OSOM and Nothing have quickly become two of the most exciting companies operating in the smartphone space in recent years. Nothing is the latest project from OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, while OSOM is largely made up of former Essential employees looking to launch their own project in the wake of the company’s messy dissolution. Pei buying Essential’s IP felt like another nice cosmic connection between the two.
Fittingly, both young hardware startups are making headlines this week, though these announcements have only highlighted how different their paths have diverged. After all, it was never an easy time to launch a smartphone, but a series of external forces amid chip shortages and supply chain shutdowns have raised the barrier to entry even higher. Not at all, that means being selective about launch markets and adopting a OnePlus-style invite system.
For OSOM, on the other hand, it’s an important pivot for the company’s debut phone. The OV1 is becoming the web3 centric Android phone, Saga. The rebranding removes the OSOM name from the product, which, as Jacquelyn points out, is being launched by Solana Mobile, a subsidiary of blockchain/crypto startup Solana Labs.
“OSOM is incredibly excited to partner with Solana in building Saga,” said OSOM founder and CEO Jason Keats in a comment offered to TechCrunch. “The world needs hardware startups to support the future that is Web3. Building an ecosystem that looks to the future without being burdened by ecosystems inherited from the past is very exciting.”
The company will not comment further, just promising additional updates soon.
Until now, OSOM has positioned itself as a privacy-first hardware manufacturer. Keats told TechCrunch earlier this year, “We’re building a complete solution for privacy. We want to build devices, software and services that facilitate the privacy of the individual user. And that could be as simple as integrating our software partners into our hardware to give them a real foundation to run, rather than just downloading their app from an app store. We can install it at the system level.”
What this means for OSOM remains to be seen. What it means for Saga (nee OV1) is another delay. Earlier this year, the company pushed back the launch from Q3 to Q4, due to its desire to use the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon chip. Today’s announcement finds things pushed back to “early 2023”, though pre-orders did open today. A quick rundown of specs looks promising, including a 6.67-inch OLED screen, 12GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. The companies are targeting a price of ~$1,000, a change from “well below $1,000,” Keats told me earlier this year.
The device key is “Solana Mobile Stack (SMS)”, which uses security features built into the Qualcomm chip. According to the company, SMS,
[P]It provides a new set of libraries for wallets and apps, enabling developers to build rich mobile experiences on Solana, the world’s highest performing blockchain, and is designed to run alongside Android. The SDK provides libraries and programming interfaces for Android applications and secure private key storage, simplifying the developer experience for building and extending the functionality of dApps for Solana.
An SDK for the service is open to developers starting today.
“Developers have long been prevented from creating truly decentralized mobile apps because the existing gatekeeper model simply doesn’t work anymore,” Solana co-founder Anatoly Yakovenko said in a statement. “We live our lives on our mobile devices, except for web3 because there hasn’t been a mobile-centric approach to private key management. Solana Mobile Stack shows a new way forward in Solana that is open source, secure, web3 optimized and easy to use.”
This is not the first device looking to provide a blockchain/cryptocurrency-focused experience. HTC attempted its own mobile pivot in 2018, with the launch of Exodus. Since then, the Taiwanese hardware maker has set its sights on a phone focused on the metaverse.