 4G/LTE. This improve the rate of financial inclusion in these regions which was a great pull for us to stick with a 2G modem at launch.”
Dunkel added the company has always been open about how its ecosystem worked from the beginning, and the team hopes no-one thinks they had any intention of obscuring that information. Cryptolabs’ site features a white paper and detailed FAQs.
The upcoming Token device isn’t a Bitcoin wallet though. It’s similar in that it will store credentials locally and employ a biometric security key to unlock them. However Token will have uses beyond the blockchain, and will use Bluetooth and NFC instead of cellular technology.
Dunkel said Cryptolabs may revisit the Bitcoin space in the future if customers demand it.
Complex Systems a Challenge to Build and Maintain
The Case Wallet shutdown and Cryptolabs’ broadening focus highlights the difficulties hardware makers face in this fast-changing industry. This is especially true when designing complex security ecosystems that rely on external technology and relationships with third-party providers.
Back in 2015, TechCrunch called Case “an insanely secure hardware bitcoin wallet”, but questioned its $199 price tag given Cryptolabs’ goal to reach developing markets. The company said its price was aimed more at developed-world consumers at the time, and hinted it would come down in future.
However it appears that future may be further off than many expected, even in 2015. The Case Wallet was a great proof of concept, but probably needed a larger user base and further refinement to fulfill its expectations.
Have you owned or used a Case Wallet? What was it like? Let us know in the comments.
Images via Cryptolabs