Solana Saga Review: The Web3 Smartphone has arrived


It’s here: Solana really did build its own Web3 smartphonethe Saga—and it’s rolling out now to people who pre-ordered, with new orders set to begin on May 8.

Decrypt has had its hands on the $1,000 Android flagship device for the past week—and right now, Solana Labs’ “moonshot” bet like a Web2 device with a splash (albeit significant) of Web3 integration It’s a capable, powerful phone with native, secure wallet functionality that feels tight and intuitive, but with few available apps and some hiccups.

More than usual with Web3, using Saga today feels like beta testing something with promise and potential. That may be an intriguing premise for early adopters and die-hards, and a potential catalyst for developers, but potentially a hard sell for the average consumer—and Solana Labs knows this. But there’s a lot to like here, even if it’s still a little early.

Build and specs: polished and premium

As a long-time tech reviewer and someone who always carries a top-end handset, one of my main considerations when reviewing a phone is whether I can use it on a day-to-day basis. In other words, will I be happy carrying this thing in my pocket while I stay connected, take photos, work remotely, and stay online all the time?

Fortunately, Solana Saga meets that requirement. It’s a premium Android flagship with an attractive (but not too flashy) design, built with durable materials and packed to the gills with just about everything you need to communicate, stay connected, and be entertained . Even without the Web3 element, this would be a very good Android phone.

The Solana Saga in the wild. Image: Decrypt

At a glance, the Saga is less distinctive than the Samsung Galaxy S23 or recent iPhones, but small accents help set it apart—the metallic green side buttons and rounded triangular titanium camera module on the back, especially. The stainless steel frame and ceramic backing are also nice, though the matte black rear finish is a fingerprint and smudge magnet.

It’s a big boy, too—a bit taller and heavier than my iPhone 14 Pro Max, with a bright 6.67” 1080p AMOLED screen with a smooth 120Hz display. Battery life is pretty solid and reliable here with a sturdy 4,110mAh cell, with wireless charging available for convenience along with a faster wired USB-C connection.

Saga’s ceramic backing is a smudge magnet. Image: Decrypt

The Saga is very fast and very powerful too, thanks to a flagship-level Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 processor paired with 12GB RAM, making it capable of running games and demanding apps with ease. That said, it’s not the top-of-the-line chip: the Galaxy S23 and other new phones run a Gen2 chip that delivers solid performance gains in benchmark testing.

You’re unlikely to notice the difference now, but the Saga may be less resilient than some 2023 rivals in the future as more demanding apps and games launch. On the other hand, though, the Saga is packed with a solid 512GB of internal storage as standard—most phones require an upcharge to give you that kind of onboard storage.

Snapping in Saga. Image: Decrypt

The dual-camera setup, with a 50-megapixel main shooter and a 12MP ultrawide camera on the side, met my needs for casual everyday snaps, delivering crisp details and vibrant colors. color Next to the iPhone 14 Pro Max, however, Apple’s shots are consistently sharper, with a more natural color balance.

Web3 elements aside, Saga ships with a clean Android 13 build—no clunky skins, no bloatware junk—and the full range of Google services, including the Play Store. And this 5G phone works with all major US carriers, so you can take it wherever you want.

Web3 on the go

That’s the standard, “Web2” part of the Solana Saga experience—and if you plan to use it as an everyday phone, that’s really the most important piece of the puzzle. But the Web3 integration is what sets the Saga apart from your average smartphone, and is the main reason anyone would consider the Saga a standard flagship.

Saga’s Web3 offering is built around Seed Vault, a native custody solution that secures your wallet’s seed phrase within a secure phone environment. Even the Android operating system has no access, and it is tied to your biometric signature through the rear fingerprint sensor.

That’s paired with a native store for decentralized apps (dapps), which has just over a dozen dapps today but provides a smoother, easier-to-use flow than standard web apps. Using a wallet app like Phantom or Solflare, you can sign transactions on the Solana network by touching the sensor, plus tapping the screen and occasionally entering a PIN for good measure.

Setting up the wallet and getting started is pretty straightforward here thanks to a simple onboarding process, and within minutes, I’m swapping USDC for Solana (SOL) via Jupiter swap aggregator dapp and purchase NFTs through the Tiexo marketplace. I took a photo in the middle of the chaos of Times Square and then immediately converted it into an NFT through the Minty Fresh dapp.

(Note: Like previous consumer units, our Solana Saga review loaner included $20 worth of USDC and 0.01 SOL—about $0.25 worth—for network fees. Decrypt return the phone and all unused funds, along with any purchased or minted assets included, to Solana Labs.)

Claiming the Saga genesis token with benefits for early adopters, and purchasing NFT through the Tiexo app. Image: Decrypt

Wallets can be used to connect to web-based Web3 apps, as well, through Solana’s mobile wallet adapter (MWA) technology. For example, the native Magic Eden The dapp is not yet in the Saga dapp store as of this writing, but I was able to connect to the web version of the marketplace and purchase NFTs via Phantom and my fingerprint.

But there are some stumbling blocks along the way. The native Audio streaming music dapp could not connect to my Solana mainnet wallet, and tried to connect via devnet instead. One social app (urFeed) won’t download from the dapp store for days no matter how many times I tap the button. And the MWA link doesn’t always work, like when I tried to connect my wallet to Aurora game website… and nothing happened.

Transactions on the Solana Saga. Image: Decrypt

And overall, while the essential parts are here to send and receive funds, mint and transact NFTs, and exchange crypto funds, I’m really hoping for more fun and entertaining ones. Web3 experience to really use technology.

Solana has a growing gaming scene, for example, but the dapp store currently has no playable titles. And the web-based Solana games I tried didn’t work—shooter Mini Royale: Countries refused to load, and Aurory wouldn’t connect to my wallet. A Solana Labs representative said Decrypt that “several games” are in the works for Saga and are “coming soon,” however.

For early adopters

Despite the bugs and glitches, transacting crypto and NFT in Solana Saga feels more intuitive than using a web-based wallet. Managing crypto assets on mobile is usually a fraught and frustrating experience, but Saga’s UX is undoubtedly a step forward—and at this point, best described as a starting point for Solana’s mobile ambitions .

Solana Labs’ bet on mobile is impressive: it’s an attempt to cultivate a decentralized mobile ecosystem that doesn’t rely on big tech juggernauts like Apple and Google and their 30% off app saleswhich not only affects developers but has hindering mobile Web3 adoption.

It’s a big swing, but also a big risk—and a potentially expensive one for Solana Labs if Saga can’t find a large enough audience to support the mobile dapp ecosystem. Solana co-founder Anatoly Yakovenko has previously described the Saga as a “developer play” and he said it was “very exciting” to sell thousands of units in the first year.

That level of sales won’t move the needle for a Web2 tech giant, but if it motivates developers to build mobile dapps and embrace the platform, then perhaps it will lead to more affordable Saga alternatives targeted at a wider audience—with more compelling reasons. to buy.

Solana Saga: Judgment

A $1,000 smartphone is definitely not for everyone; nor is Saga’s emphasis on Web3 use cases. But among its peer group of luxury smartphones, the Saga is a pretty sharp offering—and its Solana integration is an exciting and promising twist that will ultimately pay off for users as a mobile hub for decentralized apps and services. But that’s an open question for now.

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