Nearly everyone in the tech world is talking about the exciting possibility of using digital currencies for payments to substitute antiquated payment methods such as credit cards, cash, and payment apps. This is my idea of an ideal future as well. However, we have a few significant barriers to mass adoption of the world’s hottest new payment technology. Mainly, the user experience is extremely inconsistent and variable, and the various technological and infrastructural challenges facing the world mean that only certain pockets are a good opportunity for full cryptocurrency payments.
The challenges from Venezuela’s nightmare scenario
Venezuela is the perfect use case for cryptocurrency. Venezuela is the absolute worst use case for cryptocurrency. We’re confronted by these two conflicting realities as a Latin American country with hyperinflation and economic restrictions creates the best conditions for flipping to censorship resistant peer-to-peer electronic cash, while at the same time the country’s crumbling infrastructure struggles to support much more pressing needs such as running water, let alone some of the most advanced technology on the planet. Dash Text has had success in providing an option for payments when the cell networks are still up but the internet and power are down, letting users huddled around a generator to power their phones still make payments, but this is hardly a permanent, perfect, or adequate solution yet.
Beyond the cataclysm of blackout-era Venezuela, plenty of other countries with less rocky situations suffer from similar infrastructural barriers. Whether it be rural parts of Mexico or Ghana, in much of the world the odds that you will face a lack of good internet connectivity, or efficient internet-enabled devices, is pretty high. Cash and precious metals always work for trade. Crypto needs to finds its workaround.
The First World connectivity issue
Now before any of you take this as an instance of me harping on the developing world to get with the program and evolve technologically, realize that this problem affects the most developed regions of the world as well. Outdoor festivals, mountain getaways, random city dead zones, you name it. Merchants with slow internet and invoices that take forever to load, spots with bad signal where the switch to a wifi connection significantly delays the broadcasting of a cryptocurrency transaction, all have happened to me. I still remember one time when I was waiting for a transaction to confirm and my phone died. I had no charger on me, and could not go buy a charger since all my funds were on the now-dead device. It’s one of those situations where having a backup credit card or cash works neatly, and where there is no equivalent for cryptocurrency.
Transacting across crypto is wildly inconsistent
The experience of transacting in cryptocurrency is anything but uniform. Send Bitcoin and expect a speedy confirmation and low fee one moment, a couple hours later the same transaction will cost several times as much and could take all day to confirm. Bitcoin Cash is unable to send between the two different address formats, and many wallets are unable to pay typical invoices. A Bitcoin SV user of the HandCash wallet can easily receive to their username, but a friend with a different wallet can’t easily send to them. Dash transactions are confirmed and secure instantly via InstantSend, however some (many) services don’t recognize them and require a host of on-chain conformations, a far cry from instant. Using SMS-based wallets such as Dash Text or CoinText works well between phone numbers, but sending and receiving from cryptocurrency addresses is much more of a pain.
Having an experience where everything “just works” is the ultimate goal of a crypto-only economy. This needs not only a consistent user experience across wallets, services, and platforms, but also needs to work this way across varying levels of connectivity and infrastructure.
The theoretical “super wallet” and “super terminal”
Here is the vision for the ultimate solution for the dual problem of consistency and connectivity. A wallet that supports traditional sending and receiving as well as usernames (HandCash for Bitcoin SV and Evolution accounts for Dash), and can easily switch between both on the sending and receiving screens. The same app also has an “account” for an SMS wallet balance that can be loaded from the main balance, and the option to both send and receive via SMS is also available on both screens. The world of offline cryptocurrency transactions (or where only one party has internet access) is still a mystery to me, however having a third account in the app for a physical card or other offline device that can transact absent a phone in emergency cases would be convenient as well. On the merchant side, a point-of-sale terminal version of the same setup. That way, a user with any level of connectivity issue or wallet setup can pay the same invoices, and a merchant can receive any customer, including via SMS for when the internet is down.
If you are a developer or entrepreneur and can deliver this mythical system on both the user and the merchant end, you will have won the cryptocurrency game entirely.